LAUREL, Md. – With few remaining gaps on Hello Beautiful’s resume, trainer Brittany Russell will seek to achieve a significant milestone for both herself and her stable star when they go up against seven rivals in Saturday’s $250,000 Runhappy Barbara Fritchie (G3) at Laurel Park.
The 69th running of the Fritchie for fillies and mares 4 and older and the 45th edition of the $250,000 General’s Stake (G3), formerly the General George, for 4-year-olds and up highlight a Winter Sprintfest program of six stakes worth $900,000 in purses. Both graded races are contested at seven furlongs.
Also on tap are the $100,000 Miracle Wood for 3-year-olds going one mile and $100,000 Wide Country for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs, and the $100,000 John B. Campbell for 4-year-olds and up and $100,000 Nellie Morse for females 4 and older, each going about 1 1/16 miles.
Post time for the first of nine races is 12:25 p.m. The Fritchie will go off as Race 7 with a post time of 3:23 p.m.
A graded win would fill an important blank on an otherwise stellar ledger for Madaket Stables, Albert Frassetto, Mark Parkinson, K-Mac Stables and Magic City Stables’ Hello Beautiful, a Maryland-bred daughter of Golden Lad that has won five career stakes and takes a three-race win streak into the richest and most prestigious event of the winter meet.
“For my first graded win to be Hello Beautiful would just be perfect. She’s just done so much for us and we’ve had so much fun with her,” Russell said. “She deserves it. She’s good at Laurel. We don’t know how good she is outside of Laurel, but it would just mean so much for all of us.
“The idea of being based in Maryland and making this our home and the Fritchie being such a big race, it’d just be a really big thing if our big mare that’s done so much for us could keep doing that,” she added.
Sporting a perfect 7-0 record over Laurel’s main track, Hello Beautiful is three-for-four at seven furlongs including wins in the Maryland Million Nursery and Safely Kept last fall to cap her sophomore campaign. In her only previous graded attempt, she ran sixth in the Prioress (G2) at Saratoga behind Frank’s Rockette, an Eclipse Award finalist for 2020’s champion female sprinter.
Hello Beautiful opened 2021 with a front-running triumph in the six-furlong What a Summer Jan. 16 at Laurel, her first start in seven weeks, opening up by four lengths in the stretch and repelling a late challenge from Club Car to win by a length. She tuned up for the Fritchie with a half-mile work in 47.60 seconds Feb. 6, second-fastest of 89 horses.
“She’s fantastic,” Russell said. “She’s great right now so hopefully she has a good rest of the week and runs her race on Saturday.”
Hello Beautiful will go after her eighth career win from outside Post 8 under her regular rider, Russell’s husband, Sheldon Russell. Purchased by the trainer for just $6,500 out of Fasig-Tipton’s Midlantic December 2018 mixed sale at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, Hello Beautiful owns a 7-2-1 record from 13 starts with $377,110 in purse earnings.
“It appears to be a great spot, post-position wise. Hopefully it’s the lucky number eight and it works out where she can just have the catbird’s seat,” Brittany Russell said. “As always we’ll leave it up to Sheldon. From there he can dictate where he wants to put her.”
A highly competitive Fritchie field will feature a matchup of Hello Beautiful and Five Hellions Farm’s Dontletsweetfoolya, also based at Laurel with trainer Lacey Gaudet. By Grade 1 winner Stay Thirsty, Dontletsweetfoolya enters her season and graded debut on a five-race win streak including back-to-back stakes at Laurel.
“She has done very well. These owners are fantastic. They want to find the easiest spot at all costs,” Gaudet said. “The filly has been a little difficult as far as staying unsettled so we have opted to not ship. The only place she has ever shipped to run is Pimlico and it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it wasn’t the prettiest day.
“A lot has been about settling her and also kind of staying away from Hello Beautiful,” she added. “We’ve tried to map out a plan to keep her in winning form. We’ve said that as long as she dots all those I’s and crosses all those t’s this was going to be the goal and we figured this is where we were going to meet Hello Beautiful.”
