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BALTIMORE, MD – Jockey Sheldon Russell celebrated his 1,500th career victory in style Saturday, guiding Madaket Stables, Albert Frassetto, Mark Parkinson, K-Mac Stables, and Magic City Stables’ Hello Beautiful to a popular 3 3/4-length score in the $100,000 Alma North at historic Pimlico Race Course.
The fifth running of the Alma North for fillies and mares 3 and older was the first of 3 $100,000 stakes on the final program of July, followed by the Challedon, also sprinting 6 furlongs, and 1 1/8-mile Deputed Testamony, both for 3-year-olds and up. All 3 races are part of the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship (MATCH) Series.
It was the eighth career win and sixth in a stakes for Hello Beautiful ($2.20), who is trained by Russell’s wife, Brittany. The final time of 1:09.63 was the fastest of two runnings at the current distance.
“It’s always anxious because she means so much to us and she’s been so good,” Sheldon Russell said. “As soon as she got the first 1/4, I knew that she was in her happy place and it was cruise control from there. The final time was extremely impressive. She’s a good filly.
“I’m just very happy that we got it out of the way, and for it to happen on Hello Beautiful. She’s been a great filly throughout my career, she’s given me some great wins,” he added. “She was mine and Brittany’s first stakes winner together, so for me to reach a milestone on one of our favorite fillies, it’s something I’ll never forget.”
To commemorate the milestone, Russell teamed with agent Marty Leonard to gift Hello Beautiful’s groom, Luis Barajas, with $1,500. It was a gesture Russell began with $1,000 for his 1,000th winner on March 7, 2015, with Shayjolie in the Cat Cay at Aqueduct.
“Luis has been with us for about a year now. He’s a key role behind the scenes at the barn and he takes care of some really, really nice fillies,” Russell said. “He’s got years of experience, so when they come with that kind of background, straight away when he came into Brittany’s barn she gave him the best five horses pretty much that she has.
“It’s good that the money’s coming home. I see these guys on a daily basis and for them to make the extra money is always great,” he added. “Just finally to have gotten the 1,500, we can start moving forward now. I was starting to feel the pressure there. I had a couple of close finishes (Friday) and then today. It takes the pressure off.”
Beaten at the wire in his first mount of the day, 3/5 favorite Make It a Double in Race 2 for trainer Anthony Farrior, Russell and Hello Beautiful quickly established command as the 1/9 choice in a field of five. They rolled through a 1/4-mile in :23.41 and a 1/2 in :45.84 with mild pressure from Call On Mischief.
Hello Beautiful straightened for home in front and shook loose through the stretch from Call On Mischief, who stayed up for second by a neck over Precious, followed by Bluefield and Paisley Singing. Club Car was scratched.
It was the first win in 3 tries at Pimlico for Hello Beautiful, having run third in her May 10, 2019 unveiling and second by a neck to undefeated Chub Wagon in the June 13 Shine Again. Bred in Maryland by Ellen Charles’ Hillwood Stable, Hello Beautiful was picked out and purchased by Brittany Russell for $6,500 at Fasig-Tipton’s Midlantic December 2018 mixed sale.
“The question was always is she a horse for the course at Laurel and she’s run two big races at Pimlico now so it’s good that she can run on a different surface, as well. It feels great,” Brittany Russell said.
Hello Beautiful won the Jan. 16 What A Summer, 2020 Safely Kept and Maryland Million Distaff, and 2019 Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship and Maryland Million Lassie, all with Sheldon Russell aboard at Laurel Park. She now has earnings of $464,610 from 16 lifetime starts and a milestone win for husband and wife, who are parents to daughter, Edy, who turns 2 next month, and are expecting a second child in November.
“It’s really incredible it worked out that way, especially because (Sheldon) was on a very live horse of Farrior’s in the second race and they’re very good friends of ours,” she added. “I would have been just as happy to see him do it on his horse, but then when the horse got nailed on the line, selfishly I thought, ‘Ok. It’s going to be the big filly.’ She means so much to us. It’s very special.”
Russell was Maryland’s overall leading rider in 2011 and has won 8 career meet titles, the most recent coming at Laurel Park’s calendar year-ending 2020 fall stand. He has battled various injuries over the course of his career and currently ranks second to Charlie Marquez for the state’s most wins in 2021.
“In this game, you’ve got to stay healthy. The wins will always come. Knock on wood, we’ve been on a bit of a roll here and not been injured for a while,” Sheldon Russell said. “Just very fortunate. I’m happy to get to this milestone; hopefully, we can get to 2,000.”
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