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Thanksgiving Weekend Stakes Draw 120 Nominations
Bender Memorial, Politely for MD-Breds Friday, Nov. 24
City of Laurel, Safely Kept, Richard Small Saturday, Nov. 25
BALTIMORE – Built Wright Stables’ Grade 3-winning stablemates Double Crown and Eastern Bay and fellow multiple stakes winners Coffeewithchris, Joe and Witty are among 23 horses nominated to the $75,000 Howard and Sondra Bender Memorial Friday, Nov. 24 at Laurel Park.
The seven-furlong Bender for 3-year-olds and up and $75,000 Politely for fillies and mares 3 and older sprinting six furlongs, both restricted to Maryland-bred/sired horses, are the first two of five Thanksgiving weekend stakes.
Stakes action continues Saturday, Nov. 25 with the $100,000 Richard W. Small for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/8 miles, $100,000 City of Laurel for 3-year-olds and $100,000 Safely Kept for 3-year-old fillies, each sprinting seven furlongs.
A total of 120 nominations were made to the five stakes.
Since his 4 ½-length upset of the 1 1/16-mile Polynesian Sept. 10 at historic Pimlico Race Course, 6-year-old Double Crown ran third in the 1 1/8-mile Maryland Million Classic Oct. 14 at Laurel and seventh in the one-mile Forty Niner (G2) Oct. 28 at Aqueduct. Winless since his victory in Laurel’s Feb. 18 General George (G3), 9-year-old millionaire Eastern Bay was most recently fifth in a six-furlong optional claiming allowance Oct. 12 at Aqueduct.
John Salzman Jr., Fred Wasserloos and Anthony Geruso’s Coffeewithchris is one of five 3-year-olds nominated. The Ride On Curlin gelding won the 2022 Heft and Feb. 18 Miracle Wood and was seventh in the 148th Preakness Stakes (G1), Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, May 20.
The Elkstone Group’s homebred Joe, named for U.S. President Joe Biden, was named Maryland’s champion 2-year-old male of 2021 and 3-year-old male of 2022 following victories in the Maryland Juvenile, Federico Tesio and James W. Murphy, the latter on turf. Off for nearly one year, he returned May 6 and has been off the board in two starts this year, also on grass.
Bred, owned and trained by Elizabeth Merryman, Witty has made each of his last five starts on turf, winning the Sept. 16 Ben’s Cat at Pimlico and Oct. 14 Maryland Million Turf Sprint at Laurel back to back. His three dirt stakes wins include the 2022 Spectacular Bid at Laurel.
Other nominees include Ain’t Da Beer Cold, promoted winner of the Oct. 14 Maryland Million Classic; 11-time winner Coastal Mission, riding a six-race win streak; Maryland Million Sprint winner Seven’s Eleven; July 29 Star de Naskra winner Super Accelerate and multiple stakes winner Tappin Cat.
C J I Phoenix Group and No Guts No Glory Farm’s Fille d’Esprit, a three-time Maryland-bred champion in 2022 including Horse of the Year, tops 21 nominees to the Politely. The 7-year-old Great Notion mare owns 15 wins from 28 career starts, taking last year’s Politely by 5 ¾ lengths. She has raced four times this year with a win in Laurel’s Jan. 21 What a Summer and a second in the Feb. 18 Barbara Fritchie (G3).
Deborah Greene and Hamilton Smith’s Luna Belle and fellow multiple stakes winner Intrepid Daydream, both scratched from the $100,000 Thirty Eight Go Go Nov. 11 at Laurel, are also nominated. Maryland’s champion 2-year-old filly of 2021 and 3-year-old filly of 2022, Luna Belle was third in the Maryland Million Distaff Oct. 14, her first start in 513 days. Paul Fowler Jr.’s Intrepid Daydream has won three straight, including the Distaff and the Sept. 16 Shine Again.
Happy Face Racing Stable’s Malibu Moonshine, a two-time Laurel stakes winner that was Maryland’s champion 2-year-old filly of 2022; and Timonium Distaff winner Response Time, second in the Maryland Million Distaff, are also among the nominees.
Hillwood Stable’s Post Time, winner of the 2022 Maryland Juvenile that lost for the first time in five races when third in the Oct. 21 Perryville at Keeneland, tops 29 nominations to the City of Laurel. Maryland’s champion 2-year-old male last season, Post Time returned from 9 ½ months away to win an optional claiming allowance Sept. 22 at Pimlico.
Also prominent among nominees are Everso Mischievous, riding a three-race win streak including the Oct. 28 Forty Niner (G2) at Aqueduct; Coffeewithchris; Daydreaming Boy, third in the Aug. 22 Smarty Jones (G3); Post Time’s Brittany Russell-trained stablemate, High Value, undefeated in two starts; multiple stakes winners Ninetyprcentmaddie and Recruiter; Seven’s Eleven and Super Accelerate.
Barry Schwartz’s Stonewall Star, most recently third in the April 16 Beaumont (G2) at Keeneland, is nominated to launch her comeback in the Safely Kept. The daughter of Flatter owns three stakes wins including a front-running 11-length triumph in the Feb. 18 Wide Country at Laurel.
Other nominees include Apple Picker, 4 ½-length winner of the Sep. 16 Weather Vane at Pimlico; Unified Alliance, winner of the July 14 Coronation Cup at Saratoga; 2022 Rosie’s winner Determined Jester; Give Me Kisses, runner-up in the 2022 Gin Talking at Laure for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher; and Opus Forty Two, second in Laurel’s Nov. 11 Thirty Eight Go Go.
The Richard Small drew 27 nominations led by Thomas Coulter’s Nimitz Class, a Grade 2-placed winner of six stakes, four coming in succession last winter and spring at Laurel. Pletcher nominated three horses – Lost Ark and Classic Catch, respectively first and second in the Jockey Club Derby Invitational Oct. 7, and Crupi, winner of the 1 1/8-mile Discovery Nov. 3, both at Aqueduct.
Also among nominees are Feb. 18 Mineshaft (G3) winner Pioneer of Medina and 2022 Smarty Jones (G3) winner Best Actor, both trained by Brad Cox; 2022 Greenwood Cup (G3) winner Ridin With Biden; Be Better, winner of the July 29 Deputed Testamony at Laurel; Jamie Ness-trained stablemates Boss Logic (13) and Exit Right (17), who have combined for 30 career wins; Daydreaming Boy; Film Star, second in the Oct. 1 Woodward (G2); multiple stakes winner Forewarned; Alphabet Soup winner King Kumbalay; Market Maven, first across the line but disqualified to second in the Maryland Million Classic; and Crowd Pleaser winner Movisitor.