Posted: June 11, 2021

By Tom LaMarra

Two of the toughest female sprinters in Maryland will return from layoffs to face the undefeated Chub Wagon June 13 at Pimlico Race Course in the $100,000 Shine Again Stakes, part of the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships Series (MATCH) for 2021.

The Shine Again, at six furlongs, is one of five Sunday stakes at Old Hilltop. It’s the second of six stakes in the Filly and Mare Sprint–Dirt division, currently led by Chub Wagon, who captured the Skipat Stakes at Pimlico May 15.

Pennsylvania-bred Chub Wagon, owned by Daniel Lopez and George Chestnut, won her first five starts on the lead throughout. The 4-year-old Hey Chub filly rated in third for the first half-mile in the Skipat before taking over in the stretch and pulling away to win by two lengths. She was entered in a Grade III stakes at Belmont Park June 5, but her connections, including trainer Guadalupe Preciado, opted to scratch her in favor of the Shine Again. Jomar Torres is named to ride the Parx Racing-based filly.

Preciado acknowledged the depth of the Shine Again field. “Every race is the same; no matter what, the horses need to run to win,” he said. “Whether it’s easy or tough, the horses still have to run.”

Chub Wagon collected 10 MATCH points for her Skipat victory and is looking to bring that total to 20 with another win in the series.

No Guts No Glory Farm’s Anna’s Bandit, a winner of 17 races and almost $800,000 in 36 starts for trainer John Robb, has been working regularly since April for her first start since July 2020 at Delaware Park. A winner of 11 stakes in the Mid-Atlantic region, the 7-year-old West Virginia-bred mare by Great Notion will have regular rider Xavier Perez aboard for her return.

“I was looking for an easier spot but I’ve been waiting for six weeks now,” Robb said. “I’m not expecting her to win it, but she needs to get a race under her. She has been doing good, but she’s such a big, heavy horse that I don’t expect to ever get her fit just with breezes.”

Hello Beautiful, a winner of seven of 14 starts, won three consecutive stakes at Laurel Park in late fall and early winter before her fifth-place finish in the Grade III Barbara Fritchie Stakes for trainer Brittany Russell. The 4-year-old Maryland-bred filly by Golden Lad was given a break and has been working well at Pimlico for the Shine Again. Hello Beautiful, to be ridden by Sheldon Russell, is a five-time stakes winner of almost $400,000 owned by Madaket Stables, Albert Frassetto, Mark Parkinson, K-Mac Stables and Magic City Stables.

“To be fair, when something goes wrong in the afternoon, whatever the reason–like last year when we shipped her around a bit and just didn’t have any luck, or the Fritchie–it’s almost like it makes her come back with a vengeance,” Russell said. “She doesn’t like getting beat. I hope that’s the case this go-around.”

Five Hellions Farm’s Dontletsweetfoolya, who has won five of her 10 starts, is entered in the Shine Again off of a fourth-place finish behind Chub Wagon in the Skipat. The 4-year-old Stay Thirsty filly, trained by Lacey Gaudet and temporarily based at Delaware Park, was on the lead in the Skipat until the stretch and has done her best running on the front end. Jevian Toledo, who has been aboard Dontletsweetfoolya for all of her victories, is named to ride.

After the Shine Again, the MATCH Series will continue with two stakes July 4 in Maryland.

The MATCH Series, the only one of its kind in racing, will run through Dec. 26 at Laurel and features 24 stakes–20 of them in Maryland and four at Colonial Downs in Virginia–valued at $2.75 million. There will be four divisions, all of them on dirt, and $282,000 in bonus money for owners and trainers.

(Photo of Hello Beautiful by Jim McCue)