LAUREL, Md. – Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Long Valley Stables’ Divine Huntress, runner-up in the one-mile Acorn (G1) in her most recent start, will cut back to a sprint for the first time since last winter when she returns to Laurel Park for Saturday’s $75,000 Miss Disco.
The fifth running of the Miss Disco for 3-year-old fillies and 29th edition of the Star de Naskra for 3-year-olds, both sprinting seven furlongs, are among four $75,000 stakes restricted to Maryland-bred/sired horses on the 10-race program along with the Ben’s Cat for 3-year-olds and up and Jameela for fillies and mares 3 and older, each scheduled for 5 ½ furlongs on the grass.
Headlining the last of Laurel’s three spectacular Saturdays in July featuring a total of 11 stakes worth $1.05 million is the $100,000 Deputed Testamony for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/8 miles. First race post time is 12:40 p.m.
Divine Huntress will be facing fellow Maryland-bred/sired horses for the first time in her eighth career start having faced graded-stakes company in each of her prior four races, having run a distant but decisive second in the June 11 Acorn behind Matareya.
That race came three weeks after Divine Huntress was fourth in the May 20 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) at historic Pimlico Race Course, her second straight start at 1 1/8 miles following a fifth in the April 9 Gazelle (G3).
“I ran her back a little quicker than I usually do in the Acorn, so I wanted to freshen her up a little bit for her next race,” trainer Graham Motion said “This race kind of fell into the right spot. She hasn’t missed many beats. I think it will be nice for her to get into a state-bred race and give her a little bit of [class] relief.”
Divine Huntress was unveiled last November at Laurel where she closed to be third by two lengths over a muddy track in a six-furlong maiden special weight at odds of 57-1. She graduated as the favorite in her subsequent start sprinting seven furlongs at Parx, where she opened 2022 with a 12 ¾-length optional claiming allowance romp Jan. 19.
Her effort earned Divine Huntress a shot at graded-stakes company, but she encountered a troubled trip in the Rachel Alexandra (G2) Feb. 19 at Fair Grounds and wound up ninth.
“I think in all her races she’s been competitive apart from the New Orleans race where she had kind of an awkward trip, and then we asked a lot of her coming back to mile and an eighth in New York,” Motion said “I feel like she’s been pretty consistent, really. This is going to be a spot where she’s going to look like one of the favorites, anyway.”
Her maiden triumph in mid-December was the last time Divine Huntress has sprinted, but Motion is confident the Divining Rod filly can handle the cutback. Victor Carrasco is named to ride from far outside Post 7.
“I don’t think the seven-eighths is a concern,” Motion said. “I could make a case of a mile and an eighth being a bit of a stretch for her, so I think seven-eighths to a one-turn mile might be more her predilection. She’s a cool filly. She’s a lovely filly to be around.”
Trainer Brittany Russell entered the pair of Little Bit of That and Royal Whisper, both for their stakes debuts. Kueber Racing and Ten Strike Racing’s Royal Whisper, by Palace Malice, broke her maiden May 13 at Pimlico in an 8 ¼-length romp for six furlongs, then took a lead into the stretch but was caught late and ran second while facing older horses in a June 18 restricted allowance sprinting 5 ½ furlongs at Laurel.
“I’ve always really liked this filly, she’s just taken a lot of time,” Russell said. “She’s a massive animal. She’s a big, big filly for a 3-year-old. When you stand beside her, there’s just a lot to her. We never thought that 5 ½ would be ideally what she wants. I think she’ll like the seven-eighths.”
Sycamore Hall Thoroughbreds’ Little Bit of That, a homebred daughter of Great Notion, came up a nose short of extending her win streak to three races in her most recent start, a six-furlong optional claiming allowance May 27 over a sloppy Pimlico track. She is unbeaten in two tries over the Laurel dirt, breaking her maiden last October and opening this season with a 3 ½-length restricted allowance victory May 8 – both in front-running fashion.
“She’s always been really quick from the gate and used it to her advantage,” Russell said. “I guess it’s a question of how does she handle the tests as they get a little bit tougher.”
Russell’s husband, Sheldon Russell, is named aboard Royal Whisper from Post 4 while Forest Boyce gets the call on Little Bit of That from Post 2.
Rounding out the field are Petition Prayer, a three-quarter-length winner over Royal Whisper June 18; Sweet Gracie, who beat Little Bit of That at Pimlico and was fifth in the June 18 race before running second in a 5 ½-furlong off-the-turf restricted allowance July 10 at Laurel; Charming Way and Dry Well, the latter racing first off a $16,000 claim for trainer Henry Walters.
Bred in Maryland by Alfred G. Vanderbilt, Miss Disco was a multiple stakes winner during her racing career but is best known as the dam of Hall of Famer Bold Ruler, winner of the Preakness (G1) and Horse of the Year in 1957 and sire of 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat. She was named Broodmare of the Year in 1958.
David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club
Photo: Divine Huntress following up her maiden with a 12 3/4 lengths win in an AOC at Parx under Mychel Sanchez. (Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO