Post Time winning the Maryland Juvenile Stakes. (Jerry Dzierwinski/MJC)
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David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club
BALTIMORE, Md. – Hillwood Stable’s undefeated Post Time, who became a stakes winner in his third and final start at two before going to the sidelines, is entered to launch his long-awaited comeback Friday at historic Pimlico Race Course.
Bred in Maryland by Dr. and Mrs. Thomas Bowman, Dr. Brooke Bowman and Milton Higgins III and trained by Brittany Russell, Post Time drew Post 5 against 10 rivals in the second-level optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds and up sprinting six furlongs on the main track.
It will be the first race in 295 days for the gray or roan son of Frosted since his command performance in the Maryland Juvenile last December. Trailing an unpressured 2022 Maryland Million Nursery winner Johnyz From Albany by as many as 9 ½ lengths after a quarter-mile, he unleashed a bold move on the far turn to get into contention, moved up on even terms with the leader, surged past and drew off without urging to win by 3 ¾ lengths.
It was the first time facing Maryland-bred/sired horses for Post Time, who subsequently was being pointed to the Spectacular Bid Jan. 21 at Laurel Park, the first of Maryland’s stakes for 3-year-olds, when the connections stopped on the budding superstar.
“He’s really grown up. Honestly, he’s still the same ol’ Post Time. He’s still a character. He still has a few tricks up his sleeve, but he’s trained well. Physically he looks awesome,” Russell said. “The actual reason that we gave him the time wasn’t a major thing, but it ended up that we wound up giving him a little bit more time. He’s a nice horse and he deserved it. It’s a progression, so we’re hoping that it pays off in time.”
Russell said Post Time still displays some of the quirkiness he did as a 2-year-old, when he faced open company in his first two races, stretching out each time. He won a 5 ½-furlong off-the-turf maiden special weight by two lengths and an optional claiming allowance by 6 ¾ lengths sprinting six furlongs prior to the Maryland Juvenile, which he won in 1:23.98 for seven furlongs over a muddy track.
“From an honest perspective I wish I would have seen him mature a bit more mentally because he still does have those tricks,” Russell said, “But, look, if that’s just Post Time and that’s what makes Post Time good then we’ll learn to live with it.”
Post Time returned to the work tab July 7 at Delaware Park, where Russell maintains a string and where he has had seven subsequent breezes for his return, including bullet moves in three of his last four. Most recently he went five furlongs in 1:00.40 Sept. 16. He is rated as the 9-5 program favorite Friday.
“Physically you’re not going to see the best Post Time on Friday,” Russell said. “He’s going to be better after a run or two, but I think we have him in a good place and it’s time to get him started.”
Post Time fetched $85,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s Midlantic Eastern Fall Yearling sale in October 2021. Owner Ellen Charles named him in tribute to her grandmother, Marjorie Meriwether Post, a businesswoman, socialite, philanthropist and owner of the General Foods Corp. who died in 1973. Hillwood is also the name of Post’s former estate in Washington, D.C. that is now a decorative arts museum.
Other 3-year-olds in the field are Johnyz From Albany, third or better in eight of nine career starts; and Minister for Magic, who won two of six starts and is racing as a new gelding. The eight older horses entered have combined to make 250 starts, an average of 31 ¼, with 43 wins led by 5-year-olds Indian Lake, Pimlico’s 2021 Bald Eagle Derby winner on turf that is 8-for-38 lifetime with three 2023 wins; and Top Boss, 8-for-49 in his career including 5-for-12 this year.
“He’s lacking seasoning. He’s running against some horses here that have some seasoning, but we know this horse has a lot of ability and it just seems like a good spot just to get him back,” Russell said. “It’s time for him to go. He’s a two-other-than and with our options at Pimlico, three-quarters or a mile and a sixteenth, I feel like this is the right spot to get him moving.”
Russell’s husband, Sheldon Russell, will get a leg up for the first time. Eric Camacho, who exercises for Russell at Laurel, rode Post Time in each of his races last year.
“Sheldon did work him a bit last year,” Brittany Russell said. “The thing about the horse is if you can deal with his antics, once he’s moving, he’s fine. He just needs to get him moving.”
A total of 128 horses were entered for Friday’s 10-race program, including 74 in five scheduled turf races, all of which have multiple horses on the also-eligible list.
Race 4 Friday is a maiden special weight for fillies and mares ages 3, 4 and 5 scheduled for 1 1/8 miles on the grass that drew an overflow field of 12 led by Red Hot and Blue, second or third seven times in 11 starts and unraced since March 3, and Invest Wisely, a $210,000 yearling racing second time for Russell.
Another oversubscribed field of 16 was entered in Race 8, an open entry-level allowance for fillies and mares 3 and up scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the grass that includes Six the Hard Way and She’sarollingstone for the main track. Recinto Rompere drops back into allowance company for her 3-year-old debut after finishing off the board in back-to-back stakes to cap 2022. Also launching her sophomore campaign is G Laurie, third in the Natalma (G1) last fall. Gold Digging Broad returns after finishing second by a nose before being promoted to first in the Aug. 19 All Brandy at Laurel.
Russell holds a one-win lead, 5-4, over Ray Ginter Jr., Kieron Magee and Hugh McMahon in the trainer standings. Russell has 11 starters over the final three days, compared to three for Ginter, seven for Magee and 11 for McMahon. Three of Russell’s wins have come in stakes – Swill in the Sept. 10 Challedon, and Apple Picker in the Weather Vane and Full Count Felicia in the All Along, both Sept. 16.
Jeiron Barbosa, who won seven races over opening weekend topped by Double Crown’s upset of the Polynesian, continues to lead the jockey standings with nine wins, two more than apprentice Axel Concepcion and three ahead of Sheldon Russell. Barbosa has mounts in eight races Friday, five races Saturday and seven races Sunday. Concepcion has 19 mounts and Russell 15 over the final three days.
Sunday’s closing day program will offer mandatory payouts in the 20-cent Rainbow 6, 50-cent Late Pick 5 and $1 Jackpot Super High 5 wagers. Going into Friday’s card there are carryovers of $5,452.79 in the Rainbow 6 (Races 5-10) and $4,984.04 in the Jackpot Super High 5 (Race 6).