Two years after picking up his first graded-stakes victory in the $150,000 ClearSpan Maryland Sprint (G3), Always Sunshine returns to Pimlico Race Course Saturday in search of another in the six-furlong race, one of eight stakes, four graded, on the undercard of the $1.65 million Preakness Stakes (G1).
“He's older, wiser, and who knows, possibly better,” said trainer Ned Allard of the 7-year-old Stonehedge color-bearer, who will be making his first start of 2019 and his first as a gelding on Saturday. “I'm really looking forward to it. Since he's been back, he's been training superbly.”
With a record of 8-5-4 in 27 starts, Always Sunshine has bankrolled $545,850 with stakes victories in the Tale of the Cat at Saratoga Race Course, the Hockessin at Delaware Park, and the Dave's Friend at Laurel. In his last four starts of 2018, however, he managed to hit the board only once, finishing third in the Fall Highweight at Aqueduct Racetrack, and was given a few months off to relax after being gelded and “learn to be a racehorse,” said Allard.
Returned to training in March at Delaware Park, Always Sunshine has turned in a string of bullet works under jockey Carol Cedeno, who will have the mount.
“They get along extremely well,” noted Allard. “All those breezes [most recently a four-furlong move in 48 seconds, the fastest of 30 at the distance on May 11] we've never put the gas pedal down.”
Saturday, Always Sunshine will be facing a field that includes Fellowship, seventh in last year's Sprint, and Wentz, making his graded-stakes debut after two optional claiming victories in as many starts this year.
Trained by Ken Decker for Jacks or Better Farm, the well-traveled Fellowship will be cutting back after two starts at a mile, having finished sixth in the Hal's Hope (G3) and third in the Fred Hooper (G3), both at Gulfstream Park.
“He's been on a pretty good work schedule,” said Decker. “There should be a good pace, and he should finish up well. The main thing is to get a good trip.”
Wentz, named for Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback Carson Wentz, will be making his second start for trainer John T. Servis, son of 2004 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness-winning trainer John Servis. The 4-year-old Super Saver colt is three-for-four at six furlongs, including a nose victory in an optional claimer on April 12 at Keeneland for his 28-year-old conditioner.
“I think he is [growing up], and by adding a shadow roll and blinkers, I think that's happening,'' said Servis. “I think he fits well in this race. I feel like he's improving.”
Rounding out the field are the multiple stakes-winning Maryland-bred Lewisfield, who is 6-3-3 at the distance, including a victory in the Not For Love in March at Laurel and a third in last year's Sprint; New York Central, who came off an eight-month layoff to win an optional claimer at Laurel followed by a fifth in the Commonwealth (G3) at Keeneland; Parade of Nations, a 10-time winner from 25 career starts; and Grade 3 winner Proforma, most recently third by a length in the 5 ½-furlong King T. Leatherbury Stakes April 20 over Laurel's world-class turf course.
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