LAUREL, Md. – SAB Stable Inc.’s 5-year-old gelding Galerio, first or second in 17 of 21 career starts, will make a second straight attempt chasing his first career stakes victory in Saturday’s $100,000 John B. Campbell at Laurel Park.
The 67th running of the Campbell for 4-year-olds and up and the 38th edition of the $100,000 Nellie Morse for fillies and mares 4 and older, both at about 1 1/16 miles, are among six stakes, two graded, worth $900,000 in purses on the nine-race Winter Sprintfest program.
Serving as co-headliners are the $250,000 Runhappy Barbara Fritchie (G3) for fillies and mares 4 and up and the $250,000 General George (G3) for 4-year-olds and up, both sprinting seven furlongs. Sophomores will be in the spotlight in the $100,000 Miracle Wood going one mile and $100,000 Wide Country for fillies at seven furlongs.
First race post time is 12:25 p.m. The Campbell will go off as Race 4 (1:53 p.m.) with the Nellie Morse following in Race 5 (2:23 p.m.).
Galerio had never faced stakes company before running second in the one-mile Jennings against Maryland-bred/sired horses Jan. 16 at Laurel, beaten a neck by late-running Tattooed, another hard-hitting older horse that will make his next start in the General George.
It was also the first start for Galerio since being claimed by Pimlico Race Course-based trainer Dale Bennett for $35,000 out of a Nov. 21 victory at Laurel going the Campbell distance. Overall, the Jump Start gelding has seven wins and six seconds in 16 career tires over Laurel’s main track and has eight wins and nine seconds overall as he approaches $300,000 in purse earnings.
“Obviously, his papers are undeniable. He’s 1-2 almost every time. He’s a Maryland-bred, which was also a pretty big factor, and just his consistency to be honest with you. Everything about him appealed to me,” Bennett said. “To me, it was a no-brainer to take him.”
Galerio had won three straight races and five of six dating back to last summer prior to the Jennings. Under Xavier Perez, who returns to ride from Post 7, Galerio took the lead after a half-mile after pressing the early pace and drifted out inside the eighth pole allowing late-running Tattooed the room and opportunity to get the jump on him.
“There were a lot of factors involved in that race. We had actually shipped out to Kentucky and went to a training center and that didn’t work out. The training center was not to our liking and he actually missed quite a bit of training,” Bennett said. “I didn’t get the works into him like I like to and he still ran big.
“He drifted out a little bit in the stretch, and I think he got to the lead a little early. He’s a very competitive horse and I think he was kind of loafing and looking around because when Tattooed darted to the inside, I don’t think he saw him,” he added. “If you watch the race, he kind of re-engages when he sees the horse go past him. But he ran a really, really big race. We’re super proud of him.”
Galerio is listed at 6-1 on the morning line, fourth choice in a field of eight led by Winchell Thoroughbreds and Willis Horton’s 9-5 program favorite Bankit, a New York-bred stakes winner and Grade 3-placed earner of $816,675 in purses trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen.
“Whether he’s a stakes horse or not we’re not sure, but he’s a racehorse and he has a lot of heart. That’s very hard to find in a horse. You can’t train it into them,” Bennett said. “You can’t teach that type of stuff to racehorses; they either have it or they don’t. That’s what I like about him. He’s amazing. Short or long, inside or outside, if there’s a lot of speed he’ll sit back and if there’s no speed he’ll be close. You really don’t have to do much but bring him to the race happy and he’ll do the rest.”
In the Jennings, Galerio was two lengths ahead of Hillwood Stable’s multiple stakes winner Cordmaker in third. Trained by Rodney Jenkins, the 6-year-old gelding who ran third in the 2019 and 2020 Pimlico Special (G3) went winless in eight starts last year and hasn’t won since the Governors Day Handicap in September 2019 at Delaware Park. Victor Carrasco rides from Post 3.
Mopo Racing’s Dixie Drawl has finished worse than third just once in 11 starts since being claimed by trainer Dale Capuano for $16,000 in August 2019. He enters the Campbell off a 9 ¼-length optional claiming victory going 1 1/8 miles Jan. 23 at Laurel.
“He really ran well the last time. I was surprised how he put that field away like that. He was wide and it was a quick pace, and he just drew off,” Capuano said. “The time before it was a real sloppy track. Although he runs OK in the slop … I like him on a faster track.”
