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BALTIMORE, MD – Robert Bone’s Completed Pass‘ win in the $100,000 King T. Leatherbury Stakes capped off a stellar Saturday at Pimlico, host of the 2021 Spring Stakes Spectacular.
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Completed Pass made his 7-year-old debut a memorable one when he gamely held off the 7/5 favorite and pacesetter Francatelli down the stretch to win the King T. Leatherbury, covering a firm 5-furlong turf course in :56.52.
Saddled by leading trainer Claudio Gonzalez and ridden by Angel Cruz, Completed Pass, second in the Leatherbury in 2019 and a winner of the Laurel Dash last year, has won 9 of 21 starts and more than $400,000.
Cruz rated Completed Pass behind a :22.09 opening 1/4 set by Francatelli before drawing alongside him around the turn and putting a head in front entering the stretch. Despite a game performance by Francatelli, Completed Pass was never headed again.
For Cruz, the victory was a bit of redemption after being disqualified from first to second in the Federico Tesio Stakes aboard Excellorator for bothering The Reds.
“I was a little upset because I didn’t think I bothered him enough, but the stewards said I did,” Cruz said. “So to come back and win this stake makes me feel better, makes me happy.”
BB Horses’ Miss Leslie, stretched back out around two turns after opening the year with back-to-back sprints, proved trainer Claudio Gonzalez’s contention that longer is better with a 1 1/2-length victory in Saturday’s $125,000 Weber City Miss at Pimlico Race Course.
Gonzalez, a 44-year-old cancer survivor, entered Grade 2 winner Landing Zone in last year’s Black-Eyed Susan but had to scratch the morning of the race.
“Everybody wants to run in that race, and if this filly is doing good we’re going to run,” Gonzalez said. “Definitely.”
Moonsafe, a front-running 15 1/4-length maiden claiming winner in her previous start February 27 at Laurel, established command early and was in front after a 1/4-mile in 24.59 seconds and a 1/2 in 48.59, with 13/1 longshot Exogen in pursuit. After hopping at the gate and getting squeezed back, Miss Leslie trailed the field through 6 furlongs in 1:12.78.
Miss Leslie began to gain momentum around the far turn and was swung five-wide by jockey J.D. Acosta approaching the stretch as Moonsafe continued to lead. Miss Leslie continued her drive and swept past horses to earn her fourth career victory and second in a stakes.
The winning time was 1:44.28 over a fast main track. Oliviaofthedesert got up for second, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Littlestitious, winner of the March 13 Beyond the Wire at Laurel and the 7/5 favorite.
Exogen, Moonsafe, and Hybrid Eclipse completed the order of finish. Fraudulent Charge, second in 3 consecutive stakes and a 5/2 second choice on the morning line, was scratched.
“Everybody knows speed is good, and a lot of horses had speed. I told J.D., stay behind the speed and then do one move,” Gonzalez said. “He did it perfect. He rode just like we planned.”
Gonzalez claimed Miss Leslie for $25,000 out of a win last November at Laurel and won 2 straight starts 16 days apart with the Paynter filly, including the about 1 1/16-mile Anne Arundel County December 26 at Laurel, her only previous try going two turns.
This year, she ran second to Street Lute in the 6-furlong Xtra Heat January 16 and sixth in the 7-furlong Wide Country February 20.
“You see in that time I run from 6 furlongs to a mile and 1/16 close together, because it was the only choice, and she proved to me that she can go long. This year, she ran the 2 races short, and she was coming, but it’s not the same as two turns. That’s why I waited for long, and I know she can do it,” Gonzalez said. “For me, a mile and 1/16 or more is better.”
Augustin Stable’s Grade 1-placed Corelli, cutting back to the shortest distance of his North American career in his first race since mid-October, came flying down the center of the track to catch Grade 2-winning favorite Pixelate approaching the wire and get his nose down at the wire of Saturday’s $100,000 Henry S. Clark at Pimlico Race Course.
Ridden by Jevian Toledo for trainer Jonathan Thomas, Corelli ($12) hadn’t raced since finishing seventh in a 1 1/8-mile allowance October 17 at Keeneland. Prior to that, he was fifth in the 1 1/2-mile Sword Dancer (G1), third in the United Nations (G1), and fourth in the Tiller – the latter two at 1 3/8 miles – after arriving in the U.S. from England.
“I thought this year we’d just kind of reinvent him and let him fall off the pace and hope for a little bit of a stronger run race so he could finish up,” Thomas said. “I put blinkers on him last year and probably ran him too long, and he was just kind of idling at the end.
“We just thought we’d try something different. Honestly I thought he was going to come late and we were going to have to stretch him off of this, but he showed us a different dimension,” he added. “Really proud of how he ran.”
Ballagh Rocks was eager for the lead, breaking from outside all but one rival in the nine-horse field, going the opening quarter-mile in 23.73 seconds. Papal Law, sent off at 50/1, pressed the early pace before taking over after a half in 47.76, with 9/5 favorite Pixelate in fourth after moving off the rail for a clear run midway down the backstretch.
