Connections Hoping to Live the ‘Dream’ in Heavenly Cause

April 13, 2023

Beth’s Dream winning her follow-up to her maiden win at Gulfstream Park Feb. 23, 2022. (Ryan Thompson)

David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club

LAUREL, Md.— James and Virginia Gamble’s Beth’s Dream, twice stakes placed, will go after her first stakes win in the $100,000 Heavenly Cause, a race her connections hope propels her to graded glory later this year.

Based with trainer Victor Barboza Jr. at Gulfstream Park in South Florida, Beth’s Dream has been settling in at Laurel for what will be her fourth stakes attempt. Previously, the 5-year-old Jess’s Dream mare was second by a head in the Lady’s Secret last summer at Monmouth Park and third as the favorite in the Wayward Lass Jan. 14 at Tampa Bay Downs. Both races were contested at 1 1/16 miles.

“We sent her up early over the weekend and it went very well, no problem,” Barboza said. “She’s been training very good.”

Beth’s Dream won her first two tries going one mile last winter and spring at Gulfstream, each in front-running fashion, by 20 ¼ combined lengths. She remained perfect at the distance in her most recent start, a March 17 optional claiming allowance at Gulfstream where she took a 10-length lead into the stretch and won by eight.

“She’s a filly that loves the one mile. She’s won her three races [at the distance] and this race, the one-turn mile, is perfect for her. She’s doing great right now,” Barboza said. “She is a very fast mare. Last year, [in] her two races at Monmouth around two turns, one was good, and one was no good. We put her back at one turn and she ran great four weeks ago. We are looking forward to the race.”

Barboza said the long-term goal is to get Beth’s Dream to the Princess Rooney (G2), a ‘Win and You’re In’ qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1). Customarily run in early July, the Princess Rooney was pushed back to Sept. 30 this year. Barboza finished second in the Princess Rooney with Rich Mommy in 2018 and Distinta in 2017.

“If she runs a good race, I think she’s going to come back to Gulfstream. My purpose for the mare is to try for the Breeders’ Cup in the Princess Rooney,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough race but I think she’s going to run good.”

Jaime Rodriguez, leading rider at Laurel’s calendar year-opening winter meet, will ride from outermost Post 9.

Hybrid Eclipse capturing the Nellie Morse at Laurel Park Feb. 18. (Jerry Dzierwinski/MJC)

In order to break through, Beth’s Dream will have to get by The Elkstone Group’s Hybrid Eclipse, five-for-seven lifetime at Laurel with stakes wins in the 2022 Caesar’s Wish and Thirty Eight Go Go and Feb. 18 Nellie Morse, her most recent race. 

“She’s like our little warrior woman,” trainer Brittany Russell said. “She’s a filly that trains well and handles the time in between really well. I think it’s a good thing. I think she’s doing really well; she’s worked well and she’s going into this race as good as she can be.”

The Heavenly Cause will be the eighth straight stakes start for Hybrid Eclipse, a stretch that includes running third to eventual champion 3-year-old filly Nest in last fall’s Beldame (G3) at Aqueduct. She has won three of her four tries going one mile, including the Caesar’s Wish last July.

“I think locally she’s quite tough and she looks like one of the top older fillies around here,” Russell said. “Hopefully she can land herself in a better spot later in the year if she wants to keep improving. She trains really well.

“She found her way to be graded-stakes placed up in New York against Nest so if we got lucky to where we could get her in a spot to take another swing at a graded-stakes, we may,” she added. “For now, the goal is to keep her winning. This should be a fun summer at least locally with her.”

Russell’s husband, jockey Sheldon Russell, gets the call from Post 2.

Pass the Champagne toasts a win at Gulfstream Park in an AOC Feb. 3, 2022. (Lauren King)

Returning to Laurel looking for her stakes breakthrough is R.A. Hill Stable, Black Type Thoroughbreds, Rock Ridge Racing, BlackRidge Stable and James Brown’s Grade 1-placed Pass the Champagne, fourth as the favorite in the seven-furlong Barbara Fritchie (G3) Feb. 18, just her second start in 12 months. Unraced at 2, she ran second by a head to champion Malathaat in the 2021 Ashland (G1), just her third start and first in a stakes, and went to the sidelines after finishing off the board in the Kentucky Oaks (G1). The 5-year-old mare raced once in 2022, winning an optional claiming allowance last February at Gulfstream Park.

Also entered are Flint Stites-trained stablemates Deco Strong, winner of the 2022 Penn Ladies Dash at Penn National, and Moma Tiger, twice stakes-placed including a third in last year’s Heavenly Cause; Jump Into the Fire, a winner of five of eight career starts but unraced since finishing second in a 1 1/16-mile starter last June at Churchill Downs; Mavilus, last out winner of the seven-furlong Conniver over fellow Maryland-bred/sired horses March 18 at Laurel; and Jan. 21 Geisha winner Award Wanted, second to Hybrid Eclipse in the Nellie Morse and third in the Conniver.

Named for the Maryland-bred mare trained by Hall of Famer Woody Stephens whose eight career stakes wins included the 1981 Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Acorn (G1) and 1980 Frizette (G1) and Selima (G1), the latter at Laurel, the Heavenly Cause returned to the stakes calendar last year for the first time since 2003.

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