Stakes Winners Luna Belle, Buff My Boots Top $100,000 Xtra Heat
LAUREL, MD – K E M Racing Stables and Five Hellions Farm’s well-regarded H P Moon, eye-catching winner of his lone start last summer, is set to launch his highly anticipated sophomore season Saturday in the $100,000 Spectacular Bid at Laurel Park.
The seven-furlong Spectacular Bid for 3-year-olds and $100,000 Xtra Heat for 3-year-old fillies sprinting six furlongs are among six stakes worth $550,000 in purses scheduled on a 10-race program that begins at 12:10 p.m.
Eleven horses were entered in the Spectacular Bid, the first of Maryland’s series of stakes for 3-year-olds that continues with the $100,000 Miracle Wood at one mile Feb. 19, $100,000 Private Terms going about 1 1/16 miles March 19, and $125,000 Federico Tesio at 1 1/8 miles April 16.
Seven of H P Moon’s rivals have previous stakes experience, including stakes winners Local Motive, Shake Em Loose and Witty. The Spectacular Bid, part of an originally scheduled Jan. 22 stakes slate, will be H P Moon’s first race in 162 days.
“Ideally we would have had a little bit more time, but we got really lucky with them pushing the stakes back. It gave us a little bit more time to be prepared for it,” trainer Lacey Gaudet said. “We’ve been training him like a good horse and he’s been taking it like a good horse. He’s really handling everything that we throw at him well and I think he’s telling us that he’s ready, so we’re going to move forward with it.”
H P Moon was set to make his debut last July at Saratoga but an identification mixup led to his being scratched. Instead, the bay Malibu Moon ridgling was unveiling in an August maiden special weight at historic Pimlico Race Course, where he aired by 9 ¾ lengths in front-running fashion as the 2-5 favorite, completing six furlongs in 1:10.76.
“We went to Pimlico and he did run the way that we expected him to, but it was rewarding after everything that he had been through to have it happen like that,” Gaudet said. “He’s a horse that’s very adamant about what he wants and what he’s going to put out, so he doesn’t hold back. He definitely shows you that he’s a good horse.”
H P Moon went to the sidelines in the fall after having minor surgery to remove an ankle chip, returning to the work tab in mid-December at Laurel. Gaudet has been pleased with his recovery and has named Jevian Toledo – up for the maiden triumph – to ride from Post 3 at 116 pounds.
“He’s been working great. He’s a fun horse to play with in the morning because he really likes to have a challenge, so we’ve given him some challenges. We’ve worked him with some nice older horse sand he’s worked very, very impressively,” Gaudet said. “Whether it’s unfortunate for him or not, we had to give him time when we gave him time. Now everyone is in the position as 3-year-olds that if they’re good, they’re in stakes company, so he might just have to take two steps instead of one. But if he’s the horse that he trains like and that we think he is, it shouldn’t be a problem for him.”
JR Sanchez Racing Stable’s Shake Em Loose enters the Spectacular Bid off a 59-1 upset of the seven-furlong Heft Dec. 26 at Laurel, his first race since being claimed for $16,000 by trainer Rodolfo Sanchez-Salomon. A come-from-behind type, he came flying late to win by three-quarters of a length.
“I thought he was going to run big. He was just doing so well,” Sanchez-Salomon said. “It made me feel very proud of what we’re doing in the barn. I think he keeps doing better and better.”
Shake Em Loose is one of six horses in the Spectacular Bid to have run seven furlongs before and one of two with a victory at the distance. Denis Araujo gets the riding assignment from Post 4 at co-topweight of 122 pounds.
“He’s doing really good right now. I’m really impressed with the way he’s going into the race. This race is going to be tougher than the other one, but I’ve cot confidence in the horse. We’ll see. We’ve got to try, right?” Sanchez-Salomon said. “He’s bigger and he’s stronger. He’s growing up. He’s all muscle right now, but it doesn’t mean anything until he runs against the better horses. We’ll see.”
The other horse with a win at seven furlongs is Witty, bred and owned by Elizabeth Merryman and trained by her son, McLane Hendriks. The Great Notion gelding was second to Shady Munni in a waiver maiden claimer in debut Sept. 24 at Laurel, but has put together back-to-back wins against fellow Pennsylvania-breds including the seven-furlong Pennsylvania Nursery Dec. 7 at Parx. Carol Cedeno, up for that dominant 5 ¾-length triumph, rides back from Post 9.
Bird Mobberley’s Maryland-bred Local Motive will be making her eighth start and seventh straight against stakes competition, having won the Hickory Tree second time out on the turf at Colonial Downs and the six-furlong James F. Lewis III sprinting six furlongs on dirt Nov. 13 at Laurel. Most recently, the Divining Rod gelding ran fifth as the favorite in the seven-furlong Maryland Juvenile Dec. 18 behind Joe, who returned with a 2 ½-length optional claiming allowance triumph around two turns Sunday.
