Due to a winter storm affecting the Mid-Atlantic region, the Winter Sprintfest program, originally slated for February 13th, featuring the $250,000 Runhappy Barbara Fritchie (G3) and $250,000 General George (G3) has been postponed to Saturday, February 20.
Hello Beautiful Chasing Graded Score in 2021 Barbara Fritchie
With few remaining gaps on Hello Beautiful's resume, trainer Brittany Russell will seek to achieve a significant milestone for both herself and her stable star when they go up against seven rivals in the $250,000 Barbara Fritchie (G3) at Laurel Park on Saturday, February 13.
The 69th running of the Barbara Fritchie for fillies and mares 4 and older and the 45th edition of the $250,000 General George Stake (G3), for 4-year-olds and up highlight a Winter Sprintfest program of six stakes worth $900,000 in purses. Both graded races are contested at seven furlongs.
||Suggestive Honor (ARG)
A graded win would fill an important blank on an otherwise stellar ledger for Madaket Stables, Albert Frassetto, Mark Parkinson, K-Mac Stables and Magic City Stables' Hello Beautiful, a Maryland-bred daughter of Golden Lad that has won five career stakes and takes a three-race win streak into the richest and most prestigious event of the winter meet.
"For my first graded win to be Hello Beautiful would just be perfect. She's just done so much for us and we've had so much fun with her," Russell said. "She deserves it. She's good at Laurel. We don't know how good she is outside of Laurel, but it would just mean so much for all of us.
"The idea of being based in Maryland and making this our home and the Fritchie being such a big race, it'd just be a really big thing if our big mare that's done so much for us could keep doing that," she added.
Sporting a perfect 7-0 record over Laurel's main track, Hello Beautiful is three-for-four at seven furlongs including wins in the Maryland Million Nursery and Safely Kept last fall to cap her sophomore campaign. In her only previous graded attempt, she ran sixth in the Prioress (G2) at Saratoga behind Frank's Rockette, an Eclipse Award finalist for 2020's champion female sprinter.
Hello Beautiful opened 2021 with a front-running triumph in the six-furlong What a Summer Jan. 16 at Laurel, her first start in seven weeks, opening up by four lengths in the stretch and repelling a late challenge from Club Car to win by a length. She tuned up for the Fritchie with a half-mile work in 47.60 seconds Feb. 6, second-fastest of 89 horses.
"She's fantastic," Russell said. "She's great right now so hopefully she has a good rest of the week and runs her race on Saturday."
Hello Beautiful will go after her eighth career win from outside Post 8 under her regular rider, Russell's husband, Sheldon Russell. Purchased by the trainer for just $6,500 out of Fasig-Tipton's Midlantic December 2018 mixed sale at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, Hello Beautiful owns a 7-2-1 record from 13 starts with $377,110 in purse earnings.
"It appears to be a great spot, post-position wise. Hopefully it's the lucky number eight and it works out where she can just have the catbird's seat," Brittany Russell said. "As always we'll leave it up to Sheldon. From there he can dictate where he wants to put her."
A highly competitive Fritchie field will feature a matchup of Hello Beautiful and Five Hellions Farm's Dontletsweetfoolya, also based at Laurel with trainer Lacey Gaudet. By Grade 1 winner Stay Thirsty, Dontletsweetfoolya enters her season and graded debut on a five-race win streak including back-to-back stakes at Laurel.
"She has done very well. These owners are fantastic. They want to find the easiest spot at all costs," Gaudet said. "The filly has been a little difficult as far as staying unsettled so we have opted to not ship. The only place she has ever shipped to run is Pimlico and it wasn't as bad as it could have been, but it wasn't the prettiest day.
"A lot has been about settling her and also kind of staying away from Hello Beautiful," she added. "We've tried to map out a plan to keep her in winning form. We've said that as long as she dots all those I's and crosses all those t's this was going to be the goal and we figured this is where we were going to meet Hello Beautiful."
Dontletsweetfoolya went winless at 2, breaking her maiden on her fourth try last summer at Laurel and dominating her foes since, all in front-running fashion, by 28 ¼ combined lengths. She became a stakes winner on her first try in the Nov. 28 Primonetta, and followed with a score in the Dec. 26 Willa On the Move, both going six furlongs.
