Wondrwherecraigis made the grade in the Bold Ruler (G3) on Halloween in 2021 (Chelsea Durand)
David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club
BALTIMORE— Michael Dubb, The Elkstone Group, Madaket Stables and Michael Caruso’s Grade 3 winner Wondrwherecraigis, with a comeback victory under his belt last month, returns to stakes competition seeking a second graded triumph in Saturday’s $100,000 Maryland Sprint (G3) at historic Pimlico Race Course.
The 35th running of the Maryland Sprint for 3-year-olds and up is among 10 stakes, six graded, worth $2.6 million in purses on a spectacular 14-race program headlined by the 148th renewal of the Preakness Stakes (G1), Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
Other graded-stakes on the card are the $200,000 Dinner Party (G3) for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles and $150,000 Gallorette (G3) for females 3 and older going 1 1/16 miles, both scheduled for the turf; $200,000 Chick Lang (G3) for 3-year-olds sprinting six furlongs; and $100,000 UAE President Cup (G1) for Arabian horses.
First race post time is 10:30 a.m. (EST).
A 6-year-old son of Munnings, Wondrwherecraigis hadn’t raced in 208 days when he lined up for a stakes-quality optional claiming allowance April 13 sprinting six furlongs at Laurel Park. He dueled with Grade 1-placed Borracho and Grade 3 winner Chateau through sizzling splits of 21.94 and 44.47 seconds before putting them away, and was able to hold off a late run from fellow multiple stakes winner Witty to prevail by a head.
“We were just so delighted with his last race. It was a really gutsy effort,” trainer Brittany Russell said. “He ran fast and he kept his head down. He came out of that race in really good shape, too, so that was sort of the main thing. These sprinters, they run hard. The important thing is keeping them happy and healthy.”
It was the eighth win from 16 career starts for Wondrwherecraigis, snapping a career-high four-race losing streak dating back to the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) last March. Prior to that he had crossed the wire first in five consecutive races, but was disqualified to second for interference in the 2021 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3).
“It’s great timing to run him here. He’s worked well, he’s trained well, so I’m really excited,” Russell said. “He likes Pimlico, [and] the distance is perfect. There’s a lot of positives in trying this.”
Based at Laurel, Wondrwherecraigis has two wins and a second in three career tries at Pimlico. He owns three prior stakes wins, all at different tracks – the 2022 Fire Plug at Laurel, and 2021 Tale of the Cat at Saratoga and Bold Ruler (G3) at Belmont Park, the latter the first graded-stakes of Russell’s career. It also came the day before she gave birth to her second child with her husband, champion jockey Sheldon Russell.
“He’ll always be very special to us. I feel like he’s been in the barn as long as I’ve been training,” Russell said. “It’s just really fun. He’s a permanent fixture. Maybe one day we’ll make him into a stable pony or something. That’s going to be a sad shed row without him.
“Edy, my daughter, walks into the barn and says, ‘I want to go see Craig.’ She walks down and gives him candy. Craig’s our man,” she added. “Obviously it’s nice because he’s a good horse, but he’s a fun horse. He’s a big personality. He’s a sweetheart. He’s just the total package.”
Sheldon Russell, aboard for five of Wondrwherecraigis’ six wins, will be up from outermost Post 10.
A solid field was entered for the Maryland Sprint including Grade 3 winner Willy Boi, owned by Lea Farms and trained by Jorge Delgado, the same connections that sprung a 12-1 upset of the 2022 Chick Lang with Lightening Larry.
Willy Boi, based in South Florida most of the year at Monmouth Park in the summer, will be making his third start of the year and first since the second of two straight off-the-board finishes in sprint stakes at Tampa Bay Downs March 26.
“Since he shipped to Monmouth he has acclimated pretty well to the weather. I feel very happy with all I’ve seen since he’s here, so I decided to put him in this race,” Delgado said. “He hasn’t showed much in the last two races, but I believe he’s back to his old form when he was winning last year. I do believe he’s still the same horse, so I think we have a shot to win the race.”
The 5-year-old Willy Boi, by Canada’s 2012 Horse of the Year Uncaptured, won three of six starts with one second and one third in 2022. His victories came in succession in the spring and summer, capped by the seven-furlong Big Drama and six-furlong Smile Sprint (G3), both at Gulfstream Park. He then ran third to champion Jackie’s Warrior in the A.G. Vanderbilt (G1) at Saratoga before finishing 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) behind Elite Power.
Willy Boi rebounded to run second, beaten a half-length by Octane, in the Dec. 10 Marion County against fellow Florida-breds in his season finale. He opened this year in the six-furlong Pelican Feb. 11, finishing seventh behind Sibelius, who set a stakes record in victory and would go on to capture the Golden Shaheen next out.
“Since he started breezing for me and even before … he always showed that he was a talented horse. I took my time and he responded to that. He won his first three starts for me, he won a couple of stakes, a graded-stakes race and we went to the Breeders’ Cup. We didn’t have much luck there but he came back to a good second place in a stakes at Tampa,” Delgado said. “Since then, his last two races weren’t the greatest, but horses, they all have bad days. I believe the way he has been breezing lately he is going rebound and he’s going to run pretty well.”
Willy Boi drew Post 5 under Paco Lopez, who picks up the mount from injured Chantal Sutherland.
Russell will have a second Maryland Sprint contender in George Sharp’s Maryland-bred Hello Hot Rod. The 5-year-old Mosler gelding began his career with Russell, winning three of four starts including the Jimmy Winkfield at Aqueduct before being sold at auction in February 2021. He went winless in eight starts before notching back-to-back victories last fall at Remington Park.
Hello Hot Rod was reunited with Russell over the winter and has raced three times with a second and a third, coming up a length short of multiple stakes winner Alwaysinahurry in the seven-furlong Frank Whiteley April 15 at Laurel in his most recent start. The Whiteley marked a return to sprints for Hello Hot Rod after competing at a mile or longer in eight of nine previous races.
“Hot Rod’s doing really well,” Russell said. “I had [jockey Jevian] Toledo work him before the last race and Toledo came back and said, ‘Sprint this horse. Stop trying to run him a mile. Sprint him.’ I was like, ‘Okay.’ He rode him like he could win that day and I think that was the difference. Toledo rides him with a lot of confidence.”
Toledo has the assignment again from Post 9.
Godolphin homebred Prevalence is entered looking to snap a five-racing losing streak since capturing the six-furlong Commonwealth (G3) last spring for trainer Brendan Walsh. He has finished off the board in each of those races, three in graded-stakes, including a seventh behind Sibelius in the Mr. Prospector (G3) last December at Gulfstream. He returns to the dirt following a failed turf debut on the Gulfstream course March 4.
Multiple stakes winner Threes Over Deuces and Midwest shipper Full Authority, respectively second and fifth in last year’s Maryland Sprint; stakes winner Nakatomi, third in the March 4 Tom Fool (G3) at Aqueduct; Grade 3-placed Straight No Chaser, exiting a 7 ¼-length optional claiming allowance triumph April 1 at Oaklawn Park; multiple stakes-placed Al Loves Josie, sixth in the Whiteley; and multiple graded-stakes placed War Tocsin complete the field.