Five Towns Gives Motion 5th Dahlia Victory

April 20, 2024

Five Towns give Trainer Motion 5th Dahlia as he sweeps turf stakes with Clark win. (Jerry Dzierwinski/MJC)

> Dataman Rallies for Henry S. Clark 
> Call Another Play Makes in Three Straight in Weber City Miss
> Witty Returns a Winner in Leatherbury

+ Jockey Jevian Toledo bags four on the day

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David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club/Edited

LAUREL, Md.— Five Towns (GB), trained by Graham Motion for owner and breeders Merry Fox Stables, drove past favored Safeen in deep stretch to win the $100,000 Dahlia under jockey Jorge Ruiz.

A 4-year-old filly by Lord Kanaloa who spent last year in Great Britain, Five Towns covered a firm mile turf course in 1:35.48. The filly came into the Dahlia having spent the winter at Gulfstream Park. Five Towns finished fifth in her debut Feb. 24 before winning a five-level allowance March 23 on the Tapeta.

Racing against four others, Five Towns trailed entering the first turn and down the backstretch while Present Moment set fractions of :23.67 and :47.99 in front of Jubilee Bridge and Safeen. Around the final turn, Safeen moved on the leaders and took the lead inside the final eighth. But Five Towns moved between horses and came driving down the stretch for the victory.

“I was a little anxious when Jorge took her back just because yesterday it played quite quick, but Jorge was pretty confident,” said Motion, who trained Five Towns dam Guilty Twelve for Merry Fox. 

Motion said the Gallorette (G3) on Preakness Day May 18 is a possible next start for Five Towns.

Pucker Up (G3) winner Safeen was second while making her 4-year-old debut. Jubilee Bridge Olivia Maralda, Neecie Marie and Ravella were scratched.

Motion won the Dahlia in 2017 with Born Nelson’s Danilovna, piloted by Tevo McCarthy, 2008 with Earle I. Mack’s Lady Digby, 2006 with Courtlandt Farm’s Sweet Talker with Hall of Fame Ramon Dominguez in the irons.

Jeremy Rose was aboard Lady Digby in 2006 and came back the following year to win aboard Cynthia McGuinnes’ All Smiles for trainer Frannie Campbell.

Dataman Rallies for Henry S. Clark 

Wertheimer and Frere’s homebred Dataman, a 4-year-old making his 2024 debut for trainer Graham Motion, rallied in deep stretch to win the $100,000 Henry S. Clark 

A son of Tapit who won the Bald Eagle Derby over the Laurel turf course last year, Dataman covered a firm mile course in 1:33.94 under jockey Jorge Ruiz.

Gray’s Fable took the six-horse field past fractions of :24.39, :47.26 and 1:10.23 before Dataman drove past English Bee, another Motion-trained horse, to win by 1 ¼ lengths. 

Call Another Play Makes in Three Straight in $100,000 Weber City Miss

R. Larry Johnson’s Maryland homebred Call Another Play continued her forward progression, extended her win streak to three races and earned a shot against graded-stakes competition with a professional 3 ½-length victory in Saturday’s $125,000 Weber City Miss at Laurel Park.

The 1 1/16-mile Weber City Miss for 3-year-old fillies served as co-headliner with the $125,000 Federico Tesio for 3-year-olds on an 11-race program featuring five stakes worth $550,000 in purses including the first of the season on Laurel’s world-class turf course.

In its ninth year the Weber City Miss once again provides the winner an automatic berth to the $300,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2), celebrating its 100th running on Preakness Eve, May 17, at historic Pimlico Race Course. 

Of the seven previous winners that went on to Pimlico, including Cats Inthe Timber last year, Lights of Medina came the closest to sweeping both races when she was second by a head in 2017 for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher.

Winning trainer Michael Trombetta won the inaugural Weber City Miss in 2016 with A.P. Majetstic, another filly also making her stakes debut, who then went on to run 11th in the Black-Eyed Susan.

“It’s always in the back of your mind. That’s a tough thing to do, but I’ll talk to Larry about it and we’ll see what the plans are,” Trombetta said. “She’s been great and getting this done is a big deal. We’ll sit down and figure it out.”

