Maryland Champion Luna Belle Looks To Extend Her Streak In Weber City Miss, A 'Win And You're In' For Black-Eyed Susan - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Maryland Champion Luna Belle Looks To Extend Her Streak In Weber City Miss, A ‘Win And You’re In’ For Black-Eyed Susan

Luna Belle rolls to fourth straight stakes win in Beyond the Wire in March at Laurel Park

Luna Belle, Maryland's champion 2-year-old filly of 2021 that has gone unbeaten through three starts at 3, goes after her fifth consecutive stakes victory and a chance at possible graded glory in Saturday's $125,000 Weber City Miss at Laurel Park.

The Weber City Miss for 3-year-old fillies going about 1 1/16 miles serves as co-headliner with the $125,000 Federico Tesio for 3-year-olds on a 10-race program featuring four stakes worth $450,000 in purses. First race post time is 12:40 p.m.

It is the first of back-to-back Spring Stakes Spectacular Saturdays at Laurel, followed by an April 23 program featuring five $100,000 stakes including the first three of the season scheduled for Laurel's world-class turf course.

In its seventh year, the Weber City Miss returns to Laurel after being contested last spring at historic Pimlico Race Course for the first time during the renovation of Laurel's main track. It affords the winner an automatic berth in the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) on Preakness Eve, May 20.

Owned by Deborah Greene and trainer Hamilton Smith and bred by Smith, Greene and her late father, Fred Greene Jr., Luna Belle continues to thrive with racing, having made at least one start every month since her debut on the Colonial Downs turf last July. She was third or better five times in seven tries at 2 including a maiden win third time out in her dirt debut and a victory in the Maryland Juvenile Fillies at Laurel to launch her streak.

“She bounces back from every race so far real good and seems no worse for wear, so we'll just go on with her. We pointed for this one, we'll see how she does and reevaluate again after this race,” Smith said.

“The plan, hopefully, is that she can get the job done and get the automatic [berth] for the Black-Eyed Susan. That's more or less what we're pointing for right now,” he added. “If we get that accomplished, then after the Black-Eyed Susan we'll give her a little break and come back mid-summer and start her up again and hope for the Maryland Million and all those races in the fall.”

Luna Belle started this year winning the six-furlong Xtra Heat by six lengths Jan. 29 and the seven-furlong Wide Country by three lengths Feb. 19, coming from off the pace each time, the latter in a last-to-first move. Stretched out to a mile for the first time in the March 19 Beyond the Wire, she was never more than a half-length from the leaders, took over the top spot after six furlongs and went on to win by 3 ½ lengths.

“She was up closer naturally because she was going a little further, for one thing. She looked like she was a little more aggressive with [jockey Denis Araujo] than she normally was in the prior several races,” Smith said. “He finally got her to relax a little bit down the backside. She went to the lead around the turn and she did win it pretty impressively. I was very pleased the way she did it.

“I'm not crazy about having her on the lead or anything like that. I'd rather she sit off the lead a little bit like she did in her sprints,” he added. “Maybe not as far back, but just off the lead a little bit and when he asks her to, let her go. I prefer that better than being with the front runners. We'll just see how it goes.”

Smith is confident Luna Belle can handle her first attempt at two turns in the Weber City Miss. Her streak began with the addition of Araujo, who rides back from Post 5 of six at topweight of 124 pounds.

“I like the way they've got the program set up, advancing an eighth of a mile or so each race. It gives a horse like her an opportunity, instead of going from a three-quarter-mile race to a mile and a sixteenth,” Smith said. “At least she's got the steps to go in it. I think that's a good thing for a young horse. She seems so far in all her races she's handled things pretty easy, and she seems like she can keep going further than she has been.

“So far she looks like she's been taking her races OK and things have been working out fine,” he added. “She had several works between races and she worked OK and all. We'll just have to hope for the best.”

Luna Belle will face a familiar foe in Mi Patria Racing's Click to Confirm, who she beat in the Beyond the Wire and Maryland Juvenile Fillies as well as the 2021 Smart Halo, where she ran second and Click to Confirm was third, separated by 2 ½ lengths.

