Brittany Russel. (Maryland Jockey Club Photo)
• Sophomore Son of West Coast Nominated to Triple Crown
• $10K Late Pick 5 Carryover for Monday’s Holiday Program
David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club
LAUREL, Md. – Sycamore Hall Thoroughbreds’ 3-year-old gelding Circling the Drain, a homebred son of West Coast newly nominated to the Triple Crown, is set to make his second start of the year during a special Presidents Day holiday program Monday at Laurel Park.
Bred in Maryland and trained by Brittany Russell, Circling the Drain drew Post 5 under Jevian Toledo and is the 7-5 program favorite in Race 4, an entry-level optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds going around two turns at about 1 1/16 miles on the main track.
Circling the Drain already owns a win at the distance over his home track of Laurel, a front-running seven-length waiver maiden claiming score Dec. 9 in his second career start. Out of the Cozzene mare Who’s Cozy, he has run second in his other two races, both behind Feeling Woozy, who finished third behind stakes winners Coffeewithchris and Prince of Jericho, the latter also trained by Russell, in Saturday’s $100,000 Miracle Wood.
“We’ve always liked Circling the Drain,” Russell said. “I always kind of thought he was turfy, but he also does nothing wrong on the dirt. He works well on the dirt and everything. He’s a big horse that I think needs to race. I’d like to think with racing that he continues to improve.”
Circling the Drain debuted last November at Laurel, racing near the front while three wide to finish second, nearly six lengths ahead of third-place finisher and next out winner General Nooz in a seven-furlong maiden special weight.
Following his graduation, Circling the Drain encountered some early trouble in his first try against winners, getting bumped at the start and trailing the field early before making a five-wide move to get into contention and wind up second going one mile. Once again, he was well ahead of the horse in third, Byk, who also returns Monday from outermost Post 6.
Circling the Drain and Prince of Jericho were both among the 369 3-year-olds made eligible for the Triple Crown by the early Jan. 28 deadline at a cost of $600. He has been favored in each of his last two starts and figures to be well-backed again Monday.
Russell nominated Circling the Drain to the one-mile Miracle Wood, Laurel’s second stop in its series of stakes for 3-year-olds on the road to the 148th Preakness Stakes (G1) May 20 at historic Pimlico Race Course, but opted instead for the allowance. The series continues March 18 with the $100,000 Private Terms going about 1 1/16 miles and $125,000 Federico Tesio April 15. The 1 1/8-mile Tesio is a ‘Win and In’ qualifier for Triple Crown-nominated horses to the Preakness.
“It’s early in his 3-year-old year, so if he decides to step up and really start doing things right one can dream, right?” Russell said. “He is a big, lovely horse. He takes to the training. In three starts he’s been beat twice by the same horse, and I know that they like Feeling Woozy.
“He’s done nothing wrong,” she added. “The ownership group – I think we all think the same way. We want to win the allowance. We want to allow him to kind of drag us into something bigger hopefully. We’re going to try to win the allowance with him and hopefully we can think bigger next time.”
Russell won Sunday’s opener, a seven-furlong claiming event for 3-year-olds, with The Elkstone Group’s Johnnyfrenchfri ($9.60). The gelded son of Malibu Moon, ridden by Kevin Gomez, was making his first start off a $20,000 claim Jan. 14 at Laurel.
Gold Square and Paul Braverman’s Icy Stare Down will represent Russell in Monday’s co-featured Race 8, a six-furlong optional claiming allowance for fillies and mares 3 and up. The 4-year-old Frosted filly, originally trained by Brad Cox, won her first start for Russell Dec. 9 and exits a sixth as the favorite Jan. 1.
Bourbon Wildcat and Sweet Gracie, who ran 2-3 in the optional claiming allowance on New Year’s Day, also return Monday. Bourbon Wildcat returned to be second behind Award Wanted in the Jan. 21 Geisha at Laurel, a race where multiple stakes-placed Sweet Gracie was fourth. Award Wanted came back to be second in Saturday’s $100,000 Nellie Morse.
Country Life Farm’s 6-year-old mare Combat Queen is favored at 5-2 on the morning line, having extended her win streak to three races in her most recent start Dec. 16 at Laurel for trainer Michael Trombetta.
Notes: Jockey Jaime Rodriguez rode back-to-back winners Sunday with Leonids ($5.80) in Race 2 and Lord Uhtred ($3.40) in Race 4 … Trainer Hamilton Smith won twice with Miss Fussy Pants ($3.40) in Race 3 and Dotada ($6.40) in Race 7 … There will be carryovers of $10,340.82 in the 50-cent Late Pick 5 (Races 5-9) and $1,224.60 in the 20-cent Rainbow 6 (Races 4-9) for Monday’s Presidents Day holiday program. Tickets with four of five winners paid $39.15 in Sunday’s Late Pick 5, while those with five of six winners were worth $73.46 in the Rainbow 6.