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Edited Pimlico Staff Release – After meeting twice on dirt, round three of the Joe vs. Shake Em Loose series will take place on turf Saturday in the $100,000 James W. Murphy Stakes on the Preakness (G1) undercard at Pimlico Race Course.

            The one-mile test for 3-year-olds, which drew a field of 11, is part of a spectacular 14-race program featuring 10 stakes, six graded, worth $2.75 million in purses headlined by the 147th renewal of the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

            The race was first run in 1966 as the Woodlawn Handicap then as the Woodlawn Stakes from 1967 in honor of the Woodlawn Vase, the trophy presented to the winner of the Preakness Stakes. It was renamed in 2010 for the late trainer James W. Murphy, who was a stalwart in Maryland racing.

            First race post time is 10:30 a.m.

            Joe and Shake Em Loose could be running in the Preakness, but they are meeting earlier in the program, Race 10, on grass where both are winless in one start each. J R Sanchez Racing’s Stable’s Shake Em Loose, owned and trained by Rodolfo Sanchez-Salomon, won the first meeting with Joe, edging the Maryland-bred even-money favorite by 1 ¾ lengths in the Private Terms on March 19 at Laurel Park. Joe took the rematch in the Federico Tesio there on April 16 by head or his stablemate Mr Jefferson, with Shake Em Loose third.

            The Tesio is a ‘Win and In’ qualifier for Triple Crown-nominated horses to the Preakness, but Joe’s owner-breeder Stuart Grant, who races as The Elkstone Group, opted not to supplement into Maryland’s signature race. Sanchez-Salomon did consider the Preakness, but after working his gelding Sunday said he would enter the Murphy.

            Sanchez-Salomon claimed Shake Em Loose for $16,000 on Nov. 19 and he has won three of five starts. The son of Shakin It Up sold for $1,000 as a yearling in 2020. He drew Post 8 and will be ridden by Jevian Toledo.

            “He’s a horse that’s still learning a lot,” Sanchez-Salomon said. “He’s doing better and better, day by day, training-wise and everything. He’s mentally still growing up a lot. Knock on wood, nothing happens to him. He’s very sound, very clean everywhere. You never know from one day to the next but he is good now.”

            In his only try on turf on Oct. 8 at Laurel, Shake Em Loose found trouble leaving the gate and finished 11th in the field of 12, more than 15 lengths behind the winner. Sanchez-Salomon said it’s time for another race on grass.

            “I’m pretty excited to run him on the turf,” Sanchez-Salomon said. “He’s got a lot of pedigree for it. I think the competition will be softer, too.”

            Grant had degree of difficulty in mind when choosing a path for Joe, who is trained by Michael Trombetta. Joe debuted with a loss on turf on Oct. 24 then reeled off three straight solid wins, ran second in the Private Terms and won the Tesio. He was named Maryland’s champion 2-year-old male of 2021.

            “We’re very happy with Joe,” Grant said. “He’s training really well. He’s developing as a horse. I guess our view is, he’s going to be a good, fun horse. He’ll be really competitive on overnight stakes, he should be competitive at a Grade 3 level. Frankly, right now. I just don’t think he’s a Grade 1 horse. And I don’t want to, just for my own ego, throw him in a place where he doesn’t belong.”

            Though Joe has a turf pedigree as a son of Declaration of War out of an Arch mare, he had trouble in the career-opening grass sprint. It was the only time he has finished off the board.

            “Mike swears that he trains like a turf horse, and he’s certainly bred like a turf horse,” Grant said. “The question is, does he step up as a turf horse? If he steps up he could be a graded-stakes horse. If the change of surface really lets him pick up. We just felt that this was the time. We’re Maryland-based, it’s good race in Maryland, so we’re going to give him a shot. If he likes the surface, he’s going to be really, really tough in there. If he doesn’t like the surface, we’re going to look pretty stupid to do that. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

            Still, Grant said that going into the Murphy is a logical play. He will be ridden from Post 10 by Victor Carrasco and is rated the 3-1 second choice on the morning line.

            “You’d like to think that you do some of your homework and you look at breeding and if they’ve got no turf pedigree whatsoever, that may be grasping at straws,” he said. “This one’s got a turf pedigree. Yes, we’re experimenting, but not without some foundation.”

            Sanchez-Salomon said he is looking forward the next round of the series with his in-state rival.

            “That will be fun, to compete against Joe again,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll have a better trip this time [than the Tesio], and we’ll see.”

            Donegal Racing’s Ready to Purrform, a son of Kitten’s Joy trained by Brad Cox, has won two of his three starts, including the Laurel Futurity on Oct. 2. The 5-2 favorite on the morning line, he will be ridden from Post 5 by Florent Geroux.

            Epic Luck, co-owned by Mark Ashby and William Gotwals, won the Kitten’s Joy on grass last year at Colonial Downs in his second career start.

            Bird Mobberley LLC’s Local Motive has wins in a pair of dirt stakes and returns to grass for the first time since his victory in the Hickory Tree on Aug. 2 at Colonial Downs.

            Also entered in the Murphy are Tag Stables’ Uncaptured Spirit, Hickory Made Stables’ World of Fools, Jeremy Brooks’ homebred Wow Whata Summer, two-time turf winner Determined Kingdom, Charles Blanford’s Crabs N Beer, and the Danny Gargan-trained Riot House, who enters the Murphy off a pair of turf wins at Gulfstream Park.

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