Eons, Sparkle Blue, Hybrid Eclipse Shine In Trio Of Stakes At Laurel by Maryland Jockey Club Press Office|07.15.2023|5:26pm Eons, inside, under Victor Carrasco, bests Pao Alto by a nose in the Prince George’s County Mark Grier's Grade 3 winner Eons, yielding the lead to Pao Alto in deep stretch, dug in again over the final 50 yards and got his nose down on the wire to edge the two-time group stakes winner by a nose in Saturday's $100,000 Prince George's County at Laurel Park. The fourth running of the 1 1/8-mile Prince George's County for 3-year-olds and up on the grass was the second of three $100,000 stakes on the mid-July program, preceded by Sparkle Blue's victory in the Big Dreyfus, also nine furlongs on turf, and followed by Hybrid Eclipse's triumph in the Caesar's Wish going one mile on the main track, both races for fillies and mares. Ridden by Victor Carrasco for trainer Arnaud Delacour, Eons ($16.80) was running in the Prince George's County for the third straight year. He was third behind multiple graded-stakes winner Pixelate in 2021 and finished second by a nose in 2022 but was promoted to the win following the disqualification of first-place finisher English Tavern for interference. “It means a lot, especially with a 7-year-old that's been with us since he was 2. It's wonderful. He's a tough horse,” Delacour said. “He got going early and he kept going.” Royal Patronage, Pao Alto's Graham Motion-trained stablemate and himself a Group 2 and 3 winner in England, broke alertly from his inside post and was in front around the first turn after going the opening quarter-mile in :23.97 =over an Exceller turf course rated good, with Beacon Hill to his outside and Eons in the clear three wide in third. The running order went unchanged after a half-mile in :48.21 when Beacon Hill started to drop back and Eons moved up to challenge the leader midway around the far turn Six furlongs went in 1:11.29 when Eons took the lead but was soon joined by Pao Alto, a Group 2 winner in Qatar and Group 3 winner in France, on the far outside. Eons and Pao Alto hooked up in mid-stretch and powered to the finish together, with Pao Alto forging a short lead inside the sixteenth pole before Eons battled back on the inside to prevail in a photo finish. It was 2 ¼ lengths back to Sky's Not Falling in third, with Royal Patronage and Beacon Hill completing the order of finish. Camp Hope, Royne and Tiz the Bomb were scratched. Bred in Kentucky, Eons began his 2023 campaign running seventh in a 1 1/16-mile allowance April 7 at Keeneland, his first start in six months. He entered the Prince George's County off back-to-back efforts over the Laurel turf, finishing second to Sky's Not Falling going a mile May 6 and third to stablemate Doctor Davis June 17, both as the favorite. “He was supposed to run at Turfway Park just to set him up for Keeneland. That didn't happen because the race didn't go, so we went to Keeneland a little short,” Delacour said. “He ran OK, but he needed the race and he's been improving ever since.” By Giant's Causeway out of the Hansel mare Golden Antigua, Eons now has eight wins, three seconds and two thirds and surpassed $600,000 in purse earnings from 28 starts. Prior stakes victories have come in the 2022 Bensalem, 2021 Buckland and 2019 Kent (G3) and Stanton. Sparkle Blue Scores Big Dreyfus Victory Catherine Parke and Augustin Stable's Grade 3 winner Sparkle Blue, given a patient ride from jockey Jorge Ruiz, found room at the top of the stretch to split horses and go on to a popular 2 ¼-length victory in the $100,000 Big Dreyfus. It was the first win in three starts this year for 6-5 favorite Sparkle Blue ($4.40), who covered 1 1/8 miles over an Exceller turf course rated good in 1:49.29 for her fifth career win and third in a stakes following the Valley View (G3) at Keeneland and Delaware Park's Christiana last year. Sparkle Blue launched her 4-year-old campaign running sixth in the 1 1/8-mile Modesty (G3) May 5 at Churchill Downs, where she returned to be third in the 1 ½-mile Keertana May 27 in her most recent start. “I think she really liked the course here today,” Motion said of the 4-year-old daughter of Hard Spun out of the Smart Strike mare Silk n' Sapphire. “It had a little give in it. It was very firm at Churchill both times she ran.” It was 40-1 long shot Lady Puchi