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Hello Hot Rod Returns to Maryland in Federico Tesio
Hello Hot Rod after winning the Jimmy Winkfield (Credit: NYRA / Chelsea Durand)

Hello Hot Rod Returns to Maryland in Federico Tesio

BALTIMORE, MD – It will be more than just a homecoming when stakes winner Hello Hot Rod returns to Maryland for only his second start of the year in Saturday’s $125,000 Federico Tesio at Pimlico Race Course.

The 40th running of the 1 1/8-mile Federico Tesio serves to headline a Spring Stakes Spectacular program of 6 stakes worth $650,000 in purses. For the sixth straight year, it will serve as a ‘Win and In’ qualifier for Triple Crown-nominated 3-year-olds to the 146th Preakness Stakes (G1) May 15 at Pimlico. The 1 1/16-mile Weber City Miss for 3-year-old fillies serves as a co-headliner.

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The Maryland-bred son of Mosler comes in off 3 consecutive victories, but has gone unraced since January 31. He will be making his debut in the colors of owner George Sharp, who purchased Hello Hot Rod for $335,000 at auction in February from previous co-owner and trainer Brittany Russell. Among his rivals will be former stablemate Maythehorsebwithu. And, there is a Triple Crown berth on the line.

“We know he gets along well there,” trainer Shawn Davis said. “He’s had several thoughts and hopes but the way he’s trained and the way he’s worked up to it, this is the first time I thought he’d been ready for any race since we’ve had him. I think he’ll be coming in there pretty tough.”

Named for the noted Italian breeder, owner and trainer whose homebreds Nearco and Ribot dominate Thoroughbred bloodlines around the world, the Tesio debuted at Pimlico in 1981 and stayed every year but two through 2015. Laurel Park hosted the Tesio in 1987 and 1989 and each year since 2016.

Hello Hot Rod, a younger half-brother to multiple stakes-winning filly Hello Beautiful out of the mare Hello Now, made each of his first 3 starts at Laurel. He lost his debut in a waiver maiden claimer last October by a neck before back-to-back wins in maiden and allowance company – the latter going a mile – by a combined 6 1/2 lengths.

Nine days following a victory in the 7-furlong Jimmy Winkfield at Aqueduct, Hello Hot Rod was sold at Fasig-Tipton’s Kentucky February mixed sale for more than 30 times the $10,000 that Russell and Dark Horse Farm paid for him as a yearling.

Various circumstances kept Hello Hot Rod from returning to the races until now, but he has a string of six steady works since March 9 in Kentucky at both Keeneland and The Thoroughbred Center, where his most recent drill of four furlongs in 47.60 seconds came April 17, fifth-fastest of 49 horses.

“He’s trained really well. Because of the ice storms and sale and different things we had some setbacks with him, but nothing serious,” Davis said. “The horse, his last couple works he’s done really well in them and he’ll be ready for the Tesio.”

Hello Hot Rod was already Triple Crown-nominated when he was purchased, and Davis said the Preakness bid did play a part both in the sale and choosing the Tesio, which will be his first attempt around two turns.

“That does factor in. We’ll just have to see how he does and how he comes out of the race and everything,” Davis said. “What I liked about the horse since we got him is when you look at his form and everything, he’d never been trained really hard and he looked like he had quite a bit of ability. At this point to us as we’ve been working with him, he seems like he’s got a lot of class. We know that he’s done well so far and we’re hoping that he’s got the class he needs to go forward.”

Feargal Lynch is named to ride Hello Hot Rod from Post 5 in a field of eight.

Michael Dubb and Bethlehem Stables’ Maythehorsebwithu was among nine Triple Crown nominees at the late March 29 deadline. He will be making his ninth start, fourth straight in stakes and fifth overall in the Tesio. He has progressively gone from 5 1/2 furlongs in his Delaware Park debut last summer to 1 1/16 miles in the March 13 Private Terms at Laurel, his two-turn debut, where ran second by a 1/2-length to Shackled Love.

