Among Four Stakes Worth $450,000 on De Francis Dash Day
LAUREL, Md. – Daniel Lopez and George Chestnut’s seven-time stakes winner Chub Wagon, successful off the bench in her season debut last month, looks to stretch her win streak to four races when she returns to Maryland for Saturday’s $100,000 Alma North at Laurel Park.
The fifth running of the 6 ½-furlong Alma North for fillies and mares 3 and older is one of four stakes worth $450,000 in purses on an 11-race program highlighted by the $150,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash for 3-year-olds and up sprinting six furlongs.
Also on the program are a pair of $100,000 stakes scheduled for 1 1/8 miles on the turf – the Prince George’s County for 3-year-olds and up and Big Dreyfus for females 3 and older. All four races are part of the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship (MATCH) Series.
First race post time is 12:40 p.m.
A 5-year-old Hey Chub mare based at Parx with trainer Guadalupe Preciado, Chub Wagon has been nearly perfect with 11 wins from 12 starts. She reeled off eight straight victories to open her career, four of them in stakes, including the Skipat and Shine Again last spring at historic Pimlico Race Course.
Chub Wagon suffered her only loss in the Dr. Teresa Garafalo Memorial last August at Parx, beaten 1 ¼ lengths by Don’t Call Me Mary, but bounced back with wins in the 6 ½-furlong Roamin Rachel and 1 1/16-mile Plum Pretty to end 2021 with a 9-8-1-0 record and $487,400 in purse earnings.
“It was a very exciting year,” Preciado said. “We gave her the winter off and planned to bring her back again this year. She does everything easy. She’s pretty smart and she knows what she’s doing.”
Preciado didn’t lay the fault on Chub Wagon for her lone defeat, a race where she was forced on the pace by the eventual winner before being collared inside the eighth pole and dug in but was unable to hold her lead over the sloppy track.
“She came back, and she wasn’t herself. It looked like she had a little virus,” Preciado said. “I watched the replay a few days later and could see she was not herself. Maybe we missed something. Maybe it was the racetrack because it was little wet, but I don’t think she minds a wet track. I don’t think she was feeling good and she didn’t run her race.”
Following her winter vacation, Chub Wagon returned from a nine-month gap between starts to capture the five-furlong Power by Far June 27 at Parx by three-quarters of a length in a race originally carded for the turf.
“She ran very good the other day and hopefully she’s ready to go again,” Preciado said. “It’s not easy to find horses like this. The time when she ran two turns, that was very exciting, too. For me, the six furlongs I think she’s tough. She’s run very good at seven-eighths, too. I think she’ll be very strong in this race.”
Silvestre Gonzalez, aboard for her return race, comes in to ride from Post 3.
While Chub Wagon likes to race on the lead, Bush Racing Stable, Liberty House Racing, BlackRidge Stables and George Saufley’s Kaylasaurus is a confirmed closer. She was unable to make up ground and finished third to Fille d’Esprit in the six-furlong Susquenna Valley June 17 at Penn National.
“She’s doing good. The last time, that track’s very speed favoring and it’s hard to catch up. There was some speed in there,” trainer Tim Kreiser said. “She sure likes Laurel. Obviously, Laurel’s been known for closers, always has. It’s gotten a little speedier, but I’d say it’s more of a fair track for closers, that’s for sure.”
Kaylasaurus has won two of six starts since being claimed by Kreiser for $25,000 last November, with both wins coming in Laurel stakes. The rallied for a 2 ¼-length upset in the Willa On the Move first off the claim Dec. 26, and closed similarly for a three-quarter-length triumph in the April 23 Primonetta. Both races were contested at six furlongs.
“The first one she won it’s was all speed, so it set up perfect for us. It was almost a gimme race,” Kreiser said. “The second one she just ran a great race. She likes the outside. You can see in her races, she’s just a different horse when she gets outside.”
Horacio Karamanos gets the call for the fourth straight race from outside Post 5.
Stud Los Leones’ Cheetara won the Haras de Chile Marcel Zarour Atanacio (G2) in her native Chile in 2020 before coming to the U.S. last spring. She has raced eight times in North America with four wins, two in stakes, one second and two thirds for trainer Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Correas IV.
Most recently, the 5-year-old Daddy Long Legs mare was a popular 2 ¾-length winner of the 6 ½-furlong Crestwood June 4 at Hawthorne under Vincent Cheminaud, who returns to ride from Post 1.
“Cheetara is doing very well,” Correas said. “She came out of the race at Hawthorne well and we are looking forward to going there on Saturday.”
Correas said he has been working with Cheetara to ration out her natural speed, which she put on display in her second U.S. start winning the seven-furlong Seeking the Pearl last August at Colonial Downs. She was able to stalk and pounce both in the Crestwood and a six-furlong optional claiming allowance March 12 at Fair Grounds.
“She used to go to the lead. We are trying to make her more of a stalker instead of going to the lead, so hopefully she can keep doing the same,” Correas said. “She’s very consistent. I don’t know if she’s better or if she has learned. She used to go essentially to the lead and now she has learned to relax a little bit, so we are happy with that.”
CJI Phoenix Group and No Guts No Glory Farm’s Fille d’Esprit is a nine-time career winner that is 8-for-14 lifetime at Laurel, where she is based with trainer Jerry Robb. The Susquehanna Valley was her second stakes win, the first coming in the seven-furlong Conniver against fellow Maryland-bred/sired horses March 19 over her home course. She was third, a length behind multiple Grade 3 winner Glass Ceiling in the Feb. 19 Barbara Fritchie (G3).
Hope Jones’ Buy the Best had a four-race win streak snapped when trying turf for the first time in the 5 ½-furlong Stormy Blues June 19 at Laurel, her 3-year-old debut. She won back to back Laurel stakes to cap her juvenile season, the six-furlong Smart Halo and seven-furlong Gin Talking.
The Alma North is named for the Maryland-bred champion 3-year-old filly and Horse of the Year in 1971 and Maryland-bred champion older filly of 1972. Owned by the late Eugene Mori’s East Acres Stable, Alma North won 23 of 78 career starts with $513,597 in purse earnings from 1970-74. Her victories included graded-stakes scores in the Matchmaker (G1) and Vineland (G2), Margate (G3) and Betsy Ross (G3) handicaps in 1973.
David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club
Photo: Chub Wagon winning the Skipat on the Preakness undercard May 21, 2022. (Jim McCue/MJC)