Triple Crown-Nominated Uncle Jake Cruises to Maiden Win

Triple Crown-Nominated Uncle Jake Cruises to Maiden Win

Russell-Trained Stablemate Goodgirl Badhabits Romps in Debut
Trainer Russell, Jockey Toledo Team Up for Friday Hat Trick
Rainbow 6 Carryover at $11,511 for Saturday’s Nine-Race Card

BALTIMORE – Triple Crown-nominated Uncle Jake, given clear run throughout by jockey Jevian Toledo, powered to a popular 9 ½-length maiden special weight victory in a dazzling opening of Friday’s program at Laurel Park.

Racing first time for trainer Brittany Russell, Uncle Jake ($2.40) covered one mile over a fast main track in 1:40.03 to graduate in his second lifetime start. A $675,000 son of champion Uncle Mo, he was sent off as the 1-5 favorite in a field of six sophomores.

Breaking from Post 4, Uncle Jake was content to stalk 30-1 pacesetter Treasurer through a quarter-mile in 23.72 seconds while racing three wide and chased by stablemate Touchdown Montage and Irish Rill. Uncle Jake assumed the lead after a half in 47.56 and had extended his lead to six lengths at the top of the stretch before opening up through the lane.

In his Jan. 29 debut at Santa Anita for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, Uncle Jake broke slowly and rushed up along the inside to quickly get into contention before having to drop back and go around horses, ultimately finishing fourth. The runner-up in that race, Sonoran, came back with a 7 ½-length maiden special weight romp Feb. 20 for Baffert.

“I thought Toledo did a great job,” Russell said. “The horse was eager down the backside, but we also didn’t want to probably jump on the lead too quick. I was a little scared with the long run to the second wire here. It can get a little tough for these maidens, but he handled it well. He responded and kept going. It was a nice effort.”

Owned by SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert Masterson, Stonestreet Stables, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital and Catherine Donovan, Uncle Jake hails from the same connections that moved Fort Warren from Baffert to Russell, recently voted her second straight Renaissance Award as Maryland’s top trainer. Fort Warren last ran third in the Jan. 29 San Vicente (G3) at Santa Anita.

Russell said the connections have not thought beyond Friday’s race. The next stake for 3-year-olds at Laurel is the $100,000 Private Terms March 18, where Russell has six nominated including Fort Warren, stakes winner Prince of Jericho and recent allowance winner Circling the Drain.

Following the Private Terms is the $125,000 Federico Tesio April 15, a 1 1/8-mile event that serves as a ‘Win and In’ qualifier for Triple Crown-nominated horses to the 148th Preakness Stakes (G1) May 20 at historic Pimlico Race Course.

“We think he’s a really nice horse,” Russell said. “It’s nice to see he has the allowance [condition]. Who knows. The Tesio? I think he wants to go all day. That’s also a big ask off a maiden win, so I think we’ll just stay grounded.”

Russell also unveiled Jim Bakke and Gerry Isbister’s Goodgirl Badhabits ($4.20) in Race 3, a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight for 3-year-old fillies. The Kentucky-bred daughter of Mastery led every step of the way under Toledo to win wrapped up by 12 ¾ lengths in 1:05.39. Mastery won all four of her career starts for Baffert including the 2016 CashCall Futurity (G1).

The team of Russell and Toledo added a third winner in Race 5, a one-mile maiden claimer for 3-year-olds, with The Elkstone Group’s Maryland homebred Alvy ($6.20). Making his sophomore debut after finishing fifth in a maiden claimer Nov. 21 at Laurel, the Accelerate gelding won in 1:42.31.

Saturday’s nine-race program at Laurel includes a pair of one-mile optional claiming allowances. Race 6 attracted a dozen 3-year-olds including B West, third in the Jan. 21 Spectacular Bid, and fellow Triple Crown nominee Sevens’ Eleven, and recent maiden winners Thataway, No Easy Days, Omo Data and Leonids.

Race 8 is for fillies and mares 4 and up led by 9-5 program favorite Mit Mazel, a six-time career winner exiting a front-running six-length triumph Feb. 3 going a mile at Laurel, and the Jamie Ness-trained entry of Date Night Kisses, riding a two-race win streak, and Cashing Big Checks.

Russell will send out the pair of Assume Nothing and New York Panther is Race 7, a maiden special weight for 3-year-olds sprinting 5 ½ furlongs. Repole Stable’s Assume Nothing, seventh in debut on grass Jan. 11 at Gulfstream Park for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, was third by a half-length in his dirt debut going six furlongs Feb. 19 at Laurel. Michael Dubb and Steven Bouchey’s was winless in three tries last summer, two on turf, also for Pletcher.

Post time is 12:25 p.m.

Notes: Jockey Jaime Rodriguez and trainer Jamie Ness teamed up for a pair of winners Friday, Kerness ($6.60) in Race 2 and Jardani ($6.40) in Race 8 …Jockey Carlos Lopez doubled on Devil Pays in Gold ($8.20) in Race 7 and Spectrier ($4.60) in Race 9 … George Hall and Annestes Racing’s Crypto Mama ($5.60) surged past pacesetter Miss Fussy Pants nearing the wire to capture Race 6, a one-mile optional claiming allowance for 3-year-old fillies, in 1:40.17 to give trainer Kelly Breen his 998th career victory … There will be a carryover of $11,511.93 in the 20-cent Rainbow 6 Saturday. Multiple tickets with all six winners Friday returned $414.30.