Trainer John Servis knew if he rushed Ms Locust Point, he might compromise a good thing. In giving the daughter of Dialed In all the time she needed, the conditioner has been rewarded with abundant signs the chestnut filly is ready for more.
A step up to top-level company could be next for Ms Locust Point after she splashed her way to a gate-to-wire, 4 1/2-length victory in the $300,000 Barbara Fritchie Stakes (G2) Feb. 17 at Laurel Park to earn the first graded win of a career that has progressively swung upward.
Owned by Cash is King and Jim Reichenberg, Ms Locust Point is now undefeated in four starts at Laurel and was completely unfazed by the snowy conditions that hit during the track's aptly named Winter Carnival card. Since she returned from a near nine-month layoff following a fifth-place finish in the 2017 Forward Gal Stakes (G2), Ms Locust Point has reeled off four straight victories, including stakes scores in her last three.
"She had foot issues. That's why we stopped on her," Servis said. "We put some corrective shoes on her and gave her plenty of time. These guys were great letting me take as long as we needed, and she's come back a monster."
Beccause of a confirmed case of the equine herpesvirus at Belmont Park, several New York-based horses slated to ship to Laurel Saturday were scratched, and six came out of the Barbara Fritchie. With multiple graded stakes winner Highway Star and stakes winner Divine Miss Grey among those out, the door of opportunity was wide open for Ms Locust Point to run through.
Sent off as the 1-2 favorite in a five-horse field, the 4-year-old filly snatched that chance by the throat in the seven-furlong race. With jockey Jorge Vargas Jr. in the irons, Ms Locust Point ran out to a three-length advantage through an opening quarter-mile in :22.99 and was clear by 4 1/2 lengths as she left the half-mile in :46.61.
Moiety, who chased the pacesetter down the backstretch, couldn't make a dent in that margin down the stretch and held for second as Ms Locust Point hit the wire in 1:24.13 over the muddy, sealed track.
"She's got such a brilliant cruising speed. She clicks off those (12-second furlong fractions) like nothing, with her ears pricked," said Servis, who mentioned the April 7 Madison Stakes (G1) at Keeneland as a possible next target. "You know the old saying, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' I don't want to throw too much at her too quick. I have to talk with the owners ... and see if we want to try a grade 1 next or do we want to try another grade 2 or grade 3 and see how she handles them?"
Bred in Kentucky by Lesley Campion out of the First Samurai mare Whisper Number, Ms Locust Point has won six of her eight starts with $438,960 in earnings.
Video: Barbara Fritchie S. (G2)
Earlier on the card, the $250,000 General George Stakes (G3) saw 7-year-old Something Awesome swoop past his rivals with a big kick down the middle of the track to give trainer Jose Corrales his first graded stakes winner.
Similar to its sister race, the seven-furlong General George lost a couple contenders from the quarantine situation at Belmont, with Great Stuff and Do Share—who were 3-1 and 7-2 on the morning line, respectively—both scratched. In his first try against graded company, Stronach Stables' homebred Something Awesome capitalized on the opportunity when he rallied under jockey Elvis Trujillo past It's the Journey in deep stretch, then held off a late charge from Fellowship to prevail by neck.
"They sent me this horse. He's old, but he came here and trained like a good horse," said Corrales, who took over training Something Awesome in November. "To me, he's the best horse I've ever trained. (Stronach Stables has) been so great for me. They gave me the opportunity of my life. I've been waiting to win a (big) race for them. In stake races I've been getting beat a neck, a head."
Something Awesome bided his time in the General George and rated well off the pace in fifth outside of horses down the backstretch, as Cowboy Mz set fractions of :22.73 and :45.90 and Awesome Banner raced just off that one in second. Cowboy Mz was still clinging to the lead with a furlong to go, but was swallowed up by some big strides as Something Awesome came up the five path and drove to the wire to cover the distance in 1:23.31.
"In the post parade I could feel my horse would like the slop," Trujillo said. "Two races before he won in the slop and today he felt so good. I saw three, four horses in front and I sat in behind, gave it time, and in the stretch this guy was just flying."
Fellowship was a half-length in front of third-place finisher It's the Journey, with Awesome Banner and Cowboy Mz completing the top five in the eight-horse field.
A gelded son of Adena Springs stallion Awesome Again , out of the Dance Floor mare Somethinaboutlaura, Something Awesome has won seven of his 22 starts and has a bankroll of $341,051. Prior to Saturday he had only made two starts against stakes company, most recently finishing third in the Jan. 20 Fire Plug Stakes during his seasonal debut at Laurel.