I’m Blushing Keeps Barn Rolling in Opening Day Feature

I’m Blushing Keeps Barn Rolling in Opening Day Feature

Jockey Toledo Registers Hat Trick to Kick Off Preakness Meet

BALTIMORE – Fresh off the first training title of her career, Brittany Russell got the Preakness Meet off to a successful start when John and Cheryl Banner’s Maryland homebred I’m Blushing captured Thursday’s opening day feature at historic Pimlico Race Course.

Ridden by Jevian Toledo, 3-year-old filly I’m Blushing ($7.20) ran 1 1 /16 miles in 1:46.26 over a firm turf course to capture the entry-level allowance for Maryland-bred/sired horses 3 and up by 1 ½ lengths for her second straight win, both over older horses.

Helluva Lady set a leisurely pace of 24.77 and 50.41 seconds up front pressed by Who Knows What in second and New York shipper Except Temptation. Toledo saved ground in fifth and was still blocked by horses approaching the stretch but found room along the rail once straightened for home to surge past Helluva Lady and hold off Except Temptation and a late run from two-time stakes-placed Quiet Imagination.

“He was saving ground and everything but I was a little nervous that it wasn’t going to open up for her because it looked like he had plenty of horse,” Russell said. “She’s very professional. She shipped over here and handled everything really well, so it was just really nice to see.”

I’m Blushing went unraced at 2 and was third in her Feb. 5 unveiling at Fair Grounds in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight that came off the turf. She closed to be fourth in a similar spot going a mile March 1 before returning to her home state, where she took on her elders in a popular three-length triumph April 16 over Laurel Park’s world-class turf course.

“She’s a nice filly. We took her to Fair Grounds just to try to get her going, because it took so long as a 2-year-old to kind of get the momentum going with her,” Russell said. “We gave her a couple runs down there. She won last time, and we were just kind of ready to get her back to Maryland and on the grass because that’s what she wants. She’s a decent horse.”

Russell, 32 closed Laurel’s spring meet with a flourish, winning with five of her last seven starters to edge Jamie Ness, 14-13, for leading trainer. She said the $75,000 All Brandy for Maryland-bred/sired fillies and mares 3 and up going 1 1/16 miles on the Laurel turf is a possible next spot for I’m Blushing, a daughter of Mosler.

“The great thing is she’s got the open a-other-than [condition] and there’s the All Brandy. That might be a goal,” Russell said. “She still has the a-other-than, so I don’t want to get ahead of myself but the goal is to develop her because I think she’ll be useful.”

Notes: Jockey Jevian Toledo, edged by one win for Laurel’s spring meet title by 18-year-old apprentice Jeiron Barbosa, registered an opening day hat trick aboard Ultimate Irony ($4) in Race 4, I’m Blushing ($7.20) in Race 7 and Silent Service ($) in Race 8 … Seven-pound apprentice Yan Aviles doubled Thursday with Gold Time Vixen ($5.60) in Race 2 and Cooke Brothers ($18.60) in Race 5 … There will be a carryover of $1,794.16 in the 20-cent Rainbow 6 for Friday’s eight-race program, which gets under way at 12:40 p.m. Multiple tickets with all six winners Thursday returned $538.24.