"We knew that she could run back a little bit quick on the turnback and run back to back in those stakes. It worked out really, really well," Gaudet said. "She was a little tired after the last stake and we were perfectly fine with that because we said that's exactly what we wanted - to get this one out of the way and then rest her into the Barbara Fritchie."
Dontletsweetfoolya won her only previous attempt at seven furlongs, an open, entry-level allowance last September by 8 ¾ lengths. Jevian Toledo will be aboard for the sixth straight race, breaking from Post 3. All horses will carry 120 pounds.
"I did say a couple starts ago that we were ready for her, and our filly has turned back everybody except for her so it's time to let these two face each other," Gaudet said. "It's going to be tough because they're both speedballs. I think the draw is going to be the biggest tell tale of what's going to happen. Hopefully one of these two is the best. I hope we don't kind of run each other out and set it up for somebody else because it would be really thrilling to see our two take it to the end."
Barry Schwartz's homebred filly Sharp Starr
brings graded credentials to the Fritchie, having captured the one-mile Go for Wand (G3) by a neck Dec. 5 in the Aqueduct mud to end her 3-year-old season. She comes in from the Belmont Park barn of Horacio DePaz, the former private trainer for Maryland's Sagamore Farm.
"It would be special to be able to come back and win a race like this, especially with a filly like her," DePaz said. "We developed her as a 2-year-old and she's kind of taken us to Saratoga and stuff and competed very well in New York. It's nice when you can develop one like this."
Sharp Starr, a New York-bred daughter of graded-stakes winning sprinter Munnings, began her 4-year-old campaign in the seven-furlong La Verdad Jan. 3 at Aqueduct, also over an off track, where she ran second throughout and finished a length behind winner Mrs. Orb. She was also second in her only other try at the Fritchie distance, a maiden special weight for state-breds last February at Aqueduct.
Overall, Sharp Starr has been worse than third just twice in 10 career starts, with three wins. She was eighth in a mid-June maiden race, her first start in nearly four months due to coronavirus shutdowns across the country, and she ran seventh in the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) in October at Pimlico after being bumped at the start.
"The [maiden race] was going three-quarters and we basically gave her the race because I thought it was better to give her the race and give her experience versus just keep training to try and go into a longer race," DePaz said. "The Black-Eyed Susan, obviously, was deeper waters, open company. At least this time ... it'll be around one turn which it seems like she does very well. We'll see how she stacks up against those types of horses."
Alex Cintron gets the riding assignment from Post 1 on Sharp Starr, making her Laurel debut.
Another multiple stakes winner entered in the Fritchie is Howling Pigeon Farms, Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable and Madaket Stables' Needs Supervision. Based at Laurel with trainer Jerry O'Dwyer, the 5-year-old Paynter mare has gone winless in seven starts, all in stakes, since the November 2019 Safely Kept over her home track.
Needs Supervision is the only returnee from last year's Fritchie, when she ran fourth, beaten four lengths by Majestic Reason. Most recently second in the seven-furlong Interborough Jan. 18 at Aqueduct, she drew Post 7.
Completing the field are Estilio Talentoso, gate-to-wire winner of the one-mile Escena last August at Gulfstream Park; Willa On the Move runner-up Hibiscus Punch, a three-length open allowance winner Jan. 17 at Laurel sprinting six furlongs; Club Car, second in the What a Summer and fourth in the Willa On the Move in her most recent starts; and Suggestive Honor, Group 2-placed in her native Argentina last winter but off the board in the Primonetta and Willa On the Move.
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Dontletsweetfoolya More Settled Entering Barbara Fritchie
There's a scene in the 2003 motion picture `Seabiscuit' where trainer Tom Smith cradles a goat in his arms as he walks along the road on owner Charles Howard's California ranch leading to the stable where the movie's cantankerous main character has been keeping his connections on their toes.
"Goat racing?" Howard, played by actor Jeff Bridges, asks.
