G2 Winner’s G3-Placed Stablemate Also Entered in Saturday’s One-Mile Stake at Laurel
LAUREL, Md. – Grade 2 winner Wholebodemeister and her Grade 3-placed stablemate Edie Meeny Miny Mo, stakes winner The Grass Is Blue and 6-year-old Bess, a 14-time career winner making her stakes debut, are among a wide-open field of eight entered for Saturday’s $100,000 Caesar’s Wish at Laurel Park.
The 1 1/16-mile Caesar’s Wish for fillies and mares 3 and up co-headlines a 10-race Independence Day weekend program with the $100,000 Concern for 3-year-olds sprinting seven furlongs.
First race post time is 12:40 p.m.
The Caesar’s Wish and Concern are the first of 11 stakes worth $1.05 million in purses during the month of July at Laurel, where the 37-day summer meet began June 3 and continues through August 21.
Holly Hill Stables’ 4-year-old filly Wholebodemeister continues her comeback after being away from the races for more than a year following her 52-1 upset of 2020 champion 2-year-old filly Vequist and multiple graded-stakes winning millionaire Crazy Beautiful in the one-mile Davona Dale (G2) in February 2021 at Gulfstream Park.
“I remember watching that race and thinking it was really impressive how this filly got to the front end, and I think that all the riders sort of underestimated her,” trainer Michelle Hemingway said. “She was a long shot. She’s got a really nice high cruising speed and they thought, ‘OK, we’ll just let her go and then she’ll come back,’ and she wasn’t coming back.”
Wholebodemeister, then trained by Juan Avila, soon went to the sidelines and returned with Hemingway, 38, a Virginia native and former assistant to prominent South African trainers such as Joey Ramsden, Glen Kotzen and Mike de Kock who is now based in central Florida with a summer string at Monmouth Park.
In her first start for Hemingway, Wholebodemeister prompted a sharp pace while racing on the rail in an overnight handicap over a main track rated good at Tampa Bay Downs March 12, finishing third by 3 ¼ lengths to next-out winner Night Cap.
“It was a spot where we were preparing for a summer campaign. We thought we were maybe a work short, but it was like do we run her or give her some more time,” Hemingway said. “We decided to run her and Luis Saez rode her going seven-eighths. I honestly think if she had two more works in her she just about wins it, but I was really happy with that performance.”
Next up was the 1 1/16-mile Lady’s Secret June 11 contested over a sloppy Monmouth track. Wholebodemeiser led the way through a half-mile in 48.36 seconds before dropping back on the far turn and finishing last of seven. She has had one timed breeze since then, a five-furlong move in 1:02.20 June 26 at Monmouth.
“I think you pretty much have to put a line through the Lady’s Secret. It was a sticky, goopy, icky track that day,” Hemingway said. “I do realize she’s won in the slop, and they called it a sloppy track, but in my mind this sloppy track at Monmouth is a lot different than other sloppy tracks I’ve been on.
“I ride in the mornings, and it feels very heavy and very gummy when it’s wet. Whether it was a combination of that, or the two turns, I think it just wasn’t her day,” she added. “She’s come out of it fantastic and I really have no complaints.”
Hemingway also trains Edie Meeny Miny Mo for Holly Hill. Cross-entered in Saturday’s six-furlong Regret at Monmouth, the 4-year-old filly was second in the 1 1/16-mile Monmouth Oaks (G3) last summer for previous trainer Miguel Vera and exits a front-running 3 ¼-length optional claiming victory June 5 at Monmouth under leading rider Paco Lopez.
“She was doing really well going into that race. The racing manager for Holly Hill and I both thought that Paco would suit her very well because of his free-riding style,” Hemingway said. “We just couldn’t have asked for a better performance from her that day. She was just in control, in command, and reminded everybody of who she is.”
Though she saddled several Grade 1 winners during her time in South Africa, Hemingway is seeking her first U.S. stakes win after earning her initial domestic victory last October at Gulfstream Park with Manor House. Like Wholebodemeister, she brought Edie Meeny Miny Mo back off the bench in April at Tampa, where the Upstart filly ran fourth.
