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G3-Placed Veteran Eastern Bay Rolls to Saturday Feature Score
15th Career Victory for 8-Year-Old Gelding to Top $638K in Earnings
BALTIMORE – Grade 3-placed Eastern Bay, racing second off the claim for Built Wright Stables and trainer Norman ‘Lynn’ Cash, swept to the lead in mid-stretch and sprinted clear for his 15th career victory in a 9-1 upset of Saturday’s feature race at historic Pimlico Race Course.
With seven-pound apprentice William Humphrey aboard for the third straight race, Eastern Bay ($21) ran six furlongs in 1:10.98 over a fast main track to take the stakes-quality, third-level optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds and up by 2 ¼ lengths.
Eastern Bay, whose 14 previous wins included the 2020 Polynesian at Laurel Park, trailed the six-horse field through a half-mile in 46.92 seconds but was never more than 4 ¼ lengths behind stakes-winning pacesetters Karan’s Notion and Battle Station. Eastern Bay closed to within a length and a half of Karan’s Notion at the top of the stretch and slingshot past inside the eighth pole while racing on the far outside.
“I figured he was sharp because he worked a bullet [three furlongs in 35 seconds] at Laurel a week before the Preakness, and since then he hasn’t done nothing but jog,” assistant trainer Jay Libertini said. “I told William, ‘He’s going to be sharp but just hold him until we get to the turn and then send him.’ I thought there was enough speed in here that he could just sit right behind them and then make a big, strong move. And the seven pounds helped him down the lane. We look like geniuses.”
Karan’s Notion, the 2020 Maryland Million Sprint winner, held off He’s in Charge by a head for second, followed by Battle Station, Going to the Lead and Still Having Fun.
Eastern Bay was greeted with a kiss from Libertini upon returning to the winner’s circle, his first victory since being claimed for $35,000 out of an April 3 triumph at Laurel for longtime previous trainer Claudio Gonzalez.
“I’m the assistant, but I groom this horse. We love all our horses. I just follow the boss’ pattern,” Libertini said. “We love every horse in the barn and if you ever see the boss, he’s hugging and kissing on them like they’re getting married. In 2018 I won the Travers with Catholic Boy and I kissed him on national TV. I really like this horse a lot. I told the boss when we claimed him. I said, ‘Let me take him and I’ll work on him,’ and it just worked out.”
Eastern Bay and Still Having Fun, a Grade 2 winner of more than $618,000 in purses, were the only horses entered for the $50,000 tag. Neither were claimed.
Saturday’s race was the 45th career start for Eastern Bay, an 8-year-old Maryland-bred son of El Dubai who was second by a nose in the 2020 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3). The win pushed his lifetime bankroll to $638,838.
“The boss looks for the back class in horses and that’s how he operates. We don’t have very many 2-year-olds. His main business is claiming, and he’s really sharp about that,” Libertini said. “Over the last year he claimed Beverly Park for $12,500 and he’s made almost $280,000. He claimed Sir Alfred James, and he was fourth here in the Maryland Sprint [G3 May 21 at Pimlico] and he won a stake with him.
“He just has a good eye,” he added. “We don’t really worry about what they look like coming over to the races, we look at what their numbers are or used to be. He likes to claim horses off a layoff. He thinks we can get them back to where they were running before, and it seems to be working out very well.”
Notes: Sycamore Hall Thoroughbreds and Hillwood Stable’s Hardspun Reason ($4), a 3-year-old half-brother to 2020 Barbara Fritchie (G3) winner Majestic Reason, graduated in his second career start in Saturday’s Race 3, a waiver maiden claimer for horses age 3, 4 and 5. The even-money favorite, trained by Graham Motion, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.33 over a fast main track … Pimlico will host a live eight-race program Sunday starting at 12:40 p.m. featuring a $2,912.65 carryover in the 20-cent Rainbow 6. Tickets with five of six winners Saturday each returned $1,698.10.