LAUREL, MD – Hillwood Stable’s Shimmering Aspen returned to her winning ways in impressive fashion on Saturday, shaking free of an early speed duel and opening up down the stretch to a commanding 5 3/4-length victory in the $75,000 Alma North at Laurel Park.
The 7-furlong Alma North for 3-year-old fillies was the first of 21 stakes worth $1.67 million in purses to be run during Laurel’s 33-day summer stand that opened on June 9 and continues through August 20.
Sent off as a narrow 8-5 favorite in a seven-horse field that included the return of Grade 1 winner Yellow Agate from a 7 1/2-month layoff, Shimmering Aspen completed the distance in 1:23.12 over a main track labeled good following a passing late afternoon shower.
It was the first start for Shimmering Aspen following her stakes debut in the 1 1/8-mile Black-Eyed Susan on May 19 at Pimlico Race Course, where she took a short lead into the stretch before fading to seventh over a tiring sloppy and sealed track. Prior to that, the gray/roan daughter of Malibu Moon had reeled off three consecutive victories by a combined 16 1/4 lengths.
“My people did a great job after the Black-Eyed Susan, they got her confidence back,” trainer Rodney Jenkins said. “Sabrina, her exercise rider, took a lot of time with her … and the whole crew. I just watched.”
It was also the first stakes victory for jockey Steve ‘Cowboy’ Hamilton since his return last summer from a 10-year retirement. Breaking from post 2, the 43-year-old journeyman had her outside stakes winner Crabcakes as they raced through fractions of :22.62, :45.37, and 1:09.94 for 6 furlongs.
“Mr. Jenkins and I talked it over a little bit in the paddock, and we kind of knew people were going to be gunning for us a little bit,” Hamilton said. “We didn’t want to change her style or tactics. I didn’t rush her off her feet. She put us in the race early, and basically, I was kind of trying to slow her down and keep something to finish with, and it all worked out.”
Shimmering Aspen began to edge away after straightening for home and cruised to the wire. Crabcakes stayed up for second by a 1/2-length over Follow No One, who closed with a flourish to edge Yellow Agate by a neck for third. China Grove, Astrollinthepark, and Sine Wave completed the order of finish.
“I knew I had a lot of horse, but in the same aspect, this is the first stake I’ve won since I’ve been back, and I wasn’t waiting around for anybody,” Hamilton said. “Thanks a lot to Mrs. (Ellen) Charles and Mr. Jenkins. She’s a nice filly and we couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.”
Shimmering Aspen returned $5.40, $3.80, and $2.60. Crabcakes brought back $8.60 and $5, while Follow No One paid $4.80 to show.