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Hushion Seeks Third Fritchie Victory

Trainer Michael Hushion
Photo: NYRA/Adam Coglianese
Trainer Michael Hushion has won two of the previous five Barbara Fritchie Handicaps, winning with Golden Dawn (2008) and Harissa (2011). This Saturday, the Belmont Park-based conditioner is sending graded stakes winners Nicole H and My Wandy’s Girl south in search of another Grade 2 score.

 

The storied $250,000 Fritchie kicks off holiday racing this weekend at Laurel Park. The John B. Campbell Handicap is the co-feature on Saturday with the $250,000 General George Handicap (G3) headlining Monday’s President’s day card.

 

The 59th edition of the Fritchie has attracted 10 fillies and mares, who will race seven furlongs.

 

Nicole H (8-5) has started as the odds-on favorite in her past four efforts, three of which were stakes victories. Her two most recent starts were a victory in the Interborough Handicap and a runner-up finish in the Correction Handicap, both at Aqueduct. The Mr. Greeley mare, who was second in last year’s Fritchie, won the 2011 Distaff Handicap (G2). Daniel Centeno will ride.

 

“I haven’t done much with her since her last start but I am comfortable that she is coming into the race tight enough and ready to go seven-eighths,” Hushion said. “She is an old pro. She shows up every time. Not everybody feels good every day but no matter what she runs her race. She is a very tough mare and a pleasure to be around.”

 

My Wandy’s Girl (7-2) is a shining star of Puerto Rican racing after winning eight of nine races at Camarero Racetrack last year, including two graded stakes. Her final two starts in 2012 were in added money tests at Aqueduct, where she won the Pentells Stakes and finished third in the Gazelle (G1). Irad Ortiz will have the call on the Flower Alley filly.

 

“We are hoping her game is going to be going long, so this is a starting point,” added Hushion. “She’s got so much talent that she could be a factor in here and have a fair chance at winning also. I took her to Aqueduct this morning and she worked a half in 48 (seconds) and looked good doing it.”

 

Bold Affair (5-1) was recently named the champion Maryland-bred mare for 2012. The daughter of Two Punch won five stakes races a year ago and she started her 5-year-old campaign off with dominating performance in the What A Summer Stakes here on January 12 for trainer Howard Wolfendale. Abel Castellano will be aboard for the 11th straight start.

 

“I am really excited for the race. I love this filly,” Castellano said. “I really think she is best at three-quarters or seven furlongs and will be tough to beat. She worked really well last Saturday and just seems to get better and better with each start.”

 

Onepointhreekarats (5-1) became a stakes winner for the first time in the Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes at Laurel in last December at one mile, defeating Bold Affair. She has won three straight races for trainer Graham Motion since he returned the Medaglia d’Oro mare to the mid-Atlantic after campaigning in Florida, Kentucky and New York last spring and summer. Jeremy Rose retains the mount.

 

“We have pointed to this race and I have been able to freshen her up off of that last start,” Motion said. “Things are going smoothly with her. I was confused with her last spring but she has thrived since coming to Fair Hill. I would prefer if the race was a mile. The 7/8th’s is a bit of an unknown but Jeremy seems to think she has enough tactical speed to handle it.”

 

Dance to Bristol (10-1) finished second to Bold Affair in the What a Summer Stakes in January and followed that effort with a handy score against optional allowance runners last Wednesday. The Speightstown filly captured the Marshua Stakes at Laurel last year and finished first or second in 11 of 12 career starts. Xavier Perez has the mount for trainer Ollie Figgins.

 

“This is a tall task but she likes the track and ran very well in her last start,” Figgins said. “She is gusty filly who likes to win.”

 

Trainer Todd Pletcher conditions Morrow Cove (12-1), who last year won the Instant Racing Stakes at Oaklawn Park and the Raging Fever Stakes at Aqueduct. Her most recent tries were a second in the Sarcastic Stakes and third in the Cat Cay Stakes, both at the Big A. The Yes It’s True filly will be ridden by Junior Alvarado.

 

“She’s a tractable filly that is versatile at different distances,” Pletcher said. “The seven furlong distance should suit her well.”

 

Withgreatpleasure (15-1) has finished second in last four tries, the Cornucopia, the Willa on the Move, the Thirty Eight Go Go and the Affectionately. Her last win came in the Unbridled Belle Stakes at Delaware Park in August.  Travis Dunkelberger will try to get the daughter of Hold That Tiger to the winners’ circle for trainer David Nunn.

 

Speedy Celtic Chant (20-1), another New York-based runner, comes into the Fritchie off back-to-back victories, one at Laurel and the other at Aqueduct. The most recent triumph was a gate-to-wire win in the Cagey Exuberance. Manuel Gonzalez trains the Songandaprayer mare. Julian Pimentel will ride.

 

The Cornucopia Stakes at Parx Racing was the crowning effort last year for Ms. Cruisen’ (20-1), a Candy Ride mare trained by Michael Aro. The daughter of Candy Ride (ARG) finished second at Laurel against optional allowance runners on January 5, her most recent start. Jose Caraballo has the mount.

 

Funnys Approval (30-1) has won three straight at Mountaineer Park. She makes her stakes debut Saturday under J.P. Vargas for trainer Jose Lopez.

 

The Campbell drew a field of six older runners. A detailed advance will be written later in the week.

 

ABEL CASTELLANO HONORED SATURDAY

 

The Maryland Jockey Club will also honor jockey Abel Castellano Saturday afternoon for being the leading rider in the state a year ago. Castellano finished 2012 with 132 victories at Pimlico Race Course and Laurel park, 11 more than 2011 champion Sheldon Russell.

 

The 29-year-old finished 2012 ranked 25th nationally in wins (192) and was 50th in earnings ($4.4 million). Statistically the only better year he had was 2004 when he established career-highs in wins (201) and earnings ($5 million).

 

“I have been here since 2003 and really grew up in Maryland,” Castellano said. “I am very proud to have won the year-round title.”

 

The Saturday festivities will include a social media event called “Digital Reins”, beginning at 11:30 a.m. The promotion will include a complimentary continental breakfast, fee pilsner glass and $2 drafts. To enter, fans are asked to Like Laurel Park and register on Facebook.

 

Saturday will also feature over $2,500 in prize giveaways and a complimentary fleece scarf to the first 2,500 paid fans. Those who wear the scarf to Laurel on Monday afternoon will receive free admission.

 

Also on display at the Winter Carnival will be Ice Sculptures, an Ice Wall with $2,500 in prizes frozen inside, an Ice carving demo, an Ice bar and an Ice luge. Prize drawings include VIP tours of Washington D.C., Mt. Vernon and Sagamore Farm.

 

 

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