"Oh, no. Just trying to calm him down a little," fellow Academy Award winner Chris Cooper, playing Smith, answers. "The smart ones, they hate being alone all the time. Sometimes, another animal just soothes them a bit."
Moments later, the goat is seen exiting Seabiscuit's stall in mid-air before landing and scampering past an astonished Smith, standing with his mouth open and hands on his hips. Ultimately, Smith brings in a pony to keep Seabiscuit company, and the rest is cinematic history.
Trainer Lacey Gaudet hasn't had any such trouble since Doris, a 7-month-old baby goat, or kid, joined her Laurel Park barn in mid-January. Doris has been nothing but a positive influence for the entire stable, in particular the occasionally high-strung, multiple stakes-winning filly Dontletsweetfoolya, who is scheduled to make her 4-year-old debut in the $250,000 Runhappy Barbara Fritchie (G3) on Saturday, February 13.
"She's become the barn mascot," Gaudet said. "Everybody loves her."
Especially Five Hellions Farm's Dontletsweetfoolya, who has reeled off five consecutive wins by 28 ¾ combined lengths including the Primonetta and Willa On the Move stakes at Laurel to cap her sophomore season, the latter on the day after Christmas.
"She since has added a goat to her stall, which we wavered back and forth on doing for a long, long time. It just happened that one of our neighbors got two little goats and they needed a spot for one," Gaudet said. "It's been a fantastic experiment.
"She loves the goat, and the goat loves her. My rider swears that it has changed her in the mornings," she added. "I definitely see a bit of a change in her through her daily routine. I guess we'll find out next Saturday if it has helped her much."
Though having animals around the barn with the horses is nothing new to racing it is a first for Team Gaudet. The late Eddie Gaudet won more than 1,700 career races and was the patriarch of one of Maryland's best known and respected racing families. His wife, Linda, and oldest daughter have done the training since 2011.
"There's a lot of barns out there that have goats. Everybody does this from time to time, but this is our first time. My dad and my mom never had goats in the barn," Lacey Gaudet said. "She is the tiniest little thing. She is not even as big as my Jack Russell. She is a tiny goat, but she has been great to have in the barn.
"Everybody loves her," she added. "She's so quiet. She doesn't make any noise. We'll just walk by at any point in the day and she'll be sleeping between this filly's legs or the filly will be laying down and the goat is between her legs."
Dontletsweetfoolya had her third and final breeze for the Fritchie Feb. 6, going a half-mile in 48 seconds in company with newly turned 3-year-old filly Fraudulent Charge, runner-up to multiple stakes winner Street Lute in the Dec. 26 Gin Talking who is pointing for a rematch in the $100,000 Wide Country, part of the Winter Sprintfest program of six stakes worth $900,000 in purses.
"She hasn't missed a beat. Her works have been fantastic," Gaudet said. "She's just so push-button, where before she was always full speed ahead and we could not slow her down. She was a little rank. We would always try to settle her, to no avail. She's really gotten to the point where if we want her to work in 51 [seconds], she'll work in 51. If we want her to work in 48, she'll work in 48.
"Each work off of that last race was fantastic. Each was a little bit faster and it was definitely under control," she added. "She's doing very well, so we're looking forward to it."
Approaching her 200th career victory, Gaudet is chasing her first graded-stakes win in the Fritchie. Her most recent attempt came with long shot Charles Town Oaks (G3) runner-up Chauncey in 2018.
"It's fantastic. The last time we ran in a graded-stake my horse was [42-1] and she ran second and got beat a [neck]," she said. "It's fun to point toward this race and I think we actually have a chance."
Among the horses Dontletsweetfoolya is expected to face are fellow multiple stakes winners Hello Beautiful, herself on a three-race win streak, and Needs Supervision; Sharp Starr and Victim of Love, both Grade 3 winners in New York last year.
"It's funny because last time when she won the stake ... people were like, `Oh, you're going to have to face Hello Beautiful now,'" Gaudet said. "I think everybody in Maryland, especially the people on the backside, and everyone that has seen these two fillies flourish, I think they're all really looking forward to these two coming together. And, we are too."
