Be Better Chasing Second Stakes Win Saturday at Laurel

February 16, 2024

Be Better takes the Deputed Testamony July 23, 2023, at Laurel Park (Maryland Jockey Club)

David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club

LAUREL, Md.— A change of scenery did wonders last spring and summer for Repole Stable’s Be Better, who reeled off three consecutive wins following a move from New York to the Mid-Atlantic including his lone stakes victory.

The connections of the homebred son of champion Uncle Mo are hoping Be Better lives up to his name this weekend trying to snap a four-race losing streak in Saturday’s $100,000 John B. Campbell at Laurel Park.

For 4-year-olds and up, the 1 1/8-mile Campbell is the first of four stakes worth $600,000 in purses on a 10-race Winter Carnival program co-headlined by the $200,000 General George (G3) and $200,000 Barbara Fritchie (G3) for older sprinters, the latter for females.

Also on the card is the $100,000 Nellie Morse for fillies and mares 4 and up going 1 1/16 miles. First race post time is 12:25 p.m.

Be Better is the narrow 2-1 program favorite over eight rivals in the Campbell, his 5-year-old debut. His two most recent starts have come at Laurel, running third by less than two lengths as the favorite in the 1 1/8-mile Richard W. Small over Thanksgiving weekend and fourth to Grade 3 winner Double Crown in the 1 1/16-mile Robert T. Manfuso Dec. 23.

Trainer Brittany Russell gave Be Better a month before returning him to the work tab for the first time since the Manfuso, a race where he ran into traffic trouble before attempting a five-wide rally in the stretch under Russell’s husband, jockey Sheldon Russell.

“The last race was probably a little disappointing,” Brittany Russell said, “but he didn’t come out of it with any obvious excuses so we tried to regroup and hopefully we have him back and ready to run a big one in a stake.

“He was very unlucky that day,” she added. “It wasn’t Sheldon’s fault by any means. He was trying to give him a trip and just had nowhere to go, and you wonder if he was able to get him out what would have happened.”

Be Better won two of seven starts and was off the board in three stakes attempts for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher before being sent to Russell last winter. After placing in back-to-back one-mile optional claiming allowances at Laurel, he stretched out to 1 1/16 miles to win the same condition on the undercard of the 148th Preakness Stakes (G1) at historic Pimlico Race Course.

Next out, Be Better stepped up to romp by 5 ¼ lengths in a June 17 optional claiming allowance at Laurel before stretching out again to beat multiple stakes winners Nimitz Class and Ournationonparade in the 1 1/8-mile Deputed Testamony in July.

Be Better was third to Double Crown in the 1 1/16-mile Polynesian in September at Laurel and fourth in the M.P. Bellizzi Appreciation Mile in October at Parx. He has breezed at both Pimlico and Laurel for his season debut.

“He’s doing great and working right along,” Russell said. “He’s just a cool horse, a classy type that just goes out and does his job.”

Built Wright Stables’ Double Crown will again share a starting gate with Be Better in the Campbell. The 7-year-old winner of nearly $880,000 in purse earnings followed up his Manfuso triumph running fourth to the Russell-trained Post Time in the one-mile Jennings for Maryland-bred/sired horses Jan. 28 at Laurel. Post Time is the 6-5 program favorite in the General George.

“Double Crown is one of those guys that you put him in and he runs his race. I wish he ran last weekend somewhere because I feel like he runs better off of that week rest,” owner Norman ‘Lynn’ Cash said.

The Campbell is carded as Race 6 (2:55 p.m. EST). Be Best’s stablemate, The Elkstone Group’s Hybrid Eclipse is entered to make a title defense in the Nellie Morse in Race 7 (3:25 p.m.), seeking a sixth career stakes victory.

Race 8 is the Barbara Fritchie, where the 9-5 program favorite is Edward Seltzer’s homebred stakes winner Bluefield, who won three of her first four career races at Laurel in the summer and fall of 2020.

Post Time, exiting a dominant victory over fellow Maryland-bred/sired horses in the Jan. 28 Jennings at Laurel, chases graded success in the General George in Race 9, going up against a group that includes multiple stakes winners Nimitz Class, Seven’s Eleven and Grade 3 winner Greeley and Ben.

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