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By Laurel Press Staff – Already a two-time winner in Maryland Million competition among her seven career stakes victories, 4-year-old filly Hello Beautiful can join some elite company with a third event triumph in Saturday’s $100,000 Distaff at Laurel Park.

            The seven-furlong Distaff for fillies and mares 3 and older is among eight stakes and four starter stakes on the 36th Jim McKay Maryland Million program, ‘Maryland’s Day at the Races’ celebrating the progeny of stallions standing in the state.

            Highlighted by the $150,000 Classic for 3-year-olds and up, first race post time is 11:30 a.m.

            Since its inception in 1986, only six horses have won three Maryland Million races and not since Eighttofasttocatch captured his third Classic in four years in 2014. The others are Ben’s Cat, Countus In, Docent, Mz. Zill Bear and Hall of Fame mare Safely Kept, who won the Distaff from 1989-91.

            Madaket Stables, Albert Frassetto, Mark Parkinson, K-Mac Stables and Magic City Stables’ Hello Beautiful won the Lassie as a 2-year-old in 2019 before her 11 ¼-length romp in last year’s Distaff.

            “She’s had a good year, anyway. I like to be humble about things,” trainer Brittany Russell said. “Our filly’s doing good and I hope she runs her race. Just stay humble and be happy that she’s healthy.”

            Hello Beautiful enters the Distaff off back-to-back front-running victories in the Alma North July 31 at historic Pimlico Race Course and Weather Vane Sept. 18 at Laurel, both going six furlongs.

The Alma North was jockey Sheldon Russell’s 1,500th career win and the Weather Vane came by 10 ¼ lengths under Jevian Toledo after Russell – the trainer’s husband – injured his foot Sept. 9 and remains sidelined.

            “Since she won last time she’s been great, and I’m very pleased with her,” Brittany Russell said. “Nothing in the morning or watching her come out of that last run would indicate a regression. Of course, you don’t know until you run but all signs are positive with her right now.”

            Hello Beautiful has won nine of 17 career starts with $524,610 in purse earnings, is 8-for-12 lifetime at Laurel and owns three wins in four tries at the distance including the Distaff and Safely Kept to cap a 2020 season interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic that altered racing and included unsuccessful road trips to Ellis Park and Saratoga for stakes.

            “We tried some things last year. It was a bit of a tough year and just to get her back on track on [Maryland Million] day was huge, and to get a second Maryland million win,” Russell said. “It’s fun to have a filly like this for a day like this, [one] that you hope can keep kind of making us all proud.”

            Toledo gets the return call from Post 1 aboard Hello Beautiful at topweight of 122 pounds, giving four to six pounds to her rivals. Russell said her stable star continues to thrive since her most recent victory.

            “Her exercise rider jumped off of her [Tuesday] morning and he was all smiles. He was like, ‘Wow.’ If she was good on Sunday, she was even better today. That just makes you feel good,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll be lucky enough to see her next year as a 5-year-old. I don’t know quite yet what the plans are, but it’s exciting.”

            To achieve her milestone win, Hello Beautiful will face a stiff challenge from eight-time stakes winner Street Lute, a 3-year-old daughter of Street Magician owned by Lucky 7 Stables and trained by John ‘Jerry’ Robb in what is expected to be an intriguing matchup of speedy fillies.

            “It’s definitely going to be one of her tougher spots. She’s got to run against older horses [and] Hello Beautiful is a very tough older horse,” Robb said. “There’s one day when they ran the same day, back-to-back races.

Street Lute’s race went faster than hers did, but then like a week later they adjusted the time. But, we’ve known all along we were going to have to hook up sooner or later.”

            Street Lute was favored to win last year’s Lassie but was caught at the wire by Miss Nondescript and came up a neck short. She then proceeded to reel off five consecutive wins, all in Laurel stakes, improving her record to 5-for-7 over her home track, where she has yet to lose going seven furlongs in three tries.

            Sixth by 2 ½ lengths in the M. Tyson Gilpin on the grass July 19 at Colonial Downs, Street Lute ran seventh in the Charles Town Oaks (G3) Aug. 27 but came back with a three-quarter-length triumph over her elders including fellow Distaff entrant Malibu Beauty in the six-furlong Tax Free Distaff Sept. 25 at Delaware Park.

            “She’s always been doing great. She didn’t like the grass and she bled at Charles Town in the graded race,” Robb said. “She’s good. Just draw a line through those two races and there are no bad ones.”

            Street Lute, whose most recent victories have come from off the pace, doesn’t figure to let Hello Beautiful out of sight under regular rider Xavier Perez from their rail post. She will carry 118 pounds.

            “Hello Beautiful has been getting away with real easy leads and breathers, and I don’t see that happening,” Robb said. “She’s doing good.”

            Robb also entered CJI Phoenix Group and No Guts No Glory Farm’s Fille d’Esprit, whose name means ‘spirit girl’ in French. The 5-year-old Great Notion mare, claimed for $10,000 last August, won four straight races to end 2020 but has yet to race this year after overcoming an injury.

            “She got hurt, and she’s back and been working lights out. She worked three-quarters the other morning here in 11 flat,” Robb said. “She’s just coming back really good, knock on wood. She had won four in a row and she beat some of the horses that are in the Maryland Million when she was winning those races, horses that went on to win stakes.

“She’s a nice filly. I hate to run her seven-eighths first time back, hate to run her against Hello Beautiful first time back, but maybe she’s the one that’ll pick up the pieces from the speed duel.”

            ZWP Stable, Inc. and Non Stop Stable’s Malibu Beauty was a front-running winner of the six-furlong Miss Disco against fellow Maryland-bred/sired horses Aug. 21 at Pimlico prior to her loss in the Tax Free District. The 3-year-old Buffum filly has been first or second in seven consecutive starts, four of them wins.

            NRS Stable, James Chambers and Avalon Farm’s Coconut Cake was riding a three-race win streak heading into last year’s Distaff, but was forced to scratch after developing a quarter crack days before the race. She has a win, two seconds and a third in six starts since coming back, most recently running second to Hello Beautiful in the Weather Vane.

            Also entered are Maryland-breds Whispering Pines, third by a length in the seven-furlong Conniver March 13 at Laurel and fourth in the Shine Again Aug. 4 at Saratoga, and Factorintheheat.

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