Sharp Starr's Barbara Fritchie Run Hinges on Weekend Workout
Barry Schwartz's Grade 3-winning homebred Sharp Starr, narrowly beaten in her 4-year-old debut last month, will breeze over the weekend in New York ahead of an expected start in the $250,000 Runhappy Barbara Fritchie (G3) Feb. 13 at Laurel Park.
The 69th running of the Barbara Fritchie for fillies and mares 4 and older and the 45th edition of the $250,000 General's Stake, formerly the General George, for 4-year-olds and up also sprinting seven furlongs, highlight a Winter Sprintfest program of six stakes worth $900,000 in purses.
"I'm still looking at it. She's in good form right now," trainer Horacio DePaz said Wednesday. "I'm not sure who's coming in for that race, but that's kind of what I'm pointing to right now. I'll work her this weekend and I'll make my final decision after I see how she works. More than likely, I think that we'll go there."
A New York-bred daughter of three-time Grade 2-winning sprinter Munnings, Sharp Starr exits a one-length loss to Mrs. Orb in the seven-furlong La Verdad Jan. 3 in the mud at Aqueduct. She capped her sophomore campaign with a hardy neck triumph over Portal Creek, also nominated to the Barbara Fritchie, in the one-mile Go for Wand (G3) Dec. 5, also at Aqueduct.
Sharp Starr earned a return trip to graded-stakes competition after beating fellow state-breds by 15 ¾ lengths in one-mile allowance Nov. 7. Her only previous graded try came when seventh in the Oct. 3 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) at Pimlico Race Course.
"It was a big effort on her part after that allowance race to be able to repeat, and then the last race we got caught by a nice older mare. I think that she wasn't necessarily in her top form, not that she was doing bad but I think the other filly was coming around a little better than she was," DePaz said. "It wasn't a bad effort. I'm still willing to give her a shot."
A total of 23 horses were nominated to the Fritchie including fellow graded winners Eres Tu, Pacific Gale and Victim of Love; multiple stakes winners Dontletsweetfoolya, Hello Beautiful and Needs Supervision; and Amuse and Secret Keeper, both graded-stakes placed on the West Coast.
Graded Winners Among 23 Nominated to 2021 Barbara Fritchie
Graded-stakes winners Eres Tu, Pacific Gale, Sharp Starr and Victim of Love; multiple stakes winner Hello Beautiful, undefeated on the local main track; and Dontletsweetfoolya, riding a five-race win streak, are among 23 older females nominated to the $250,000 Barbara Fritchie Stakes (G3) Saturday, February 13 at Laurel Park.
The 69th running of the Barbara Fritchie for fillies and mares 4 and older and the 45th renewal of the $250,000 General's Stake (G3) for 4-year-olds and up, formerly the General George, highlight a Winter Sprintfest program offering six stakes worth $900,000 in purses. Both graded-stakes are contested at seven furlongs.
Eres Tu captured the 1 1/8-mile Allaire du Pont (G3) December 26, her second straight stakes win at Laurel Park for trainer Arnaud Delacour.
Pacific Gale snapped a 17-race losing streak with a 16-1 upset of the seven-furlong Inside Information (G2) Jan. 23 at Gulfstream Park.
Sharp Starr, trained by Horacio DePaz, won the one-mile Go for Wand (G3) December 5 at Aqueduct over fellow Fritchie nominee Portal Creek to cap her 3-year-old season, and opened 2021 running second in the seven-furlong La Verdad January 3.
Victim of Love is a two-time winner at Laurel including the What a Summer last January. Second in last year's Fritchie, she went on to capture the 6 ½-furlong Vagrancy (G3) at Belmont Park.
Hello Beautiful owns five career stakes wins but is seeking her first graded triumph. The 4-year-old filly has strung together three straight wins for trainer Brittany Russell, all in stakes; is 7-0 on the Laurel dirt with three of those wins coming at seven furlongs; and exits a popular triumph in the January 16 What a Summer.
Dontletsweetfoolya, yet to run in 2021, has won five consecutive races by 28 ¾ combined lengths including the Nov. 28 Primonetta and Dec. 26 Willa On the Move at Laurel Park.