“Local Motive is training super. He’s worked and he’s done everything I’ve asked of him,” trainer John Salzman Jr. said. “I’m happy with him. Everything right now is moving forward.”
Regular rider J.D. Acosta will be aboard from Post 2 at 122 pounds.
Alottahope and Coastal Mission, respectively second and third in the Maryland Juvenile; Beast Or Famine, second by a head in the Lewis; Heft runner-up Last Romance; Heffner, Sharp Red Eagle and Uncaptured Spirit complete the field.
Spectacular Bid was named champion colt at 2 and 3 and champion older horse and Horse of the Year at 4 for late Maryland-based Hall of Fame trainer Grover ‘Bud’ Delp, who called him “the greatest horse ever to look through a bridle.” ‘The Bid’ won the 1979 Kentucky Derby and Preakness and won each of his last 10 races, retiring with 26 wins and nearly $2.8 million in purse earnings from 30 starts. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982.
Stakes Winners Luna Belle, Buff My Boots Top $100,000 Xtra Heat
Maryland homebred Luna Belle, who became a stakes winner to cap her juvenile campaign, returns to open company to launch her 3-year-old season in Saturday’s $100,000 Xtra Heat.
Co-bred, co-owned and trained by Hamilton Smith along with Fred Greene Jr. and Deborah Greene, Luna Belle will be making her eighth career start and fourth straight facing stakes company. She broke through with a last-to-first, 2 ¾-length triumph in the seven-furlong Maryland Juvenile Fillies Dec. 18 at Laurel.
It was the second win for the Great Notion filly, coming four months after breaking her maiden by six lengths at Colonial Downs, her third race and first on dirt after two tries on the turf.
“She got a clean trip last time and she ran her race, I thought,” Smith said. “I thought she was pretty impressive in the way she did it. The race she ran down at Colonial where she won, they were both about the same as far as the way she ran, coming from off the pace. The last part of the race she was doing all the running. It was very pleased with the way she handled herself.”
Fourth by a length after encountering trouble in the Oct. 23 Maryland Million Lassie, Luna Belle ran second to multiple stakes winner Buy the Best in the Nov. 13 Smart Halo, both sprinting six furlongs at Laurel. Denis Araujo, up for her stakes win, rides back from Post 3.
“She’s doing good. She’s trained good an everything, no problems,” Smith said. “She’s got some growing to do yet. Hopefully we get another race or two in her and give her a little break and then bring her back later in the summer.”
Bird Mobberley’s Buff My Boots beat Luna Belle in the Lassie, winning the race by a half-length in front-running fashion, then finished fifth in the Smart Halo after dueling for the lead with rival Sparkle Sprinkle in the Nov. 13 Smart Halo, her most recent start.
“It was just circumstances. I’ve been fighting with Sparkle Sprinkle through the last three or four races and this time I was outside of her. I said, ‘Well, this might be the chance where we’ll take a little hold of her and see if she’ll rate a little bit,” trainer John Salzman Jr. said. “She didn’t want much to do with that rating part of it. Now it’s just back to go.”
Salzman opted to keep Buff My Boots in the barn for the Dec. 26 Gin Talking, contested at seven furlongs, and point for the Xtra Heat as her 3-year-old debut.
“She’s doing super,” Salzman said. “She’s worked twice. I skipped the last stakes because it was seven-eighths; this is coming back three-quarters. She’s training fine. She blew out the other day in 47 and change [working with stakes winner] Local Motive, and they both worked super. At this point, everything is go.”
J.D. Acosta, regular rider for both Local Motive and Buff My Boots, will ride back from Post 2.
The Xtra Heat returned to the Maryland stakes calendar last year after last being run in 2007 at historic Pimlico Race Course. It is named for the 25-time stakes winner and Hall of Fame mare trained by Salzman’s father, John Salzman Sr.
“We’ll just have to wait and see how the race sets up. I plan on putting her on the lead,” Salzman Jr. said. “There wasn’t anybody faster than Xtra Heat and nobody knew her any better than I did, so we’ll hopefully make something happen.”
Also entered are Beneath the Stars, who had a two race win streak snapped when second by two lengths in the Gin Talking; Sparkle Sprinkle, third in the Lassie and fourth in the Smart Halo; stakes-placed Determined Truth, a Nov. 12 maiden special weight winner at Laurel; and Jackie the Joker, a winner of two straight at Charles Town.
Maryland Jockey Club Press Release
Photo: H P Moon (Maryland Jockey Club Photo)