Runnymoore Racing's Alwaysmining flashed his championship form Saturday at Laurel Park, fighting back tenaciously in deep stretch to capture the $100,000 John B. Campbell.
The 4-year-old son of Stay Thirsty, who was honored as the champion Maryland-bred 3-year-old of 2019, claimed his second consecutive stakes victory of 2020 in the about 1 1/16-mile stakes for 4-year-olds and up.
“I think it's going to be a great year, even better than last year,” trainer Kelly Rubley said. “He continues to mature and has filled out a lot. He's got a lot of heart.”
“He certainly had to work for it today and showed that he has a big heart,” Rubley said. “My horse doesn't like to get beat.”
Alwaysmining ran the about 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:42.46 to win his ninth race and fifth stakes in 19 career starts.
“He was unbelievable. He's a pretty nice horse. When I asked him to run, he took off. He never let that other horse go by him,” Pimentel said. “The plan was to get to the lead and try to go as easy as I can, but I had that horse next to me the whole time. Nothing you can do about that. He never really let him go by. He always kept his nose in front of him and kept trying the whole time.”
Monongahela, who also lost the 2019 Campbell by a neck, finished 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Someday Jones, the 8-5 second betting choice ridden by Trevor McCarthy.
Rubley said that there isn't a definite plan for Alwaysmining's next start.
Euro Stable's Lebda took control early and held on late to capture Saturday's $100,000 Miracle Wood at Laurel Park.
The 25th running of the one-mile Miracle Wood for 3-year-olds was the last of three undercard stakes on a Winter Carnival program headlined by the $250,000 Runhappy Barbara Fritchie (G3) and $250,000 General George (G3), both for older sprinters.
In other supporting stakes, Alwaysmining won the 66th running of the $100,000 John B. Campbell for 4-year-olds and up and Naughty Thoughts captured the 27th edition of the $100,000 Wide Country for 3-year-old fillies.
The son of Raison d'Etat, the graded stakes-placed 7-2 second betting choice ridden by Alex Cintron, Lebda ended up getting loose on the lead when Dreams Untold, the 3-5 favorite ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., stumbled and went to his knees leaving the starting gate.
Trained by Claudio Gonzalez, Lebda set fractions of 22.06 and 45.57 seconds for the first half-mile without pressure, and continued to show the way on the far turn. After trailing early, Dreams Untold recovered from his disastrous start to make an explosive move to enter contention on the turn into the stretch, only to flatten out in early stretch as Lebda remained strong.
Mine Not Mine finished well late under Sheldon Russell but could get no closer than three-quarters of a length of the eventual winner at the wire. Romanoff, who stalked the pace under Angel Cruz, finished third, another 4 ½ lengths back. Dreams Untold faded to fifth.
“I'm very happy. My horse ran big. I told Alex that with the [rail post position] we had to go early and he did a very good job,” Gonzalez said.
Lebda completed the mile in 1:38.35 to win his first stakes.
“That was the plan – to go to the lead. He was doing it very comfortable. I just dropped in right close to the fence and he was relaxed,” Cintron said. “I was just waiting for the five-sixteenths to see how much horse I still have. I just tested him a little bit and he was still there. I waited a little bit longer and at the quarter pole I let him go and he just kept going. He's a really nice horse.”
Lebda won two of his first three races before finishing third in the Iroquois (G3) at Churchill Downs last fall. After finishing far back in the Nashua (G3) at Aqueduct in November, the Kentucky-bred colt completed his juvenile campaign with a third-place finish in the Dec. 28 Heft at Laurel.
“He had a really bad trip last time. He was in the one hole and got stuck inside and covered up the whole way and he never had a chance to get comfortable and run his race,” Cintron said. “Today I knew if he could get there and he could run free, he's going to run a better race.”
Rafael Lopez's Naughty Thoughts, claimed for $25,000 last fall, became a stakes winner for the first time with a front-running 4 ¾-length triumph in Saturday's $100,000 Wide Country at Laurel Park.
Ridden by Jevian Toledo for trainer Jonathan Maldonado, Naughty Thoughts ($18.20) ran seven furlongs in 1:24.01 over a fast main track for her second win in five tries since being haltered at Laurel in November.
Third in the Maryland Juvenile Fillies Championship in the first start for her new connections, she was also third by 1 ½ lengths in the Gin Talking Stakes Dec. 28 behind Bella Aurora, who ran fifth as the 4-5 favorite in the Wide Country.
“Obviously you claim a horse to do good with them. In the past I've claimed a lot of good horses; I claimed Clubman. I don't train him anymore but I claimed him and did pretty good with him,” Maldonado said. “[Lopez] is a really good client. He lets me choose the horses that I want and he supports me, and when you have a client like that you will do good.”
Breaking outside all but Bankruptonthebeach, Naughty Thoughts was quickly in front and set fractions of 23.66 and 47.37 seconds chased by Miss Marissa with Princess Cadey and 50-1 long shot Lady George close behind. Naughty Thoughts turned for home in command after six furlongs in 1:11.53 and opened up through the stretch.
“I wasn't surprised because she was training so awesome. I open gallop her after I work her and the exercise rider was really happy the way she was doing it,” Maldonado said. “She's been training really good. She's been training bullets in the morning pretty easy and comfortable doing it.
“She's a pretty good filly. She can come from behind or she can be in front. I thought [Princess Cadey] was going to take the lead but I told Jevian, 'If she wants to go to the lead, let her be.' I think she's a filly that when you try to fight with her and she wants to run, she doesn't perform like I want. So I told him, 'Let her run. If they catch you, they catch you.' Thank God she had enough to win the race.”
Princess Cadey finished second, one length ahead of She'smysunshine in third. It was another half-length back to Miss Marissa in fourth.
Maldonado said he would consider Naughty Thoughts for Laurel's next stakes for 3-year-old fillies, the $100,000 Beyond the Wire going one mile March 14.
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