By Tom LaMarra
Multiple newcomers and the absence of the division leader should make for an interesting edition of the $75,000 Hockessin Stakes, third of five legs in the MATCH Series 3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint-Dirt Division, July 14 at Delaware Park.
The six-furlong Hockessin, named for a community near the track, attracted a strong group of 11. It’s one of four stakes on a Saturday card featuring the grade II Delaware Handicap.
Seven of the entrants haven’t started in a MATCH Series event, and one raced in another division. That means the only way they can qualify for series bonuses is to compete Saturday and in the two stakes following the Hockessin-the $100,000 Polynesian at Laurel Park Aug. 12 and the grade III, $250,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Sept. 14.
Chublicious wins Mr. Prospector at Monmouth Park/EQUI-PHOTO
Brittlyn Stable’s Chublicious, the leading New Jersey-bred in the MATCH Series, won the Mr. Prospector Stakes at Monmouth Park June 17 to earn 10 points in the division. Trained by New York-based David Cannizzo, the 7-year-old gelding won the De Francis Dash last year and appears to be on the MATCH Series bonus-money trail.
Linda Zang’s Lewisfield, the top Maryland-bred in the series so far, raced in the first two division legs and has 12 points given a third in the grade III Maryland Sprint Stakes at Pimlico Race Course and a close second in the Mr. Prospector. He won’t race in the Hockessin as trainer Jeff Runco opted to run the talented Charles Town-based 4-year-old gelding in the grade II Belmont Sprint Championship July 7-he finished a good fourth against some of the top sprinters in the country-but he only needs one more MATCH start to qualify for bonus money.
Hillside Equestrian Meadows’ Laki, who closed strongly for third in the Mr. Prospector, also raced in the Maryland Sprint and would qualify for MATCH bonus money if he starts in the Hockessin for trainer Damon Dilodovico. Laki, a 5-year-old Maryland-bred gelding, is currently fifth in the division standings.
R. Larry Johnson’s 5-year-old Maryland-bred gelding It’s the Journey, fifth in the Mr. Prospector in his first MATCH Series appearance, also is entered in the Hockessin as a supplemental nominee. He finished second, only a length behind Lewisfield, in the Not For Love Stakes earlier this year at Laurel Park.
Of the newcomers, Sagamore Farm’s multiple graded stakes-placed Recruiting Ready looks to improve upon a fifth-place finish in the grade II True North Stakes at Belmont Park June 8 for trainer Horacio DePaz. The 4-year-old colt is one of many entered in the Hockessin with the ability to establish good early position.
Co-owner and trainer David Jacobson entered the 8-year-old gelding Stallwalkin’ Dude, who finished a closing third in a Belmont allowance race June 22 in his first start of 2018. Also owned by Head of Plains Partners, Stallwalkin’ Dude has won 20 of 60 starts including two grade III stakes in New York.
By Tom LaMarra
Trainer Edward “Ned” Allard said Always Sunshine has had his ups and downs, but the 6-year-old horse put it all together July 14 in the $75,000 Hockessin Stakes, third of five legs in the MATCH Series 3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Dirt Division, at Delaware Park.
Winner of the grade III Maryland Sprint Stakes in 2016, Stonehedge LLC’s Always Sunshine entered the six-furlong Hockessin off of a fourth-place finish in the grade II True North Stakes at Belmont Park June 8 in his second start of the year. Last year, the Florida-bred finished second in the Hockessin.
It was the first MATCH Series start for Always Sunshine, who collected 10 points for his victory and is now tied for third in the division. Allard, however, indicated Always Sunshine could race next at Saratoga Race Course in a stakes for non-winners of a graded stakes this year.
Always Sunshine broke well under Frankie Pennington and sat just off an honest pace set by The Man, a Pennsylvania-bred who came into the race with eight wins in 12 starts. He took over approaching the top of the stretch and gradually drew away to win by 3 1/4 lengths over favored Stallwalkin’ Dude, who rallied strongly entering the turn but hung a bit in the lane.
The Man held for third. Always Sunshine paid $7.40 to win and covered the distance on a fast track in 1:09.99.
“He has always acted like a nice horse,” Allard said. “He’s had a lot of minor issues. It has just been hard trying to keep him completely together. But so far this year, he has been super.”
New Jersey-bred Chublicious, who won the Mr. Prospector at Monmouth Park to earn 10 MATCH points, didn’t fire his best shot and finished sixth in the Hockessin. He did pick up one point, however, and is now one point behind division leader Lewisfield heading into the final two events at Laurel Park: the $100,000 Polynesian Stakes Aug. 12 and the grade III, $250,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash Sept. 15.
Chublicious needs one more start in the division to qualify for bonus money. Meanwhile, Maryland-bred Laki made his third start in the division in the Hockessin to qualify for bonus money and has quietly collected eight points to get within reach of the leaders.