Call Another Play. (Jeffrey Snyder/fMJC)
Call Another Play. (Jeffrey Snyder/fMJC)

Jockey Jaime Rodriguez, aboard for the entirety of her in streak, settled Call Another Play ($12.80) in fourth as multiple stakes winner Miss Harriett, trying two turns for the first time, led through a quarter-mile in 24.23 seconds chased by another stakes winner in Jeannie Marie in second and last-out Laurel maiden winner Grammy Girl third.

Grammy Girl improved to second after the half went in 47.66 when Rodriguez gave Call Another Play her cue, and she responded with a bold sweeping move on the outside to get alongside Miss Harriett, then surged past once straightened for home and crossed the wire in 1:46.66 over a fast main track. Jeanne Marie got up for second, 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Miss Harriett.

Grammy Girl finished fourth and Midwest-based stakes winner Shimmering Allure, the 4-5 favorite, trailed in last. Stakes winners Aoife’s Magic, Band of Gold and Determined Driver were scratched.

“They started off slow. We figured there would be quite a pace in front of us and it took a while before they started really putting it together, but when they all got halfway down the backside and started getting near each other, then the tempo picked up,” Trombetta said. “Jaime rides this horse brilliantly. Him and her seem to get along really well.”

Call Another Play won one of her first six starts and was in for a $40,000 tag in a Feb. 16 claimer at Laurel, which she won by 4 ¼ lengths. She returned in a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance March 22 and again came from off the pace to score by 6 ¼ lengths for a claiming price of $62,500.

“We liked her all along, but then for two or three races she just wasn’t doing what we wanted,” Trombetta said. “She found herself in a mile race and a two-turn race and she started to turn the corner. Since Jaime’s been riding her, too, they just seem to hit it off really well. She’s real easy. She’s a good girl.”

Witty Returns a Winner in Leatherbury

Witty. (Jerry Dzierwinski/MJC)
Witty (gray on the lead). (Jerry Dzierwinski/MJC)

Witty, bred, owned, and trained by Elizabeth Merryman, made his 5-year-old debut a memorable one when he rallied down the stretch to win the fifth running of the $100,000 King T. Leatherbury. 

The Pennsylvania-bred son of Great Notion, making his first start since December, drove past Charging and Outlaw Kid in deep stretch under jockey Jevian Toledo to win by a neck while covering a firm 5 ½ furlong turf course in 1:01.94.

Witty has now placed first or second in 15 of 21 starts with eight being victories. His prior victories include the Ben’s Cat and Maryland Million Turf Sprint. 

“He’s quite a fighter when it comes down to it and he loves the long Laurel stretch,” said Merryman, who said Witty could run in the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint Preakness Day May 18. 

Witty broke second to last leaving the gate but steadily moved up while Brother Conway raced an opening quarter in :21.85 while being chased by Captiva Island runner-up Future Is Now and Charging.

Entering the stretch, Witty kicked into gear, driving past Charging who took the lead inside the eighth pole and a late-closing Outlaw Kid.

“Liz, she got him ready,” Toledo said. “She deserves the credit. She’s really good. She doesn’t give you much instruction. She just lets you ride the horse the way the race comes up. We know there was a lot of speed in the race. The track has been pretty firm lately, so we wanted to have a clean break, follow the speed and try to get a clean trip in the stretch. In the Maryland Million we got a chance to go to the rail. I followed the speed, got to the clear in the stretch and he’s a really nice horse. When I asked him, he just took off. Whatever you ask, he’s going to do it for you. He’s a really nice horse.”

Witty carried Toledo to his fourth win of the day, two in stakes races. “It’s been a great day,” he said. “My agent does such a good job and I’m thankful for all the owners and trainers to give me the opportunities. The horses were running for me today.”

The King T. Leatherbury honors the Maryland native and legendary Hall of Fame horseman who turned 90 March 26. Leatherbury has compiled 6,508 career wins, ranking fifth all-time; owns or shares 26 training titles at both Laurel and Pimlico; and had four consecutive 300-win seasons in the mid-1970s, leading the country in 1977 and 1978. He is perhaps best known as the breeder, owner and trainer of late Mid-Atlantic legend Ben’s Cat, who won 26 stakes over eight seasons.

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