Post Time Completes Russell Sweep in G3 General George

February 17, 2024

Post Time victorious in the General George (Jeff Snyder/Maryland Jockey Club)

It’s Sizzling Time Springs John B. Campbell Upset

David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club

LAUREL, Md.— Hillwood Stable’s multiple stakes winner Post Time, cutting back to a sprint just three weeks after a career-best performance going one mile, overcame the quick turnaround and shorter trip with aplomb to register a 3 ½-length triumph in Saturday’s $200,000 General George (G3) at Laurel Park.

The 49th running of the General George for 4-year-olds and up sprinting seven furlongs was the last of four stakes worth $600,000 in purses on a Winter Carnival program co-headlined by the 70th renewal of the $200,000 Barbara Fritchie (G3) for fillies and mares 4 and older.

In earlier stakes action, It’s Sizzling Time upset the $100,000 John B. Campbell for 4-year-olds and up going 1 1/8 miles and Charming Way won the $100,000 Nellie Morse for fillies and mares 4 and older at 1 1/16 miles.

Post Time ($2.60) completed a graded sweep for trainer Brittany Russell and her husband, jockey Sheldon Russell, who 30 minutes earlier captured the Fritchie with Apple Picker after running third with Be Better in the Campbell and fourth with favored Hybrid Eclipse in the Nellie Morse.

“It started off slow, but it’s been a great day,” Brittany Russell said.

For owner Ellen Charles it was her third win in the General George, following Bandbox in 2014 and Cordmaker in 2022. It was the fifth career graded win for Brittany Russell, who picked up her first Grade 1 victory in the 2023 Carter with Doppleganger, and seventh graded triumph for Sheldon Russell, whose most recent had come in the 2022 BWI Turf Cup (G3) with Set Piece.

“I’m very happy to get this graded-stakes win for Ellen. She’s been wonderful to me and Brittany, so he’s a special horse,” he said. “He’s a really cool horse to ride and on numbers he’s getting better and better so, hopefully, he stays healthy and we can have some fun with him this year.”

Nimitz Class, a winner of four consecutive Laurel stakes over the winter of 2022-23, broke alertly but was outrun for the lead by fellow multiple stakes winner Seven’s Eleven through splits of 23.81 and 46.61 seconds. Meanwhile, Post Time led only one horse, Grade 3 winner Greeley and Ben, midway down the backstretch and was between Greeley and Ben and No Cents leaving the far turn, as Brittany Russell watched anxiously.

“Yeah, 100 percent. I was like, ‘Oh god.’ But you know what? He’s Post Time and he gets it done. He’s a racehorse,” she said. “Running him back in three weeks, seven-eighths, the whole thing wasn’t perfect but he got it done. He’s the man.”

Post Time still had work to do once straightened for home and Russell had to tip outside of Tenebris, a horse wheeling back six days after winning for the third time in four starts, to find running room. Set down for a drive, Post Time came with a steady run down the center of the stretch to get past Tenebris and Seven’s Eleven racing along the rail and win in 1:23.33 over a fast main track.

“I’d say we were a little worried shortening back up to the seven-eighths. There wasn’t a whole lot of lightning-fast speed in the race, so my goal was to keep him close enough,” Sheldon Russell said. “I felt like he traveled good. If anything, I felt like we had to rush him a little bit but once I got him clear at the eighth pole he spurted clear and showed his true class.”

Seven’s Eleven held second, 1 ½ lengths ahead of 24-1 long shot Tenebris, with another half-length to Nimitz Class in fourth. No Cents and Greeley and Ben completed the order of finish. Cowan was scratched.

Post Time, Maryland’s champion 2-year-old of 2022, improved to 6-0 lifetime at Laurel including wins in the seven-furlong Maryland Juvenile and 2023 City of Laurel and one-mile Jennings Jan. 28 to open his 4-year-old season. The Frosted colt also beat his elders last fall in a six-furlong optional claiming allowance at Pimlico, and was third behind Grade 3 winner Raise Cain in the Oct. 21 Perryville at Keeneland, his lone trip outside of Maryland.

“He’s only been the mile once now but he was so impressive. Yeah, it might have been against Maryland-breds, but he’s done well racing at seven [furlongs]. I’m not sure this is really what he wants, but he does it,” Brittany Russell said.

“It’s huge anytime to get a graded stake. It’s hard to keep these horses healthy and moving forward and doing good. The fact [is] that he was sitting here in good form and we got the graded stake,” she added. “Obviously we’re hoping we can keep going and do some bigger and better things, but just to get the graded-stake is a major accomplishment in itself.”

It’s Sizzling Time Springs John B. Campbell Upset

It’s Sizzling Time up in time to win the John B. Campbell (Maryland Jockey Club)

Chuckie, Inc. and Mona Bowley’s It’s Sizzling Time came through an opening along the rail, engaged with Grade 3 winner Double Crown inside the eighth pole and got his nose down on the wire to spring an 11-1 upset of the $100,000 John B. Campbell.

It was the second straight win on the day for jockey Jean Briceno, giving trainer Valrie Smith her first career stakes win.

“I’m so excited, I’m lost for words,” Smith said. “It’s my first, so it’s exciting.”

Briceno and It’s Sizzling Time ($25.40) rated in fourth, well behind the front-running even-money favorite, Bob Marco, a winner of his previous four races, while Ain’t Da Beer Cold on the outside and Double Crown along the rail battled for second through fractions of 23.77 and 46.94 seconds. Double Crown tipped out leaving the far turn to overtake Bob Marco but was quickly met by the inside rally of It’s Sizzling Time, with the two horses racing side by side to the wire.

The winning time was 1:52.64 over a fast main track. It was five lengths back to early trailer Be Better, a stakes winner who rallied to get up for third, a neck ahead of Bob Marco. It was another neck back to 25-1 long shot Martini Martin, followed by Vance Scholars, Ain’t Da Beer Cold and Yodel E. A. Who. Forewarned was scratched.

“We thought he’d have a shot to win it. He’d been training so well, so we said, ‘Why not?’” Smith said. “That’s what we expected, to have him just lay off and make one run.”

Florida-bred 6-year-old gelding It’s Sizzling Time moved past $300,000 in purse earnings with his seventh win from 40 lifetime starts. The Campbell was his first race since a 2 ½-length optional claiming allowance win going one mile New Year’s Eve at Laurel.

John B. Campbell was a renowned handicapper and racing secretary for four decades until his death at age 77 in 1954, including old Bowie Race Course in 1952-53, perhaps best known for the triple dead heat for win he weighted in the 1944 Carter Handicap.

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