Skeedattle Associates’ Just Howard, making his stakes debut seven weeks off a maiden victory, dueled with stakes winner and Grade 3-placed Bonus Points from the gate into deep stretch before edging clear near the wire to capture Saturday’s $75,000 Caveat by a head at Laurel Park.
The Caveat, for 3-year-olds, and the $75,000 Pearl Necklace, for 3-year-old fillies, both at 1/16 miles and restricted to Maryland-bred/sired horses, were among three stakes worth $250,000 over Laurel’s world-class turf course during Saturday’s 11-race program, anchored by the $100,000 Stormy Blues.
Just Howard, bred by the late Howard Bender and sent off as the even-money favorite, completed the distance in 1:40.87 over the firm Kelso Turf Course layout. Bonus Points, winless in three previous tries on grass, was two lengths ahead of Good Reasoning in third, followed by No More Talk and Jerandson.
“It was nice to win today. We had to use our GPS to get in here because we haven’t been in the winner’s circle for a while, but we’re here,” said Skeedattle’s Willie White, also president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association. “I’m very proud of what the Maryland breeders are doing. It’s a great day.”
Wearing blinkers for the second consecutive start, Just Howard was rank early under jockey Alex Cintron while racing on the inside from their rail post with Bonus Points and Feargal Lynch at his flank while Jerandson and No More Talk battled up front through a quarter-mile in 23.97 seconds and a half in 45.13.
Cintron was able to steer Just Howard off the rail as they approached the stretch with Bonus Points following in kind, and the two slugged it out down the middle of the track through the stretch with Just Howard refusing to yield to his Triple Crown-nominated rival, second in the Jerome (G2) in January and winner of the May 6 Parx Derby, both on dirt.
Cintron was aboard Graham Motion-trained Just Howard for the English Channel colt’s triumph over older horses May 29 at historic Pimlico Race Course, a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight where the second and third-place finishers both came back to win their next start.
The Caveat was the first race for Cintron since being forced to leave Friday’s card after hurting his ankle when his mount, Marie from Parie, acted up in the starting gate prior to the third race.
“Last time he was in the nine-hole and he was able to be outside horses at the beginning, and he settled pretty good. Today breaking from the inside, I had two horses laying on me in the beginning. He kind of got a little shy and there wasn’t a lot of space. He was rank,” Cintron said. “On the backside he settled pretty good. Lynch was laying on me the whole way but my horse is doing really good and he was fighting all the time. He never gave an inch on the turn and I think that’s where I won the race. I was able to push out a little bit and get off the fence.”
In a battle reminiscent of their male counterparts two races earlier, a determined I’m Betty G held off the challenge of stubborn Riley’s Choice to her outside to earn her first stakes victory in the $75,000 Pearl Necklace.
Three Diamonds Farm’s I’m Betty G ($7.60), bred by Carol Kaye and Boyce Stable and ridden by Horacio Karamanos, led all the way and was able to get her nose down on the wire to win in 1:40.29 over a firm Fort Marcy Turf Course.
“I’m absolutely thrilled with her. That was nice to see,” Kaye said. “She had been running up in New York and it’s tough racing up there. As breeders we really wanted her here and to see her show up here today was very exciting. We would have been happy with a piece of it, but it was such a gutsy win for her.”
I’m Betty G made her first three starts on dirt before being switched to the turf by new trainer Mike Maker for a 7 ½-length maiden claiming victory May 20 at Indiana Downs. Karamanos had her on the lead through splits of 24.33 seconds, 47.57 and 1:11.58 with Riley’s Choice giving chase in the clear to her outside.
The top two began to separate from the pack after straightening for home and engaged in a duel to the finish, with I’m Betty G winning the head bob. Following Riley’s Choice were My Sistersledge, Lucky in Malibu, Hailey’s Flip and Faze the Nation.
“She broke sharp out of the gate. I bobbled twice out of the gate and she made me work a little bit,” Karamanos said. “She took the lead nice and comfortable and I tried to relax her the most I can and wait for the top of the stretch. She switched leads and I started to let her pick it up and she gave me a nice kick. She fight so hard to the wire. She tried hard and did everything perfect.”
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