`Betty' leaves field behind

Pletcher filly wins Laurel stakes by 2 1/2

Horse racing


Emerging onto the front stretch yesterday at Laurel Park, Somethinaboutbetty, Dress Grey and Keep On Talking were three abreast, and with the way "Talking" was traveling, she looked set to go to the front.

But it was Somethinaboutbetty, encouraged by jockey Michael Luzzi, who stretched into the lead. The Todd Pletcher-trained filly covered the one-mile course in 1 minute, 41.04 seconds to win the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths over Don't Tell Susan, who came from last place down the stretch to beat Keep On Talking by a neck for second.

"It was another learning experience for her," said Somethinaboutbetty's assistant trainer, Seth Benzel. "She gives us the impression of a horse that will improve with distance, as she has since July. Each race, you hope she learns a little bit and progresses to the next level."

Somethinaboutbetty was running in her fifth race. She had one win and two places in her previous four with purse winnings of $46,300. Yesterday, she won $45,000 for her owners, Runnin Cardinal Stable, which includes Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino. She paid $3.40, $3 and $2.10.

The stakes had the smallest field of the day, with just five horses after two were scratched, including pre-race favorite Celestial Legend. Six races on Laurel's nine-race card yesterday had double-digit fields, and two had eight horses.

Celestial Legend, undefeated in four starts, was scratched by trainer Dale Capuano because the track was labeled muddy in the morning.

The Laurel dirt surface was upgraded to good during the afternoon, though it was still a bit tacky.

Keep On Talking was trying to join her mother, Gin Talking (1999) and sister Dixie Talking (2004) as the winner of the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship Stakes. But trainer Robin L. Graham said even if everything had been perfect, she did not think her filly would have had enough to beat Somethinaboutbetty yesterday.

"She ran the best she could, but she's still a baby and she's still learning," Graham said. "When they came out of the turn three-across, [jockey Mario Pino] told me he could have gone to the lead then, but then they would have just all passed her at the finish. Right now, she just runs to beat the other horses running with her."

Pino said he also had been forced to use his horse early.

"She ran well but got tired late," Pino said. "The winner was tough. I moved a little sooner than I wanted because [Luzzi] got away with easy fractions [23.38, 47.91]. Then we got into the three-way duel, but we couldn't stay with them."

The second favorite, Keep On Talking, also got caught up in a shoving match with Dress Grey, trained by Graham Motion, as Somethinaboutbetty pulled away. Graham said no one even noticed Don't Tell Susan advancing down the middle of the track for second.

"She was so intent on [the bumping], it cost us," she said. "It's always disappointing when you don't win when you know you have a nice horse. But I don't think she would have beaten [Somethinaboutbetty], but we could have been second."

NOTES -- The win was the fifth added-money victory for Pletcher this year, topping all trainers. The nation's winningest trainer has more than $20 million in earnings this year. ... Somethinaboutbetty was bred by Mr. and Mrs. Howard Bender, under the supervision of trainer Larry Murray, at Glade Valley Farms in Frederick County. ... Trainer Ronald Cartwright called it a day yesterday. Cartwright, 75, sent out his last horse, Stone Prince, who finished ninth in the fifth race. He has finished in the top 15 of the state's trainer standings seven times, saddled six Maryland Million winners, including Classic winner Forry Cow How in 1993, and has visited the winner's circle nearly 850 times.

Return -- Apprentice jockey Rosie Napravnik, who was leading the jockey standings when she fractured her left collarbone in a fall Nov. 12, returned to racing yesterday. The 17-year-old still ranks fourth among competing jockeys with 46 wins. Yesterday, she was 0-for-5 with three third-place finishes. ... With three days remaining in the Laurel Park fall meeting, leading jockey and leading trainer honors are still up for grabs. Ryan Fogelsonger (62 wins) leads Louis Garcia (59) and Horacio Karamanos (57), but the 2002 Eclipse Award-winning apprentice will not ride the rest of the week because of illness. ... Capuano (23) has a one-win edge over Scott Lake and Howard Wolfendale. Capuano has been the state's leading trainer for seven of the past eight years.smm2me@aol.com

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