“Luna Belle is a monster,” trainer Rudy Sanchez-Salomon said. “She's a nice filly, but if you don't compete you can't win. You have to try. It's racing.”

Click to Confirm forged a short lead after a half-mile in the one-mile Beyond the Wire, where she was sent off at 53-1, but tired through the stretch and wound up third. Though beaten nine lengths, she was 5 ½ lengths clear of well-regarded Diamond Collector in fourth.

“She's doing awesome. She's getting more mature race by race,” Sanchez-Salomon said. “She's getting a lot better. She's getting a lot more confident in herself, and I like that. She's getting really mature now, and I think the longer she runs the better she goes.”

Claimed for $25,000 out of her debut victory last September, Maryland-bred Click to Confirm returned from the Beyond the Wire and beat her elders in a conditioned allowance going 1 1/16 miles April 1 at Laurel over a main track rated good. She edged 4-year-old favorite Mit Mazel, a five-time winner, by a neck.

“The last race she ran with tougher competition than she had before, and she got better because she was the only 3-year-old against older horses. She got a lot of confidence,” Sanchez-Salomon said. “When [jockey] Angel [Cruz] turned her in and tried to go by, that was the best move she ever made.

“You have to keep riding her. She's one of those fillies that if you don't ride her, she won't run. She'll just stay one-paced. But, if you ask her for more she'll give you more,” he added. “Angel knows her now and they get along really well.”

Cruz, up for the ninth consecutive race, rides from Post 4 at 118 pounds.

The rest of the field is comprised by new faces from out of town including Shadwell Stable's Khuluq, a homebred daughter of champion Bernardini out of an unraced Tapit mare making her fifth career start and first in a stakes. Trained by four-time Eclipse Award winner Chad Brown, the bay filly exits a 6 ½-length maiden special weight triumph going one mile March 18 at Aqueduct.

Feargal Lynch gets the call from Post 2 at 120 pounds.

Carguys Racing's Abidale is also set to make her stakes and two-turn debut in her third start for Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1)-winning trainer John Servis. Unraced at 2, she has had a pair of maiden special weight sprints at her home base of Parx, most recently a 1 ¾-length triumph March 2.

“She's a filly that's been wanting to go two turns,” Servis said. “I sprinted her the other day and she didn't run any good. But, that's not her style and I can't get her in going long so we'll wheel her right back into this race just to get the two turns in her and maybe get lucky and get a little black type.

“[She's a] great big filly, very awkward. [It] just took her a while. [She's a] late bloomer [that's] starting to put it together,” he added. “She's another one I'm dying to get two turns. Getting those races to fill in the wintertime is tough.”

In each of her two races Abidale, by multiple Grade 2 winner Cairo Prince, was either outrun early or off slowly. But both times Servis came away impressed, even her Feb. 8 debut, which he watched via simulcast from out of town.

“She doesn't have speed like that so sprinting, she takes all the worst of it. Her first race, she had to be 12 lengths behind the last horse. I thought she was going to get pulled up,” Servis said. “She made a nice run. I was in Florida at the time and I was watching it on TV and they commented about the gallop-out, because when she hit the seven-eighths pole she was three in front of the rest of the field. She'll benefit from the two turns, that's for sure.”

Frankie Pennington is named to ride from the rail at 118 pounds.

Rock Ridge Racing's Zawish will be returning to the dirt after three consecutive races over the all-weather surface at Turfway Park. Trained by Helen Pitts, the daughter of two-time Grade 1-winning multimillionaire Mshawish went two-for-two at 2, winning her November unveiling on the main track and an optional claiming allowance on the synthetic. She has been off the board in back-to-back stakes, most recently fifth in the March 5 Cincinnati Trophy.

Now based with trainer Mike Stidham in Fair Hill, Md., Speedway Stable's homebred Chardonnay wintered at Fair Grounds where she broke her maiden by three-quarters of a length going 1 1/16 miles Feb. 10, her sixth start. Last out she was second, beaten 1 ¼ lengths, in a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance March 18.

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