Among Five Turf Stakes on Saturday’s Fall Festival of Racing
LAUREL, Md. – Two years after using the race as a bridge to the Breeders’ Cup, trainer Graham Motion will send out maiden winner Sparkle Blue and maiden Luna Antonia for their first stakes engagements in Saturday’s $150,000 Selima at Laurel Park.
The 91st running of the Selima for 2-year-old fillies, and 94th renewal of the Laurel Futurity for 2-year-olds, both at 1 1/16 miles, co-headline a 10-race Fall Festival of Racing program featuring five stakes worth $600,000 in purses over Laurel’s world-class turf course.
Also on tap are the $100,000 Japan Turf Cup for 3-year-olds and up going 1 ½ miles, $100,000 All Along at 1 1/8 miles for fillies and mares 3 and older, and $100,000 Laurel Dash for 3-year-olds and up sprinting 5 ½ furlongs.
First race post time is 12:40 p.m.
Sharing was a second-time maiden winner when she became a popular 2 ½-length winner of the Selima in 2019. The victory helped get her into the field for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) at Santa Anita, where she upset favored Daahyeh by 1 ¼ lengths at nearly 14-1 odds. Sharing would go on to win two more stakes including the 2020 Edgewood (G3) and place in a pair of Grade 1 races before 2020’s Maryland-bred Horse of the Year was retired in January.
“It’s great timing for this race. I don’t know who’s coming from out of town but Laurel is our local track, so we like to run there,” Motion said. “It just kind of fits in the schedule for these guys and it’s a great opportunity.”
Bred by Catherine Parke and co-owned by Parke and Augustin Stable, Sparkle Blue is a daughter of Hard Spun out of the Smart Strike mare Silk n’ Sapphire. Both her sire and grandsire are Grade 1 winners, and Hard Spun was second in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and third in the Preakness (G1) in 2007.
“She’s well-connected,” Motion said. “I feel at this time of year you have to take a shot.”
Sparkle Blue has made one start, a one-mile maiden special weight Aug. 17 at Colonial Downs that was rained off the turf. She did not mind the surface switch, rolling to a 3 ¾-length victory.
“Like her mom she won on the dirt, which was a complete surprise to me,” Motion said. [She was] another one that we took down to Colonial that came off the grass that day. I kind of felt obliged to run her, but she won nicely, and I think she’s improved, actually, and done well since.”
Sparkle Blue has breezed four times at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md. since her win, the last three being five-furlong moves over its all-weather surface. Motion feels the move to turf will only serve to further improve her recent form.
“I can’t believe that’s not what she wants to do,” he said. “I had no intentions of running her on the dirt, and no one was more surprised than me, probably, when she won that day.”
Feargal Lynch is named to ride from Post 1 in a field of nine.
Herringswell Racing Club’s Luna Antonia ran third, beaten 2 ½ lengths, following a rail trip in her Sept. 9 unveiling at Laurel sprinting 5 ½ furlongs on the grass. The Malibu Moon filly, purchased for $90,000 as a 2-year-old in training in March, returned to the work tab with a five-furlong move over Fair Hill’s all-weather surface Monday.
“I think she’s done well,” Motion said. “I thought she ran quite respectably the first time and I like the idea of stretching her out. I’ve always thought quite a lot of her, so I just felt like rolling the dice in the stake.”
Charlie Marquez gets the riding assignment from Post 4.
Also entered to make their stakes debut are Consumer Spending and Hedy Lamarr, respectively first and second separated by 4 ½ lengths in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight Sept. 6 over a yielding turf course at Saratoga. It was the second start for Klaravich Stables’ Consumer Spending, a $200,000 daughter of More Than Ready, and first for Holy Place and Madaket Stables’ Hedy Lamarr, by 2016 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Nyquist.
The Chad Brown trainees will break respectively from Post 5 with Victor Carrasco and Post 9 with Mychel Sanchez.
Mens Grille Racing’s Petition Prayer, trained by Laurel-based Hamilton Smith, takes a two-race win streak into the Selima. She made her first two starts on dirt, closing to be fifth by three lengths in a July 2 waiver maiden claimer before graduating by a length after laying closer to the pace in a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight 28 days later, both at historic Pimlico Race Course.
“First time out she didn’t get away real clean and she laid back there and made a good run at them,” Smith said. “I ran her on the dirt, and she won, and I brought her back and she won again so here we are.”
Petition Prayer came from mid-pack to sprint a mild upset in her most recent race and first on the turf, an open entry-level allowance going 5 ½ furlongs Sept. 16 on the turf at Colonial Downs, where Smith finished as the summer meet’s leading trainer.
“The last one she ran in she was pretty impressive with the way she handled it and the way she ran,” he said. “That’s what made us think about the stake.”
Horacio Karamanos will get a leg up again on Petition Prayer from Post 8.
Evangeline Allons, a Colonial maiden winner that ran fifth to Petition Prayer last out; Paynt by Number, winner of an off-the-turf maiden special weight going one mile and 70 yards Aug. 23 at Delaware in her lone start; and maidens Determined Charm and She’s Like Thunder round out the field.
First run in 1926, the Selima is named for the great English race mare who was imported to the U.S. in the 1750s by Benjamin Tasker Jr., manager of the famed Belair Farm in Prince George’s County. The daughter of the Godolphin Arabian, considered ‘Queen of the Turf,’ also gained fame as a broodmare. The Selima lost its spot on the 2020 stakes calendar amid the coronavirus pandemic.
David Joseph/MJC Press Office
Photo: Graham Motion/Ryan Thompson