“Since I’ve had her, she’s seemed extremely talented,” Hemingway said. “I knew when I ran her at Tampa that day that I was short, but I wanted to sort of put a run into her to prepare her for the summer campaign. We wanted to give her a run and let her get back into the groove of things. It’s a nice, quiet, country track and it’s a good place for them to get back the feel of what we’re doing.”
Medallion Racing, Charles H. Deters, Parkland Thoroughbreds and Mike Olszewski’s The Grass Is Blue has moved around since her 8 ½-length debut romp in July 2020 at Monmouth for owner-trainer John Stephens. She was acquired privately and joined trainer Chad Brown’s string, winning an optional claimer at Keeneland and running third by a neck to multiple stakes winner Miss Leslie in the 1 1/16-mile Anne Arundel County at Laurel to end her juvenile campaign.
The Grass Is Blue won the 1 1/8-mile Busanda in her 3-year-old debut last January and tried graded company twice in the spring, finishing off the board in the Gazelle (G3) at Aqueduct and Black-Eyed Susan (G2) at historic Pimlico Race Course. She was sent to Hall of Famer trainer Bill Mott and made one more start at 3, finishing fourth to Black-Eyed Susan winner Army Wife in last July’s Iowa Oaks (G3).
Now with Fair Hill (Md.) Training Center-based Graham Motion, The Grass Is Blue returned to Pimlico to launch her 2022 season in a five-furlong optional claimer May 14, a race originally carded for the grass. The daughter of Broken Vow bobbled at the start and had to steady, but was able to gather herself and come with a late run to win going away by 2 ¾ lengths.
“I was pretty sure she was ready to run, but I thought we could get away with [five furlongs]. It turned out to be a great opportunity with it coming off and I thought she did it really nicely,” Motion said. “She’s going to appreciate going a little further. The one-turn mile makes a lot of sense. I think this is probably more of what she wants to do down the road, and the timing is good.”
The Grass Is Blue has worked steadily at Fair Hill for her return to stakes competition and will have Jorge Ruiz, up for the Pimlico race, back aboard.
“She’s quite tough to train which is why they thought it might suit her to be at Fair Hill where we can do some different things with her. I think her potential is a little bit unknown at this point,” Motion said. “She’s very aggressive in the morning. She’s very kind, but she’s very aggressive. She was very professional the other day.
“Going a mile, I guess it’s going to be very important that she relaxes but Jorge has been on her now once so he knows her,” he added. “I’m sure she’s going to be handy coming off the sprint race and having had a bit of time between races, especially judging by the way she trains in the mornings.”
Roger A. Nickol’s Bess, a 6-year-old daughter of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft, is entered to make her fifth start this year and 34th of her career but first at Laurel. Trained by Erin McClellan she enjoyed her best season at 5, winning eight of 13 races and more than $166,000, and has two wins from four tries at one mile, finishing third as the favorite at the distance last out June 1 at Delaware Park.
The winner of that claiming race, Sola Dei Gloria Stable’s 5-year-old Big Cheeks, was supplemented into the Caesar’s Wish. By 2013 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Orb, she has put together a three-race win streak including back-to-back starts at Penn National this spring.
Also supplemented into the Caesar’s Wish was Magic Oaks’ Hybrid Eclipse, who took a lead into the stretch of the 1 1/16-mile Obeah June 8 at Monmouth before finishing third behind Miss Leslie in her first start for trainer Brittany Russell. The 4-year-old Paynter filly raced three times previously at Laurel when trained by Linda Rice with two optional claiming wins in February of 2021 and 2022, the latter her last start before the Obeah.
The Caesar’s Wish debuted in 1978 at old Bowie Race Course and was held at both Pimlico and Laurel before it was renamed the Beyond the Wire for 2018. It honors the Maryland-bred mare that won 11 of 16 starts over two seasons including the 1978 Mother Goose (G1) and Black-Eyed Susan (G2) and 1977 Demoiselle (G2) and Villager (G3). Her winning time in the Mother Goose broke Hall of Famer Ruffian’s stakes record and stood until 1994.
David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club
Photo of Wholebodemeister by Lauren King