G3 Winner Tops Overflow Field of 16 in Five-Furlong Turf Dash
BALTIMORE— If it is indeed Robin Sparkles’ swan song, trainer Bruce Brown is hoping to send Michael Schrader’s 5-year-old mare out a winner in Saturday’s $100,000 Sensible Lady Turf Dash at historic Pimlico Race Course.
Robin Sparkles, a multiple stakes winner on dirt who captured the Caress (G3) over the Saratoga turf two starts back, tops an overflow field of 16 in the five-furlong Sensible Lady, one of four stakes worth $400,000 in purses on an 11-race program.
First race post time on the final Saturday of Pimlico’s nine-day fall meet is 12:40 p.m.
Robin Sparkles provided the 46-year-old Brown with his first career graded-stakes triumph in the 5 ½-furlong Caress July 23. The front-running triumph was the third stakes win for the New York-bred daughter of Elusive Quality, the others coming in the May 21 Politely at Monmouth Park and 2021 Mount Vernon against state-breds at Belmont Park – both originally scheduled for the grass.
“She had always run so much better on the grass, but her only stakes wins up to that point had been on the dirt which was kind of weird,” Brown said. “It was good to get the graded and the stakes race on her preferred surface, where she’s always run better numbers. It just worked out to that point where she hadn’t won a stake on it.”
It marked a full-circle moment for Robin Sparkles, who ran third in the 2021 Caress at Saratoga where she fetched just $30,000 at the New York-bred select yearling sale in 2018. Purchased by trainer Linda Rice, she has raced exclusively for Brown compiling nine wins, two seconds, three thirds and $531,793 in purse earnings from 17 starts.
Most recently, the speedy Robin Sparkles set the pace before fading to be eighth in the 5 ½-furlong Smart N Fancy Aug. 20, also at Saratoga. While Brown felt she may have regressed off the Caress, he is getting a different impression heading into the Sensible Lady.
“You just kind of get to Saratoga and you hate missing any races. In hindsight, she just put so much effort into the [Caress],” he said. “It was such a huge effort, I almost think she was still kind of feeling the effects of that. She actually bounced out of that last race really good.”
Brown said Robin Sparkles is set to be entered in the November sale at Keeneland. She has raced primarily at her home circuit of New York, but shipped to Laurel Park last September for a popular 1 ¼-length optional claiming allowance triumph on the grass.
“She hasn’t run at Pimlico but she has shipped down to Maryland before and run well, so we thought it would be a good opportunity for it to be potentially her last race,” Brown said. “She’s in the sale in November, so we’re trying to find a possible last race for her here.
“Yeah, it will be [bittersweet], but hopefully she does well at the sale and kind of puts an end to it for the owners to kind of move on,” he added. “It’s been a great ride for them and us but there comes a point where, business-wise, it makes more sense to kind of let her go on to the next phase.”
Brown expects Robin Sparkles to be in her customary spot up front in the Sensible Lady. It will be just her second time at the distance, the other coming in this spring’s Politely. Angel Cruz gets the assignment from Post 11.
“That’s her thing, and five-eighths should be right in her wheelhouse as far as distances go,” Brown said. “I think five to five-and-a-half [furlongs] at this point in her career is definitely her best.”
There will be no shortage of competition in the Sensible Lady, which attracted seven other stakes winners including Joanne Shankle’s defending champion Can the Queen, a 1 ¾-length winner in 56.41 seconds last year. The 6-year-old mare is 3-for-6 lifetime at Pimlico with another stakes win coming in the May 20 The Very One on the eve of the 147th Preakness Stakes (G1). Most recently she ran fourth as the favorite, beaten 4 ¼ lengths after bobbling at the start, in the 5 ½-furlong Jameela July 30 at Laurel.
The top two finishers from the Jameela, Michael Trombetta-trained stablemates Spun Glass and 2021 Jameela winner Ellanation, also return in the Sensible Lady. They are joined by a third Trombetta trainee, Can’t Buy Love, winner of the 2021 Star Shoot over the all-weather surface at Woodbine. The 4-year-old filly returns to the turf after running seventh in the Aug. 15 Satin and Lace on the synthetic at Presque Isle Downs.
Bred, owned and trained by Richard Finucane, Midwest-based Creative Credit is 4-for-6 this year with turf stakes wins in the five-furlong Clarksville July 13 at Horseshoe Indianapolis and 5 ½-furlong Distaff Turf Sprint Aug. 7 at Ellis Park. Another confirmed front-runner, she set the pace before finishing eighth in the Mint Ladies Sprint (G3) Sept 10 at Kentucky Downs.