Pixelate forged a short lead once straightened for home, but Corelli came with a steady run on the far outside after being set down for a drive by jockey Victor Carrasco. The two leaders matched strides inside the 1/16 pole before Corelli surged late, with Dreams of Tomorrow making a bold move to get up for third, 1 1/4 lengths back.
Unraced at 2, Corelli spent 2018 and 2019 racing in England for trainer John Gosden, winning once in 6 starts – none of them shorter than 1 1/2 miles – and finishing second 3 times by a total of 3/4 of a length. Augustin’s George Strawbridge moved the colt to Thomas last year.
“He was trained by arguably the greatest trainer on the planet so we just took over a really sound, nice horse,” Thomas said. “Really the credit goes to Mr. Strawbridge. Sharing a horse like this with us is a great credit and we’re very fortunate to have him. I’m glad he got rewarded today.”
Hillside Equestrian Meadows’ Grade 3 winner Laki, coming off a brief freshening, ran down multiple stakes-winning pacesetter Lebda inside the 1/8 pole and edged clear to a 1/2-length victory in Saturday’s $100,000 Frank Y. Whiteley at Pimlico Race Course.
With regular rider Horacio Karamanos aboard for trainer Damon Dilodovico, Laki ($10.20) completed the distance in 1:09.33 over a fast main track for his 11th career win from 32 starts, pushing his lifetime earnings over the $800,000 mark.
The 6-year-old Cuba gelding has raced his entire career for Dilodovico, and over the years has grown close to his wife and assistant, Christine. Laki gave the Dilodovicos their first graded-stakes victory in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial (G3) last fall, also at Pimlico.
Laki has now won at least 1 stakes race each of the last 5 years, including the 2019 Whiteley.
“He means everything to us…the whole stable,” Dilodovico said. “He’s our cornerstone.”
Winner of the Miracle Wood and Private Terms in back-to-back starts last winter as a 3-year-old at Laurel, Lebda was sent to the lead by jockey J.D. Acosta and held it through a 1/4-mile in 23.33 seconds and a 1/2 in 45.55, with Laki tracking intently. The two straightened for home in front, going 5/8 in 57.15 before a stubborn Lebda finally yielded to his more experienced rival.
Lebda’s Claudio Gonzalez-trained stablemate Eastern Bay was 4 1/4 lengths back in third, a head in front of Arthur’s Hope. Whereshetoldmetogo, the 4/5 favorite, ran last of nine to snap a 3-stakes win streak.
Laki was making his first start since running third in the 7-furlong General George (G3) February 20 at Laurel Park. Since then, Laurel has seen its racing and training disrupted by an equine herpesvirus (EHV-1) quarantine and currently an ongoing evaluation and renovation of the main track, which caused the Spring Stakes Spectacular program to be transferred to Pimlico.
“It’s been a crazy month for all of us horsemen here in the state. For him to do what he did, I just can’t put it together,” Dilodovico said. “The last race we ran him he was letting me know he wasn’t 100 percent. Not unsound, he just has a way about him. So, the rest was definitely warranted and it paid off.”
Thwarted by traffic and unlucky trips in her previous stakes attempts, VinLaur Racing Stables’ Xanthique got an ideal ride from jockey Feargal Lynch and nabbed Grade 3-placed favorite Crystal Cliffs on the wire for a nose victory in Saturday’s $100,000 Dahlia.
Shipped to Pimlico by Belmont Park-based trainer Tom Morley, on hand for the race, Xanthique ($14.20) ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.92 over a firm course in a thrilling opener to the 2021 turf season in Maryland.
“There was no unlucky in that trip,” Morley said. “It was as good a ride as you’ll see around there. It was phenomenal.”
Making her sixth consecutive stakes start, Xanthique settled in mid-pack as 104/1 longshot Elegant de Domino outran Lagom for the early lead. They dueled through splits of 23.25 and 47.57 seconds with Vigilantes Way in the clear three-wide in third and Crystal Cliffs saving ground inside in fourth.
Sheldon Russell and Crystal Cliffs found a seam to take over the top spot at the top of the lane and Lynch followed on Xanthique, using the length of the stretch to wear down the favorite, racing for the first time since being beaten a head in the Regret (G3) last June. It was 2 1/4 lengths back to Vigilantes Way in third.
“She’s a nice filly. Tom’s done a great job. I followed Sheldon the whole way. She was the horse to beat. He got through and I followed him through and kept it simple,” Lynch said. “The turf course is beautiful. The guys have done a great job. The ground staff, they’re working hard here and Laurel and doing everything they can.”
Xanthique, by Into Mischief, now owns five wins from 18 career starts and nearly $300,000 in purse earnings. Her best stakes previous stakes finishes were fourths in the Marie Krantz Memorial January 16 at Fair Grounds and One Dreamer last September at Kentucky Downs.
“We were a little concerned there might be a lack of pace in the race, but we were delighted to see those two fillies go on in front of us. Feargal just stalked the favorite the whole way around there and turning in made a brave run up the rail but she’s as game as a tiger, this horse. I never had any doubt that she put her head in the hole,” Morley said. “Huge credit to my team at Belmont. She’s been a real project filly, so to claim her three years ago and now turn her into a stakes winner is very special indeed.”
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