that took the field through fractions of :24.88, 50.30 and 1:13.96 tracked by Community Adjusted and multiple stakes winner Coconut Cake, wheeling back two weeks after her victory in Laurel's Jameela. Ruiz settled Sparkle Blue between horses in fourth and remained behind horses leaving the far turn before finding space and giving the filly her cue, opening up once straightened for home. Two-time graded-stakes placed Atomic Blonde trailed the field for six furlongs but was able to weave through traffic in the stretch to get up for second, 1 ½ lengths ahead of Community Adjusted. They were followed by Candy Light, Lady Puchi, Coconut Cake and Deciding Vote. Cupid's Strike was scratched. “I was a little nervous because Jorge took a little bit of a hold of her going into the first turn, but he does such a good job. He got her relaxed and she switched off nicely and won pretty easily,” Motion said. “She's improved so much. I give her exercise rider, Kevin Lundie, a lot of credit. She's been a little bit tricky in the morning, but he's figured her out and it shows in the afternoon.” Sparkle Blue, bred in Kentucky by Parke was racing for the second time at Laurel, having run fourth behind subsequent multiple graded-stakes winner Consumer Spending in the 2021 Selima, her second start and first on the turf. “I honestly hadn't looked beyond today. I kind of had a circle around this race for a while,” Motion said. “It seemed like a good spot and we'll look for something similar. I think this is a really good distance for her.” Hybrid Eclipse Defends Title In Caesar's Wish The Elkstone Group's Hybrid Eclipse trailed her rivals around the far turn before coming with a steady run on the far outside to reel in fellow multiple stakes winner Award Wanted and defend her title in the $100,000 Caesar's Wish by a neck. Hybrid Eclipse ($8.20) gave the team of Elkstone, trainer Brittany Russell and jockey Joe Rocco Jr. their second win of the day following 4-year-old gelding Wish Me Home in Race 3, the 1 1/16-mile turf allowance his first start off a $40,000 claim. Intrepid Daydream, first or second in five of seven career starts facing stakes company for the third time, took the early initiative but was pressed to her outside by Award Wanted as they went the first quarter in 24.30 seconds and a half in 47.22 with Hybrid Eclipse unhurried in last. The two leaders entered the stretch together as Rocco began to work on Hybrid Eclipse, still with plenty of work to do entering the turn. Award Wanted, last out winner of the Obeah at Delaware Park, was able to edge past Intrepid Daydream but could not hold off Hybrid Eclipse as she came flying on the far outside to get up in time. “We really thought she was good enough to win this race. It just had to set up right and get the right trip,” Rocco said. “It worked out the way I thought, at least. The two horses went out on the lead and kind of helped [knock] each other out. My filly got a little lost on the turn, but when I got her running she had a head full of steam to come home. “Honestly, it wasn't until we crossed the first wire that I said, 'Oh, I'm gonna win.' But up until that point, I wasn't sure if I was going to run third,” he added. “She's a smart horse. She got the lead right at the second wire, her ears went up right away and she's like, 'My job is done.'” Award Wanted held second, a half-length ahead of Intrepid Daydream, followed by Deco Strong, Misty Mauve and Cashing Big Checks. Hybrid Eclipse was purchased by Elkstone's Stuart Grant for $107,000 at auction last July following her 3 ¾-length victory in the Caesar's Wish, her second start for Russell, Maryland's leading trainer in 2023. The 5-year-old Paynter mare subsequently won the Thirty Eight Go Go last November and Nellie Morse Feb. 18 at Laurel, most recently running third to Award Wanted in the Obeah. Midwest-based Rocco, who turns 41 July 19, previously came to Laurel to ride June 9 and 10, winning two of five starts. A winner of nearly 1,600 races, he grew up in the Mid-Atlantic the son of jockey Joe Rocco and grandson of trainer Baden Hughes. “It's great. I get to come here and fill in and ride for Brittany and other guys,” he said. “This is home so it's always nice coming home.” Hybrid Eclipse, bred in Kentucky by Alex Venneri Racing LLC, was produced by the Valid Wager mare Super Plan.