Early Move Propels Battle Bling to $100,000 Twixt Victory

Armando R Gets Up in Time in $100,000 Japan Turf Cup
Owner Scheffres Earns First Stakes Win in $75,000 Challedon

BALTIMORE – Michael Dubb and Gandharvi Racing Stable’s Grade 2-placed Battle Bling pounced on even-money favorite Coach down the backstretch and never looked back to earn her second career stakes victory in Saturday’s $100,000 Twixt Saturday at Laurel Park.

The 40th running of the Twixt for fillies and mares 3 and up going about 1 1/16 miles was among five stakes worth $575,000 in purses on opening weekend of the calendar year-ending fall meet co-headlined by the $150,000 Laurel Futurity for 2-year-olds and $150,000 Selima for 2-year-old fillies.

Also on the program were the $100,000 Japan Turf Cup, rained off the grass and shortened from 1 ½ to 1 ¼ miles, and $75,000 Challedon for 3-year-olds and up that had not won an open sweepstakes sprinting seven furlongs.

It was the second straight win for Battle Bling ($5.60) after running second behind multiple stakes winner Miss Leslie in the 1 ¼-mile Delaware Handicap (G2) July 9. The 4-year-old daughter of Vancouver opened her campaign with a neck triumph in the 1 1/8-mile Ladies Jan. 16 at Aqueduct.

Coach, a two-time stakes winner than ran ninth in the 2021 Kentucky Oaks (G1) for trainer Brad Cox, was making her first start since finishing fourth in the Feb. 12 Bayakoa (G2) at Oaklawn Park. She broke sharply and established an early lead pressed by Battle Bling, who surprised the betting favorite with a bold move to take over the top spot after a 24.25-second quarter mile. Cruz kept Battle Bling focused and comfortable from there, going a half in 48.77 and six furlongs in 1:13.75 to put away Jilted Bride on the turn and hold off a late run from Coach to win by 1 ¼ lengths.

“The assistant trainer told me to break good, get closer and that’s what I did. But the pace was slow and I just took advantage of it,” Cruz said. “She liked [the wet track]. She was comfortable the whole way. I just sat relaxed and when they came to me, she just kicked on.”

Coach rallied for second, 2 ¾ lengths ahead of July 8 Iowa Distaff winner Jilted Bride, followed by Breviary and Click to Confirm. Hybrid Eclipse, The Grass Is Blue and Malibu Beauty were scratched.

Trained by New York-based Rob Atras, Battle Bling now has five wins, eight seconds and a third from 20 lifetime starts and moved over the $500,000 mark in purse earnings.

Twixt was a Maryland-bred champion every year she raced, from 1972-75, retiring as Maryland’s all-time money-winning mare. Her 18 stakes wins were also a Maryland-bred record on the flat. Bred and owned by Mr. and Mrs. John Merryman and trained by their daughter, Katy Voss, Twixt won the Barbara Fritchie (G3) and was named Maryland’s Horse of the Year in 1973 and 1974.

Armando R Gets Up in Time in $100,000 Japan Turf Cup

Ronald Cuneo’s Armando R, given a break by trainer Damon Dilodovico over the summer, became a stakes winner in his second race off the layoff with a come-from-behind neck triumph over Beacon Hill in Saturday’s $100,000 Japan Turf Cup at Laurel Park.

The 59th renewal of the Japan Turf Cup for 3-year-olds and up, rained off the grass and shortened from 1 ½ to 1 ¼ miles, anchored five stakes worth $575,000 in purses on opening Saturday of the calendar year-ending fall meet.

Late-running Armando R ($14), one of three horses entered for main track only, covered the distance in 2:06.13 over a sloppy and sealed main track under Horacio Karamanos for his sixth win from 23 career starts and first in a stakes.

“We’re very fortunate to have him,” Dilodovico said. “We were glad the race held together pretty well today, because you almost always get a little bit more pace as opposed to a race against three or four horses and they have it their own way. We definitely needed the pace and he got it, and he rallied.”

Armando R was unhurried in the early going trailing well behind maiden What Say Thee and stakes winner Vance Scholars, who battled up front through a quarter-mile in 23.09 and a half in 47.14. While Vance Scholars took command after six furlongs in 1:13.35 and What Say Thee dropped back, Armando R was weaving his way through traffic on the turn to get into a contending position. Racing on the far outside, Armando R came with a steady run to wear down Beacon Hill and get up in time.

Beacon Hill was three-quarters of a length ahead of third-place finisher Vance Scholars. It was another 12 ¼ lengths back to Carrothers in fourth.

“We were struggling to find a race for him and we wanted distance. We’ve been talking about something like this all year,” Dilodovico said. “We stumbled into a good spot, I guess.”

Owner Scheffres Earns First Stakes Win in $75,000 Challedon

Either on his own or with partners, Michael Scheffres estimates he has owned horses for some 30 years. He realized a career first Saturday when 6-year-old Factor It In rallied from off the pace to capture the $75,000 Challedon by 2 ¾ lengths at Laurel Park.

The 36th running of the Challedon for 3-year-olds and up, restricted to non-winners of an open sweepstakes, was the second of five stakes worth $575,000 in purses on Saturday’s 10-race program.

“I don’t like to admit this but this is the first stakes winner I’ve ever had,” Scheffres said after Factor It In, by The Factor, covered seven furlongs in 1:24.16 over a sloppy and sealed main track.

“This horse, every bad race he had he had a legitimate excuse. Now he’s healthy and you see how he runs,” he added. “He even got in a little trouble here.”

With Jorge Ruiz up, Factor It In was in tight along the rail and trailing four horses midway around the far turn when Ruiz shifted to the outside approaching the stretch. Set down for the drive, Factor It In collared pacesetter Backnthewoods – who had gone in splits of 23.22, 47.01 and 1:11.63 – near the sixteenth pole and sprinted clear.

Yodel E.A. Who, the narrow 5-2 favorite, got up for second by a half-length over Backnthewoods, with Famished fourth.

Factor It In, who in the past has run up against such horses as Grade 1 winner Firenze Fire, multiple stakes winner Laki and Maryland Sprint (G3) winner Always Sunshine, now owns nine wins and two seconds from 23 lifetime starts. He was promoted to second after finishing a troubled third in the Aug. 16 Chesapeake Aug. 16 at Colonial Downs in his prior start.

The Challedon honors the Maryland-bred son of Challenger II that won 20 of 44 starts and $334,660 in purses from 1938 to 1942, was recognized as Horse of the Year in 1939 and 1940, and inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 1977. Winner of the 1939 Preakness and 1939-40 Pimlico Special, Challedon also sired 13 stakes winners before his death in 1958.


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