“There’s a little bit more of a run to the first turn over here, so you just hope that he gets a good spot and settles into that first turn and can just get comfortable,” Russell said. “Hopefully he just keeps running like he has.”

A dominant front-running winner of the 1-mile Miracle Wood by four lengths February 20 at Laurel, Maythehorsebwithu has been second in his other two stakes attempts including a neck loss to multiple stakes winner Kenny Had a Notion in Laurel’s 7-furlong Spectacular Bid January 16.

Maythehorsebwithu had an easy 5-furlong breeze in 1:01.80 Sunday at Pimlico, where he has joined Russell’s on-track string. Her husband, jockey Sheldon Russell, gets the return call from far outside Post 8.

“He had an easy day [Monday] because he worked on Sunday and he came out [Tuesday] morning and had his back all up and he was playing around and had lots of energy. It’s just exciting to see him kind of touting himself like that again,” Russell said. “He doesn’t really seem like he cares that he’s at Pimlico and all that. He’s been a lot of fun thus far, so you hope that he just keeps stepping forward.”

This year’s early Triple Crown nominations opened January 11 at a cost of $600, due by January 23. The second and final deadline in late March came at a cost of $6,000.

“We felt this horse would be more of a sprinter type and the longer we’ve had him and the more we’ve got to know him and race him, we’ve been just delighted with the results,” Russell said. “I love our horse. I feel good about the position we’re in regardless, so I’m just excited to have our guy to walk over.”

Also a late Triple Crown nomination was Phillip Ward’s Tiz Mandate, whose lone victory came in his unveiling last November 22 at Laurel, a six-furlong maiden special weight sprint he won by a neck. He ran fifth in a strong edition of the Heft December 26 that included No Cents, Kenny Had a Notion, and Singlino to cap his juvenile year.

Tiz Mandate opened 2021 running fourth in the Spectacular Bid, beaten 3 1/4 lengths, then rallied to be second behind Maythehorsebwithu in the Miracle Wood. In both starts, the Strong Mandate ridgling got away slowly, something trainer Damon Dilodovico hopes to remedy with the addition of blinkers for the Tesio.

“We’re hopeful that will help him out getting away from the gate,” he said. “He was primed for a big effort last time. Obviously your heart just sinks when you spot decent horses as many lengths as he spotted them. But I think it was just all about his focus. It was non-existent that day. We’re hoping that the blinkers will have him more focused.”

Jevian Toledo will be up for the third straight race on Tiz Mandate, who has yet to try two turns, breaking from Post 2. They breezed a 1/2-mile together in 50.60 seconds April 19 at Pimlico with Laurel’s main track currently closed to workers during evaluation and renovation.

“He just does not seem to get tired. He just keeps looking for more. Once you start running against some of these horses, maybe that’ll change,” Dilodovico said. “The way he’s coming into this race is not the fairest way to bring him into it, but we still have confidence in him. So, we’ll see what happens.”

ZWP Stable, Inc. and Non Stop Stable’s Shackled Love is entered for a shot in the Tesio. The gelded son of Preakness winner Shackleford had a maiden win and 2 seconds among his first 5 starts before stepping up to stakes company in the Private Terms. He pressed pacesetting even-money favorite Maythehorsebwithu from the gate, took a narrow lead in mid-stretch and dug in to the wire for a 21/1 upset.

“It’s amazing how things sometimes work out,” trainer Gary Capuano said. “We stuck him in and looked at the race. His numbers fit with the race and he’s been improving, so it was worth taking a shot. He had a good post position, the whole thing. It looked like he could be competitive in there if he ran his race.”

Apprentice Charlie Marquez climbs back aboard from Post 7.

Completing the field are Excellorator, Zertz, and Royal Number, respectively third, fifth, and sixth in the Private Terms; and The Reds, exiting a fifth in the 1-mile Gotham (G3) March 5 at Aqueduct for New York-based trainer John Kimmel.

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