Artful Splatter (outside) held off Anna’s Bandit and survived objections by the latter’s trainer and rider to win the Geisha. Photo by Laurie Asseo.
Upsets were the order of the day in Saturday’s four Laurel Park stakes, and two of those surprises provided their owners with their inaugural stakes wins.
Heading into the $75,000 Geisha Stakes for Maryland-bred/sired fillies and mares traveling the one-turn mile on the main track, much of the attention was focused on Anna’s Bandit, who arrived riding a six-race win streak that included five straight stakes. Although Anna’s Bandit was eventually one of the primary focuses later, it was Artful Splatter, with Alex Cintron up, who forged an 8-1 upset despite drifting our through the lane to record her fourth straight victory since being claimed for $16,000 by trainer Kieron Magee and owner James C. Wolf.
While Anna’s Bandit saw her six-race win streak come to a halt, Artful Splatter survived an inquiry, as well as objections from both Anna’s Bandit’s trainer Jerry Robb and rider Xavier Perez. The victory provided owner James C. Wolf his first stakes triumph.
“I thought I would be a little nervous waiting for my first stakes winner,” Wolf said after waiting out the long inquiry on Saturday. “But I didn’t know it would take that long… It was great getting my first one even if I did have to wait [through the inquiry].”
Wolf is only three wins shy of 300 wins as an owner and his horses have earned nearly $6.4 million since he sent out his first runners in 2006. He enjoyed a superb 2019 campaign when his runners won 52 races and earned nearly $1.2 million. Magee and Wolf claimed Artful Splatter for $16,000 from Rodney Jenkins and owner Hillwood Stable LLC (Ellen Charles) on September 7, and the Bandbox filly has now won four straight starts since then.
Magee was also pleased to see Wolf garner his first stakes win as an owner with Artful Splatter, who is four-for-four at the one-turn mile distance and undefeated since being claimed. She had scored in a starter optional $25,000 claimer on September 22 and then again at the same level on October 31 before winning an allowance for fillies and mares on December 14. Saturday afternoon her fourth straight victory for Magee and Wolf gave her owner his first stakes triumph and had her conditioner breathing a sigh of relief.
“That seemed like a long time to wait,” Magee said. “The longer they took, the more nervous I started to get. I’m so happy for Jim. He’s owned a lot of horses over the years, and he finally got to win one today. Really the only change we made was her was running her on the dirt. She’s been great since we put her on dirt.”
Jockey Alex Cintron won two stakes on the card and guided Artful Splatter to the Geisha score despite drifting out several paths through the lane. She veered out in front of Anna’s Bandit and both the jockey and trainer lodged an objection against the winner that produced a long inquiry. But Cintron, Magee and Wolf were rewarded for their patience as the result stood.
“Always you have to worry about it (coming down),” Cintron said after waiting through the long inquiry. “I wasn’t sure how clear I was. I knew I was a little clear, but when she went out, and I grabbed her, I knew I was two lengths in front of her. But it’s always hard for you to know how much distance you have on the other horse. When somebody claims foul against you, you always have to worry about it. The stewards do a great job, and they’re going to look at different factors. Thank God – I thought they made the right call.”
Roughly an hour later on the card, Cintron returned to the winner’s circle after he steered Honor the Fleet to a gritty 6-1 score in the $100,000 Fire Plug Stakes for four-year-olds and up, a 6 1/2-furlong test that’s the last local prep for the Grade 3, $250,000 General George Stakes here on February 15.
This time, Cintron did not have to wait out a long post-race delay — but he did have to cool his jets during the race while awaiting running room.
“When I came out of the gate and two horses went for the lead, I said, ‘OK, I can get out.’ Then I got caught with two horses on the outside. After that, I just tried to keep relaxing my horse and hope that the hole would open up. I was waiting for both sides, inside and outside. I said if the fence opens up before the outside, I’ll got for it.”
It was the inside that opened up, and Honor the Fleet bravely went through the hole to prevail by a neck over Threes Over Deuces.
Honor the Fleet had been idle since winning an allowance race at Laurel last November, but he had been training smartly at the Fair Hill Training Center in preparation for his return, including a five-furlong bullet workout of 59 3/5 seconds on January 11. Honor the Fleet scored in his seasonal debut by getting the 6 1/2-furlongs in 1:17.09 and he now owns a 5-2-1 slate and nearly $210,000 banked from 16 career outings.
A six-year-old To Honor And Serve gelding, Honor the Fleet is trained by Louis Albertrani for owner Frank Demarco, 89, a Newark, Delaware resident who celebrated his first stakes winner.
Albertrani was pleased to see the gelding score, but more so for his owner than for himself.
“He was coming into it great and there are really no other spots for him,” Albertrani said. “He’s run out of allowance conditions, so might as well try him in this stakes. He didn’t have the best trip, but he got through on the turn and he dug in down the lane. We might bring him back down here for the General George. I want to see how he comes out of this race first. But I’m really happy for his owner. He’s been in the business for over 40 years and he finally got his first stakes win today.”
NOTES Jockey Wes Hamilton has gotten off to a solid start in 2020, with five wins from 26 starters, and he earned the third stakes win of his career aboard Victim of Love in the What A Summer this afternoon. The Todd Beattie trainee got the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:18.02 to win by nearly four lengths. It was the second career stakes win for the four-year-old Speightstown filly, who may be bound next for the G3 Barbara Fritchie next month… The indefatigable Bobby G, who won eight of 18 starts in a remarkable 2019 campaign, mostly after trainer Jose Corrales had claimed him for $5,000 last February, won for the first time in ’20 when scoring in allowance company in the eighth. He narrowly edged favored Benintendi, making just his third career start, to prevail with Horacio Karamanos in the irons…First-timers ran one-two in the second race, a maiden special weight for three-year-old fillies, with Miss Tap Dance, with Carol Cedeno up for Jamie Ness, winning by four over Mama’s Grey Ghost (Sheldon Russell up for Anthony Farrior). It was another three back to the rest…
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