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Multiple Stakes Winner Luna Belle Enjoying Summer Break
Whiteknuckleflyer Impressive Allowance Winner in Sunday Opener
Live Racing Returns to Laurel Friday for Father’s Day Weekend
BALTIMORE – After having her four-stakes win streak snapped in the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) last month at historic Pimlico Race Course, standout 3-year-old filly Luna Belle is enjoying some well-earned time off.
Campaigned by Deborah Greene and Laurel Park-based trainer Hamilton Smith and bred by Smith, Greene and her late father, Fred Greene Jr., Luna Belle has spent her vacation at Chanceland Farm in West Friendship, Md., owned and operated by fellow Laurel trainer Katy Voss.
“She came out of the race fine. We couldn’t find anything wrong with her, that’s why I kept her three or four days before I did anything with her. She didn’t break good and [jockey Denis Araujo] decided to settle in behind horses, and when he asked her to do something she didn’t respond. That was the end of that,” Smith said Sunday. “She kind of told me it was time to give her a rest.”
Maryland’s champion 2-year-old filly of 2021, Luna Belle debuted last July and took three tries to break her maiden before graduating in late August at Colonial Downs. She raced at least once a month leading up to the May 20 Black-Eyed Susan, her first loss as a 3-year-old.
Leading up to that race, her graded-stakes debut, Luna Belle won the Maryland Juvenile Fillies last December and the Xtra Heat, Wide Country, Beyond the Wire and Weber City Miss – all at Laurel – to open 2022, the latter earning her an automatic berth in the Black-Eyed Susan.
“We’re very proud of her. She’s done much more than I expected,” Smith said. “The last race, I thought she would do better than she did, naturally. She trained good over at Pimlico. I galloped her a few days leading up to the race and she handled it fine. Everybody thought she looked good on the track, which she did.
“She didn’t lie down as much as she usually does here, with people coming up all the time. I don’t think it was a case where she was upset, she just didn’t lie down as much,” he added. “Down here, as soon as she gets in the stall after she gallops or whatever she’d lie down and take care of herself in that respect.”
Smith anticipated Luna Belle rejoining his Laurel string later this month, but has no specific plans in mind. Fourth by a length in last year’s Maryland Million Lassie following a troubled trip, the 37th Jim McKay Maryland Million program Oct. 22 at Laurel will be a target.
“I was going to give her three weeks to a month before I bring her back into the routine. She’ll be running again late summer at some point. I’m in no rush. She’s got the Maryland-bred stuff in the fall and there’s a few races in August to look at,” Smith said. “I’m not going to rush her back. She started last July and she’d run every month since then up to the Black-Eyed Susan. I’m glad we got her a break.”
Smith worked Mens Grille Racing’s filly Petition Prayer Sunday morning as she prepares to make her 3-year-old debut. The Maryland-bred daughter of Divining Rod, third to eventual Triple Crown champion American Pharoah in the 2015 Preakness (G1), has not raced since finishing sixth in the Selima last October at Laurel.
Petition Prayer had won two straight races heading into her stakes debut, a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight on the dirt in late July at Pimlico and an open allowance going the same distance four weeks later at Colonial Downs. She is nominated to the $100,000 Stormy Blues for 3-year-old fillies sprinting 5 ½ furlongs on the Laurel turf June 19.
“I nominated to take a look at it. She hasn’t run since last fall, so it would be her first race back if I was to use it and that’s asking quite a bit,” Smith said. “She was disappointing [in the Selima] but she came out of it with a little problem so we had to give her some time off. We’ve got her back and she’s pretty much ready to run. I worked her this morning, using it as a last work for a couple spots next week where she could go in. I think she’s going to prefer the grass over the dirt, myself, but that remains to be seen.”
Whiteknuckleflyer Impressive Allowance Winner in Sunday Opener
Louis Ulman and Stephen Parker’s 3-year-old stakes-placed filly Whiteknuckleflyer, making her second straight start against older horses, swept to the lead in upper stretch and powered through the lane a 3 ½-length winner to kick off Sunday’s eight-race program.
Ridden by Jorge Ruiz for trainer Dale Capuano, Whiteknuckleflyer ($10.60) was positioned in fourth behind an up-front duel between favored Flirtatious Lass and 19-1 long shot Defy Expectations through a half in 45.57 seconds, moved four wide around the turn and drew off once straightened out in a race originally carded for the grass.
The winning time in the first-level allowance for fillies and mares 3 and up was 1:03.50 for 5 ½ furlongs over a fast main track. Awfully Foxy, entered for dirt only, got up for second with Senson another 3 ½ lengths back in third.
Whiteknuckleflyer, a Maryland-bred daughter of Uncle Lino, has alternated surfaces since running fourth in debut last July on the main track at historic Pimlico Race Course. She then was second in a turf maiden special weight at Laurel and the Small Wonder on dirt at Delaware Park before graduating in a 5 ½-furlong maiden sprint on Laurel’s grass in October.
Seventh in the Smart Halo after a troubled start to end her juvenile campaign, Whiteknuckleflyer returned from 6 ½ months between starts to rally for third, beaten three lengths, in a five-furlong allowance on the Pimlico turf May 26.
Ruiz notched his second win of the day in Race 3, a second-level optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/8 miles, aboard Ronald Cuneo’s Armando R ($5), the 3-2 favorite in a field of seven. Armando R saved ground early in third along the rail until being tipped to the outside midway around the turn and set down for a drive at the head of the lane to win by 3 ½ lengths in 1:49.81.
No Guts No Glory Farm’s Bandits Warrior, a half-sister to retired multiple stakes winner Anna’s Bandit, overcame a stumbled start to race with Noble Bid through the lane before edging clear late for a neck triumph in Race 5, an optional claiming allowance for 3-year-old fillies sprinting 5 ½ furlongs on the main track. The winning time was 1:03.80.
Cirexis Stable’s Mr Thrifty ($91) got his nose down in a head bob on the wire to edge Rustys Gfivefifty and spring a 40-1 upset in Race 7, a one-mile allowance for Maryland-bred/sired 3-year-olds and up. It was the fifth career win and second in a row for the 5-year-old son of Poseidon’s Warrior, both with Abner Adorno up since being claimed by trainer Eli Betancourt for $7,500 March 9. Welling was third, with The Addison Pour fourth. Undefeated 3-year-old Super Love was scratched.
Notes: In addition to Ruiz, jockey Xavier Perez also visited the winner’s circle twice Sunday aboard Green Eyes ($7.60) in Race 4 and Bandits Warrior ($8.40) in Race 5. Both horses are trained by Jerry Robb … Trainer Chuck Lawrence doubled Sunday with My Mamba ($5.80) in Race 2 and Lady Cage Fighter ($30.40) in Race 8 … 18-year-old apprentice Jeiron Barbosa, leading the summer meet in wins and purses earned, was assisted to an ambulance after falling from his mount, 17-1 long shot Sullivan Street, at the top of the stretch while trailing the field in Race 6. He was replaced on his final two mounts of the day, including Lady Cage Fighter … Laurel will host a live, nine-race program Friday, June 17 to open a weekend that concludes with three stakes worth $250,000 in purses on Father’s Day, June 19.