Victory Kingdom Seeks First Stakes Win in $100,000 The Very One
BALTIMORE –Wertheimer & Frere’s Grade 1-placed homebred Alda and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gianni Fittipaldi’s Mia Martini will line up with the chance to add to trainer Graham Motion’s roster of winners in Friday’s $100,000 Hilltop at Pimlico Race Course.
The 49th running of the one-mile Hilltop for 3-year-old fillies and 21st edition of the $100,000 The Very One for fillies and mares 3 and up sprinting five furlongs comprise the turf stakes during a spectacular 14-race card on the eve of the 146th Preakness Stakes (G1), headlined by the 97th running of the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) for 3-year-old fillies.
Other stakes on the program are the historic $250,000 Pimlico Special (G3) for 3-year-olds and up at the Preakness distance of 1 3/16 miles, $150,000 Miss Preakness (G3) for 3-year-old fillies sprinting six furlongs, and $150,000 Allaire du Pont (G3) for fillies and mares 3 and up going 1 1/8 miles.
First race post time is 11:30 a.m.
Motion won his first Hilltop with Silent Greeting in 1996. Based at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., he followed up with Coup in 2012, Miss Temple City in 2015 and Happy Mesa in 2017. Last year he ran fourth and eighth, respectively, with Lucky Jingle and Shimmering.
Alda won two of her first three career starts, breaking her maiden second time out at Belmont Park and winning the 6 ½-furlong Catch a Glimpse over the Woodbine turf last summer. She returned to Canada to be second in the one-mile Natalma (G1) before finishing off the board in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) at Keeneland.
The daughter of multiple graded-stakes winning sprinter Munnings didn’t return until April 9 in Keeneland’s 5 ½-furlong Limestone Turf Sprint, where she ended up sixth by four lengths to multiple stakes winner Tobys Heart.
“It was probably a little quick for her that day. I thought I could get away with sprinting her one time, but I think this is what she wants to do,” Motion said. “She came to me as a 2-year-old and she’s been very consistent. It probably was a big step to go to the Breeders’ Cup off of those races but I thought she deserved a shot. It was coming sort of at the end of the year and she’d been running pretty consistently. I’d like to see her get back on track here. She’s a filly I’ve always thought a lot of.”
Mia Martina returns to the turf after a failed effort on dirt in the 1 1/8-mile Gazelle, where she was never in contention and was eased. Prior to that effort she had raced three times on grass, winning her first two starts before closing from last to be fourth, beaten less than four lengths, in the 1 1/16-mile Florida Oaks (G3) March 6 at Tampa Bay Downs.
“Eclipse bought her after her first start. We ran her on the dirt last time up at Aqueduct, which was just a put-a-line-through-it race. She clearly struggled with the dirt. We wanted to try it. She’s kind of bred for it, but she obviously doesn’t handle it as well,” Motion said. “I’ve been really happy with her coming up to this race. This is a logical spot for her to get her back on track. Nice filly, very straightforward.”
Trainer Mike Maker won last fall’s Hilltop with Evil Lyn, and he returns this year with Albert Frassetto homebred Phantom Vision. The Declaration of War filly was fourth by 2 ½ lengths after setting the pace in the Limestone Turf Sprint, and was second in the 6 ½-furlong Cincinnati Trophy Feb. 26 on the all-weather surface at Turfway Park.
“We’re stretching out,” Maker said. “She has a lot of speed, we’ll see if she can carry it a mile.”
Respect the Valleys’ Out of Sorts will be making her season and turf debut in the Hilltop. A 10 ¾-length maiden special weight winner second time out in November at Laurel Park, the Dramedy daughter ran second in the six-furlong Smart Halo and third in the seven-furlong Gin Talking behind Street Lute, the latter Dec. 26 in her most recent start. Jockey Sheldon Russell rides.
“She’s great. She hasn’t missed a beat since she’s been back. We just sort of freshened her up after that last one. We kind of didn’t know what to do with her for the winter, anyway, so we thought it’s a good time to give her a break,” trainer Brittany Russell said. “We kind of always thought after she broke her maiden on the slop that we would try the turf one day, and stretch her out. Sheldon thinks that she’ll sit nicely going two turns, so we’ll find out.”
Bubbles On Ice, winner of the 1 1/16-mile Memories of Silver on the Aqueduct turf April 18; Il Malocchio, stakes-placed at 2 and 3; Seasons, unraced since running third in the Natalma (G1); Arm Candy, Double Fireball, Journeytothemoon, Proper Attire, Serenade a Kitten, Speed Lane and Tracy Flick round out the field.
Victory Kingdom Seeks First Stakes Win $100,000 The Very One
Team Valor International homebred Victory Kingdom, graded-stakes placed in the U.S. and her native Australia, goes after her first career stakes victory in Friday’s $100,000 The Very One at Pimlico Race Course.
A 6-year-old daughter of Animal Kingdom, the 2011 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner and Preakness (G1) runner-up and 2012 Dubai World Cup (G1) winner, Victory Kingdom made her first 11 starts in Australia where she ran third in the Crown Resorts Typhoon Tracy Stakes (G3) and second in the Tab Kewney (G2) in 2019.
Victory Kingdom made her North American debut last summer at Saratoga, running fourth in the 5 ½-furlong Smart N Fancy. From there she went to Canada, finishing second in the six-furlong Ontario Fashion (G3) and fourth in the 6 ½-furlong Sweet Briar Too over Woodbine’s all-weather surface.
Trained by Rodolphe Brisset, Victory Kingdom has made only one start this year when she ran second by 2 ½ lengths following an inside trip in the five-furlong Abundantia Jan. 1 at Gulfstream Park. She has breezed steadily since late March for her return, most recently an easy half-mile in 49.20 seconds May 7 at Keeneland.
“She’s a very nice filly,” Brisset said. “She’s been a little unlucky. She’s graded-stakes placed. She’s still only won one race, her maiden, but her last race was a very good effort. She got beat by the draw more than anything. We drew [post] one and she was on the inside and got a little bit shuffled back and then really came running and was a good second. We kind of refreshed her after that and looking forward to a spring as summer campaign with her. We think she could be competitive in this kind of spot.”
Bred, owned and trained by Liz Merryman, Caravel will be making her second start this year after running third in the six-furlong License Fee April 30 at Belmont Park, her first race in six months. The 4-year-old Mizzen Mast filly won four of five starts last year including the six-furlong Lady Erie and 6 ½-furlong Malvern Rose on the synthetic at Presque Isle Downs, her lone loss coming in the one-mile Hilltop at Pimlico.
Highlander Training Center’s Catch a Bid is also a stakes winner, having taken the one-mile Riskaverse at Saratoga in 2019, later running fourth by two lengths in the Valley View (G3) at Keeneland. She has gone winless in five straight including a 1 ½-length loss when fifth in the one-mile De La Rose last summer at Saratoga.
Also entered are Dendrobia, fifth in the 2020 The Very One; Bath and Tennis, Buff’s in Love, Can the Queen, Dixieincandyland, Epic Idea, Gogo Shoes, Gotta Go Mo and Queen of Shades.
Preakness Press Release
Photo: Mia Martina, (Lauren King)