It will be the third try in a stakes for Dixie Drawl, who went unraced at 2 and ran fourth in both the Private Terms and Federico Tesio in the spring of his 3-year-old season for trainer Hamilton Smith. His sire won the 2013 Illinois Derby (G3) and provided Smith with his lone Kentucky Derby (G1) starter.
“After we gave him a rest, he came back really strong,” Capuano said. “He’s been a nice useful horse for us. We’ll take a shot at those horses and see if he can step it up some more.”
Ohio-bred stakes winner Forewarned, third in the 2020 Westchester (G3); Zabracadabra and Awesome D J are also entered.
Wicked Awesome (Jerry Dzewzynski/Maryland Jockey Club)
$100,000 Nellie Morse Marks Season Debut for Wicked Awesome
Warwick Stable’s Wicked Awesome, second in the Allaire du Pont (G3) to cap her 2020 campaign, goes after her second career stakes win over Laurel Park’s main track in the $100,000 Nellie Morse, her 5-year-old debut.
A four-length winner of Laurel’s Twixt Stakes at the Nellie Morse distance last September, Wicked Awesome was beaten a length in the 1 1/8-mile du Pont Dec. 26 by Eres Tu, who had also defeated her in the 1 1/16-mile Thirty Eight Go Go Nov. 28.
“It’s certainly not an easy spot, but having Eres Tu out of there is good,” trainer Ferris Allen said. “We’re real pleased with her. This is where we had been aiming all along. It wasn’t like we were zigging and zagging, we just decided to give her a little bit of a break between races and aim for this since it was in the backyard. She’s done everything right coming up to it. She generally runs real well fresh, so we’re expecting good things.”
Wicked Awesome owns eight career wins from 23 starts and is nearing $300,000 in purse earnings. The Twixt kicked off a three-race win streak for the Awesome Again mare. She also won two in a row prior to finishing off the board in back-to-back stakes appearances last summer at Delaware Park including the Delaware Handicap (G2). She was compromised by traffic trouble in both races.
“She was a slow boil. She was always a lot better than an empty stall but she’s just kept getting better,” Allen said. “She’s hit a plateau where she’s pretty much just stayed there. We don’t know if there’s another move up there or not. One of the best handicapping angles is if a horse can match a [speed] number three or four times, ordinarily that means there’s something better left to come. We’re hoping that’s the case with her.”
Horacio Karamanos, up for each of Wicked Awesome’s last two races and three of her last four wins, rides back from Post 7 at 9-2 on the morning line.
“The further the better for her and, certainly, she prefers two turns,” Allen said. “She’s run some nice races even down to seven-eighths but really I think the mile and an eighth when the summertime gets here we might think about running even further.”
Also exiting the du Pont, where she ran fourth to Eres Tu, is BB Horses’ Landing Zone, a winner of four consecutive races in the summer and fall for winter meet-leading trainer Claudio Gonzalez. She stretched out in the du Pont after running third in the seven-furlong Safely Kept behind Runhappy Barbara Fritchie (G3) program favorite Hello Beautiful.
“It was a tough race the last time. The filly that beat her is a really nice filly, but we have to try because there’s not too many choices with the races for her. She won almost all her conditions so we went to the stake to run her,” Gonzalez said.
“I believe the longer the better for her. From a mile on, she can run any distance. A mile and an eighth, a mile and a sixteenth is no big thing for her,” he added. “She’s doing good. She’s had a little rest and everything. She had a good breeze the other day and we’re ready for the race.”
Angel Cruz rides Landing Zone from Post 1.
Favored at 2-1 on the morning line is Sonata Stable’s Lucky Stride, second behind Eres Tu in the Thirty Eight Go Go. A multiple group-stakes winner in Puerto Rico before joining trainer Mike Trombetta last summer, the Declaration of War mare most recently won the 1 1/16-mile Wayward Lass Jan. 16 at Tampa Bay Downs. Julian Pimentel is named to ride from Post 9.
Completing the field are multiple stakes winners Artful Splatter and Lucky Move; Daphne Moon, Gracetown, Flashndynamite, Pat’s No Fool and Dreamer’s Moon.
Photo: Galerio (Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club)