Five Hellions Farm’s Dontletsweetfoolya is a multiple stakes winner on dirt looking to duplicate that success on the grass for trainer Lacey Gaudet. After making her turf debut going a mile in the April 23 Dahlia at Laurel Park, the 5-year-old Stay Thirsty mare has been cut back to sprints with a third June 5 at Laurel and a gate-to-wire victory Aug. 1 at Colonial Downs, both going 5 ½ furlongs.
“There were definitely some tears shed to have her back in the winner’s circle,” Gaudet said. “We were pretty confident that she would like the grass. We had to toy with it and learn a little bit, and I was surprised that she’s that fast going that short again. I really didn’t think that she’d be one to take to the five-eighths for 5 ½ [furlongs] again with her age, but she’s certainly turned it around on us. She’s very good right now. She’s really happy with herself.”
Gaudet said the win at Colonial helped Dontletsweetfoolya rediscover the swagger she displayed while putting together five straight wins over the second half of 2020 including stakes victories in the Primonetta and Willa On the Move at Laurel to cap her sophomore campaign.
“I think the turf has kind of given her a little bit of a new life. It gave her her confidence back, which I think was the key there. As a 3-year-old and early 4-year-old she was fast enough to be in front, and as she started getting a little bit older I guess the speed came back to her a little bit on the dirt. It’s been really fun to see her be able to get back to her speed,” Gaudet said. “She was just very good last time. She’s always been a tough shipper, but she shipped down there pretty well and seemed to really love it.”
Also in from New York are the Christophe Clement-trained pair of Miss J McKay and Honey Pants. Madaket Stables, Wonder Stables, Tony Weintraub and Brandon Dalinka’s Miss J McKay was bred in Maryland and began her career in her home state, breaking her maiden in debut in July 2019 and becoming a stakes winner in the Anne Arundel County two months later, both at Laurel. Her most recent stakes win came in the May 1 License Fee at Belmont, and she ran fourth in both the Caress and Smart N Fancy at Saratoga.
Jim Bakke and Gerry Isbister’s Honey Pants is seeking her elusive first stakes win after placing six times, including running second as the favorite to Can the Queen in the five-furlong The Very One, her only previous try at Pimlico. Following that effort she ran second in the June 25 Goldwood and third, beaten a length, in the Aug. 7 Incredible Revenge, both sprinting 5 ½ furlongs at Monmouth.
Louis Ulman and Stephen Parker’s Whiteknuckleflyer wheels back two weeks after running a troubled seventh in the six-furlong Shine Again on Pimlico’s main track. She was fourth by less than a length in the Jameela, one of four career tries on the grass, where she owns one win, one second and one third.
“She had some trouble last time, but she’s run well on the grass and hopefully she gets a decent trip. We’ll see what happens,” trainer Dale Capuano said. “The last time she ran on the grass she just got beat. With a little bit of luck, she can be right there.”
Whiteknuckleflyer’s last two wins came in allowance company sprinting 5 ½ furlongs at Laurel, both races originally carded for the grass. She came from off the pace to win by 3 ½ lengths June 12 then went all the way on the lead in a 1 ½-length score July 10.
“She’s pretty versatile. It just depends on how the race sets up,” Capuano said. “She’s a very adaptable horse, for sure. Most of the time she takes her racetrack with her.”
Golden Can, eighth after setting the pace in the Jameela; Lemos Cunha, sixth to Creative Credit in the Clarksville; Spicy Marg, last-out optional claiming allowance winner at Saratoga for trainer Wesley Ward; Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey-trained Stony Point, head winner of a July 2 allowance at Laurel; Whiskey and Rye, unraced since March 13; and Whispurring Kitten, third in Pimlico’s The Very One, are also entered.
The also-eligible list, in order, is Lemos Cunha, Ellanation, Whiskey and Rye and Stony Point.
Turf sprinter Sensible Lady took consecutive runnings of Pimlico’s The Very One in 2012 and 2013, two of her seven wins in 14 starts at 3 and 4. The Street Sense filly was trained by Tim Salzman for Three Lyons Racing, who purchased her for $9,500 as a 2-year-old at Ocala’s April sale. She went on to earn $436,640 from 22 starts. From May 2012 to June 2013, the filly won six stakes while racing at Pimlico, Colonial Downs, Penn National and Saratoga and placed in three others during the 10-race streak.
Maryland Jockey Club Press Release
Main photo: Robin Sparkles wins an allowance optional claiming at Laurel Park on September 30, 2021 (Maryland Jockey Club)