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Air Token Taking Momentum into $75,000 Bender Memorial
Faces Nine-Time Stakes Winner Whereshetoldmetogo in Friday Sprint
BALTIMORE – Corrales Racing’s Air Token, upset winner of the Maryland Million Sprint in his last start, will look to carry that momentum against graded-stakes placed Double Crown and Galerio and multiple stakes winner Whereshetoldmetogo in Friday’s $75,000 Howard and Sondra Bender Memorial at Laurel Park.
The fifth running of the seven-furlong Bender for 3-year-olds and up and 39th renewal of the $75,000 Politely for fillies and mares 3 and up sprinting six furlongs highlight the nine-race post-Thanksgiving Day program.
Both races, restricted to Maryland-bred/sired horses, return after a one-year absence due to the coronavirus pandemic. First race post time is 12:25 p.m.
Air Token is a durable 4-year-old Golden Lad gelding that will be making his 13th start of the year in the Bender. He owns seven career wins and has run first or second in seven of his last 10 races, the only exceptions coming in races beyond a mile including the July 13 Bert Allen on the Colonial Downs turf and Aug. 27 Charles Town Classic (G2).
“He’s doing good,” owner-trainer Jose Corrales said. “He’s one of those horses that you’re lucky with. They’re OK and they keep themselves sound and good. He’s a nice horse. He’s ready for this race.”
Corrales claimed Air Token for $10,000 last August out of a maiden claiming win at Laurel, his fourth career start. He would go on to race 13 times in 2020 with four wins, and finished second in the Maryland Million Turf Starter Handicap.
Air Token returned to the Maryland Million for the six-furlong Sprint on Laurel’s main track Oct. 23 and earned his first career stakes victory, stalking the pace before pulling away to a 2 ¼-length triumph over late-running Double Crown under jockey J.D. Acosta at odds of 7-1.
“I was going to run him two weeks before that but he had kicked something and I had to scratch him,” Corrales said. “I was aiming really good for that race. It didn’t really surprise me that he won the race, to tell you the truth. The horse, he likes that kind of race. J.D. fits very well with him. He found the way how he likes to run.”
Acosta will return to ride Air Token for the ninth straight race, breaking from Post 8 in a field of 10 at co-topweight of 122 pounds.
“I don’t think I did anything except put him in the races where he can win,” Corrales said. “A lot of people look and think he cannot compete in there. I just gave him the chance and he proved himself that he can do better than what they [thought]. They expect less from him than what I expect. I see more on him than somebody else.
“It’s like taking somebody from the street who you watch and you think, ‘Maybe this person has a talent,’ and then you polish them a little bit and give them what they need to [succeed] and then they become a champ,” he added. “Horses are the same thing we are. Animals, they need opportunity. People need opportunity, and this horse got a chance to do that.”
Air Token has run second in three career tries at seven furlongs. Overall, he has five wins, five seconds and two thirds in 18 lifetime trips at Laurel.
“I feel very good about him because he’s a horse that can go any distance. Three-quarters for me is a little bit short than what I want for him,” Corrales said. “I think seven-eighths is the best distance for him. You still have to run them and the competition has to be right. But he’ll be tough in this race.”
Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s Double Crown won the Roar and Carry Back in successive starts last summer at Gulfstream Park and went on to be third in the Smile Sprint (G3) and second in the Chick Lang (G3). Favored in the Maryland Million Sprint, he bobbled at the start and found himself far back before launching a late bid on the outside. Feargal Lynch will be back in the irons from Post 3.
Bird Mobberley and Grady Griffin’s ‘Galerio will be making the first start for his new connections since being claimed for $50,000 out of a runner-up finish in a Nov. 6 optional claiming allowance at Laurel. The 5-year-old gelding has been first or second in 23 of 29 career races and was third in the June 12 Salvator Mile (G3) at Monmouth Park. Charlie Marquez has the call from Post 6.
Madaket Stables, Ten Strike Racing, Michael Kisber and BTR Racing’s Whereshetoldmetogo is making his first start at Laurel since winning the six-furlong Not For Love against Maryland-bred/sired horses March 13. He has since run at Colonial Downs, Delaware Park and historic Pimlico Race Course, finishing ninth in the April 24 Frank Whiteley and third in the July 21 Challedon.
“I don’t really think this horse much likes Pimlico. He trained well over there, but maybe we were a little bit fooled by how we thought he was doing,” trainer Brittany Russell said. “Every time we walked him over there at Pimlico, it just always seemed like we were a bit discouraged after those efforts. We were scratching our heads. It will be nice to have him home and, coming off a win, it seems like everything is kind of lining up the right way.”
A 6-year-old El Padrino gelding, Whereshetoldmetogo earned his ninth career stakes win in the six-furlong New Castle Sept. 25 at Delaware, a year after he finished first by 1 ½ lengths but was disqualified to second for interference.
“It was redemption from year before. It was great for him,” Russell said. “The thing with that horse is, he never wants to switch his leads in the afternoon but he’s just kind of always messing around. Even [jockey Jevian] Toledo came back and said, “If you just leave him alone…’ because he’s running for him. He’s running hard on that left lead.”
Toledo will climb back aboard from Post 7. Of Whereshetoldemtogo’s stakes wins, five have come a Laurel – the 2018 Concern and Star de Naskra, 2020 Frank Whiteley and Dave’s Friend, and 2021 Not For Love.
“He’s doing awesome. He’s had plenty of time now since that Delaware race,” Russell said. “We were going to run in the Maryland Million had we gotten lucky enough to draw in, but sort of the goal was to give him a little bit of time. He’s a big horse and he holds his form. His numbers might have gone down just a bit this year, but I’m hopeful with a little added time in between that he kind of gets back up to where he was. He’s trained really well since.”
Multiple stakes winners Alwaysmining and Clubman; Youngest of Five, riding a two-race win streak; and Band On Tour, Hunter Joe and Plot the Dots complete the field.
Late longtime owner-breeders Howard and Sondra Bender were fixtures at Maryland racetracks for nearly four decades. Among their more than 500 winners were graded-stakes winners Secret River, Foufa’s Warrior, Promenade Girl, Green Darlin, London Lane and La Reine’s Terms.