Dontletsweetfoolya went winless at 2, breaking her maiden on her fourth try last summer at Laurel and dominating her foes since, all in front-running fashion, by 28 ¼ combined lengths. She became a stakes winner on her first try in the Nov. 28 Primonetta, and followed with a score in the Dec. 26 Willa On the Move, both going six furlongs.
“We knew that she could run back a little bit quick on the turnback and run back to back in those stakes. It worked out really, really well,” Gaudet said. “She was a little tired after the last stake and we were perfectly fine with that because we said that’s exactly what we wanted – to get this one out of the way and then rest her into the Barbara Fritchie.”
Dontletsweetfoolya won her only previous attempt at seven furlongs, an open, entry-level allowance last September by 8 ¾ lengths. Jevian Toledo will be aboard for the sixth straight race, breaking from Post 3. All horses will carry 120 pounds.
“I did say a couple starts ago that we were ready for her, and our filly has turned back everybody except for her so it’s time to let these two face each other,” Gaudet said. “It’s going to be tough because they’re both speedballs. I think the draw is going to be the biggest tell tale of what’s going to happen. Hopefully one of these two is the best. I hope we don’t kind of run each other out and set it up for somebody else because it would be really thrilling to see our two take it to the end.”
Barry Schwartz’s homebred filly Sharp Starr brings graded credentials to the Fritchie, having captured the one-mile Go for Wand (G3) by a neck Dec. 5 in the Aqueduct mud to end her 3-year-old season. She comes in from the Belmont Park barn of Horacio DePaz, the former private trainer for Maryland’s Sagamore Farm.
“It would be special to be able to come back and win a race like this, especially with a filly like her,” DePaz said. “We developed her as a 2-year-old and she’s kind of taken us to Saratoga and stuff and competed very well in New York. It’s nice when you can develop one like this.”
Sharp Starr, a New York-bred daughter of graded-stakes winning sprinter Munnings, began her 4-year-old campaign in the seven-furlong La Verdad Jan. 3 at Aqueduct, also over an off track, where she ran second throughout and finished a length behind winner Mrs. Orb. She was also second in her only other try at the Fritchie distance, a maiden special weight for state-breds last February at Aqueduct.
Overall, Sharp Starr has been worse than third just twice in 10 career starts, with three wins. She was eighth in a mid-June maiden race, her first start in nearly four months due to coronavirus shutdowns across the country, and she ran seventh in the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) in October at Pimlico after being bumped at the start.
“The [maiden race] was going three-quarters and we basically gave her the race because I thought it was better to give her the race and give her experience versus just keep training to try and go into a longer race,” DePaz said. “The Black-Eyed Susan, obviously, was deeper waters, open company. At least this time … it’ll be around one turn which it seems like she does very well. We’ll see how she stacks up against those types of horses.”
Alex Cintron gets the riding assignment from Post 1 on Sharp Starr, making her Laurel debut.
Another multiple stakes winner entered in the Fritchie is Howling Pigeon Farms, Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable and Madaket Stables’ Needs Supervision. Based at Laurel with trainer Jerry O’Dwyer, the 5-year-old Paynter mare has gone winless in seven starts, all in stakes, since the November 2019 Safely Kept over her home track.
Needs Supervision is the only returnee from last year’s Fritchie, when she ran fourth, beaten four lengths by Majestic Reason. Most recently second in the seven-furlong Interborough Jan. 18 at Aqueduct, she drew Post 7.
Completing the field are Estilio Talentoso, gate-to-wire winner of the one-mile Escena last August at Gulfstream Park; Willa On the Move runner-up Hibiscus Punch, a three-length open allowance winner Jan. 17 at Laurel sprinting six furlongs; Club Car, second in the What a Summer and fourth in the Willa On the Move in her most recent starts; and Suggestive Honor, Group 2-placed in her native Argentina last winter but off the board in the Primonetta and Willa On the Move.
Maryland Jockey Club Press Release
Photo: Hello Beautiful (Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club)