Runnymede Racing's Alwaysmining, three weeks removed from his first career stakes win, overcame an inside post and a game favorite to his inside to register a gutsy 1 ½-length victory in Saturday's $100,000 Heft Stakes at Laurel Park.
The Heft for 2-year-olds and the $100,000 Gin Talking for 2-year-old fillies, both at seven furlongs, were among six stakes worth $550,000 in purses on a 10-race Christmastide Day program.
With jockey Daniel Centeno in from Florida to ride for trainer Kelly Rubley, Alwaysmining ($7.20) completed the distance in 1:22.60 over a main track rated good. Win Win Win, unbeaten in two previous starts and sent off as the even-money favorite, was second, six lengths ahead of Clench in third.
Laurel Futurity winner Order and Law and Press Virginia, a winner of his first two races, completed the order of finish. Zulu Legend and Be Lal were scratched.
It was the third straight win, all in front-running fashion, for Alwaysmining, a gelded son of multiple Grade 1 winner Stay Thirsty that had won one of his first five starts for previous trainers Laura Wohlers and Edward Graham. Alwaysmining improved to four-for-five lifetime at Laurel.
“We weren't thrilled with getting the one-hole by any means, so our game plan was to see if we couldn't make the lead. The horse seems to relax well on the lead and it certainly worked out well for us today,” Rubley said. “There was a very nice horse on the inside of him and I was very glad to hear Danny say that he felt he had enough horse that that wasn't as much of a concern as we all thought in the stands. We're very proud of him.”
Alwaysmining was quickest from the gate and set fractions of 22.72 and 46.10 seconds pressed by Clench and Win Win Win. Alwaysmining rounded the far turn in front but wide enough to allow Win Win Win room along the rail, and the two dueled past the eighth pole before the winner edged clear.
“I was a little worried this morning when my flight was delayed but we got lucky and thank God we made it. As soon as I got off the plane I was talking to Kelly and we were talking about the plan,” Centeno said. “My thought was we were going to come out of there running today and if they let me go to the lead, it's over. If somebody goes with me I'll just let them go and try to put my horse in the clear. He made an easy lead and fought all the way to the wire.”
Rubley plans to go race-by-race with Alwaysmining but will be looking to stretch him out in 2019. He won the Maryland Juvenile Futurity, also at seven furlongs, Dec. 8 and captured an optional claimer going one mile Oct. 27.
“We'll see how he looks tomorrow and kind of talk about it and make a plan. This was a quick turnaround for him, so we'll see,” she said. “We're hopeful, but we'll play it by ear and see how he does.”
Madaket Stables and Heider Family Stables' Please Flatter Me kept her perfect record intact by setting the pace and pulling away from her rivals for a commanding 5 ¾-length victory in the $100,000 Gin Talking.
It was the second straight stakes win and third overall victory for Please Flatter Me ($5.40), favored at 8-5 in a field of 10 2-year-old fillies. She gave jockey Alex Cintron his second straight stakes win following Cordmaker in the $75,000 Jennings, hitting the wire in 1:23.81.
“She just showed what kind of horse she is,” Cintron said. “It was a pleasure to ride her. I didn't have much to worry about. She just opened up turning for home and ran away from those horses. She kind of made me nervous a little bit because she did it so easy, it didn't feel like she was running that fast.”
Based at legendary Pimlico Race Course with trainer Mark Reid, Pennsylvania-bred Please Flatter Me broke her maiden going five furlongs Oct. 13 and won the six-furlong Blue Mountain Juvenile Fillies Stakes Nov. 21, both at Penn National.
In her Laurel debut, the daughter of Munnings was tracked by Ujjayi through a quarter-mile in 22.81 seconds, a half in 46.42 and six furlongs in 1:11.35 before finding another gear once straightened for home. Ujjayi stayed up for second, 1 ½ lengths ahead of Our Super Freak.
“The only thing I was concerned about was the racetrack. We took a lot of mud,” Reid said. “She normally doesn't work or do anything in it, so there's always that question, but I knew she has tremendous ability and just attacks everything so I wasn't that worried. She won today going seven-eighths; I think we're going to just keep stretching her and see what happens.”
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