June 22, 2024

Maple Leaf Mel rolls in Miss Preakness; Aspray, Train to Artemus win Pimlico stakes

Maple Leaf Mel wins the Miss Preakness Stakes (Photo by Maryland Jockey Club)

Speed dominated Friday’s $150,000 Miss Preakness (G3), one of three stakes recapped below on Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan undercard at Pimlico.

Miss Preakness (G3)

Now unbeaten from four starts, Maple Leaf Mel continued to impress recording a convincing win in the Miss Preakness. The six-furlong race marked her first start against open rivals, and the two-time New York-bred stakes winner advanced to take the lead after the break, recording splits in :22.26 and :45.21 on a short lead.

The gray daughter of Cross Traffic drew off into the stretch beneath Joel Rosario, and she scored eased down by 1 1/2 lengths, stopping the teletimer in 1:09.56.

Owned by August Dawn Farm and trained by Jeremiah Englehart, Maple Leaf left the starting gate as 1.70-1 second choice among six three-year-old fillies. Topsy rallied for second at 11-1, 3 1/2 lengths better than 48-1 outsider L Street Lady in third. Afternoon Tea,  4-5 favorite Key of Life, and Bound by Destiny came next.

Bred by Joe Fafone, Maple Leaf Mel sold for $150,000 at the 2022 Fasig-Tipton Maryland two-year-old sale. She’s the first stakes winner from the City Place mare City Gift, and Maple Leaf Mel was exiting a 7 3/4-length victory in her 2023 debut, the March 24 East View S. at Aqueduct. She won her two starts last year by a combined 8 1/2 lengths, and Maple Leaf Mel will continue to bring high speed to upcoming engagements against open company.

Hilltop

Aspray charged through the stretch to remain perfect in the $100,000 Hilltop S. for three-year-old fillies, proving best by a half-length for Chad Brown and Flavien Prat. The RanJan Racing homebred made her first stakes attempt in the one-mile turf affair, and Aspray was timed in 1:34.10.

A Kentucky-bred daughter of Quality Road, Aspray was exiting a pair of romping turf wins over maiden and entry-level allowance rivals at Tampa Bay Downs in January and March. She left the starting gate as the 4.30-1 third choice in the 11-horse field.

The bay filly dropped far through quick early fractions, began to advance on the far turn, and closed boldly through the stretch to defeat 1.90-1 favorite Breath Away, who rallied to strike the lead in midstretch before giving way late. It was more than two lengths back to 20-1 Hang the Moon in third.

Up and Down, Thirty Thou Kelvin, Miss New York, pacesetter After Eight, Well Info, Aunt Shirley, Ice Cube Baby, and Lil Spinner rounded out the order.

The first stakes winner from of the multiple group-winning and classic-placed Galileo mare Up, Aspray will be pointed to major three-year-old filly turf stakes at Belmont Park and Saratoga this summer/fall.

The Very One

Train to Artemus squeezed between rivals in the stretch and powered her way to a 1 1/4-length victory in $100,000 The Very One S., recording her second stakes tally for owner M and W Stables and trainer Kelly Breen. Paco Lopez was up on the five-year-old mare, who completed five furlongs in :55.81 on the turf.

Off as the 3.30-1 second choice, Train to Artemus stalked up close along the inside as Spicy Marg showed the way on a clear lead through fractions in :21.70 and :44.09. She angled between the pacesetter and a retreating Can the Man after turning for home, drawing away late.

Spicy Marg, off at 9-2, held second by a neck over late-running Spun Glass, and Thundering Creed, Whiskey and Rye, Can the Queen, Her World, Lemos Cunha, and Queen Sheba followed.

Claimed for $35,000 at Saratoga last August, Train to Artemus reeled off three consecutive wins for her current connections, including the Lighting City S. at Tampa Bay Downs in mid-February. She recorded a runner-up finish in the Captiva Island S. at Gulfstream three weeks later, and Train to Artemus rebounded from an unplaced finish in the April 15 Giant’s Causeway S. at Keeneland.

The Kentucky-bred daughter of Tapizar pushed her earnings past $370,000 from a 15-8-1-2 record.