Maryland racing’s big day at the Belmont

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Spring Quality wins the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan Stakes for Maryland-based trainer H. Graham Motion. Image still via YouTube.

The big news out of Belmont Park over the weekend was Justify’s win in the Belmont Stakes to become the 13th winner of horse racing’s Triple Crown. On Sunday, the storyline shifted to controversy, with some wondering if longshot Restoring Hope blocked early challengers from getting near Justify in the one-and-a-half-mile race.

Here’s another angle to consider: Maryland racing played the role of spoiler in two of the stakes races on the undercard.

Maryland-bred Still Having Fun, trained by Timothy L. Keefe, pulled off the first upset in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens, covering seven furlongs on the dirt. Going off at 13-to-1, Still Having Fun hung toward the back of the pack, moved up on the far turn, swung out wide at the top of the stretch and charged past favorites Promises Fulfilled and World of Trouble.

“It feels great,” Keefe told industry publication Paulick Report. “I was hoping it would coincide with my 500th win, too, but I’ll take it. This is great. I’m just thankful to Gary [Barber] and Adam [Wachtel] for buying into this horse and having the faith to keep him with me, and thank Jim Scott and Terp Racing for over the years supporting me with a lot of horses.”

A $2 win bet returned $28.

Fair Hill-based trainer H. Graham Motion pulled off a similar feat in the $1 million Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Manhattan with Spring Quality. Jockey Edgar Prado broke from the 13th spot and brought the 6-year-old inside near the back of the pack in the mile-and-a-quarter turf race. Spring Quality went wide at the top of the stretch and bolted down the center of the course, edging past a pack of horses, led by Sadler’s Joy, to win by a neck.

With odds of 18-to-1, Spring Quality gave bettors $38 on a $2 win bet. Though bred in Pennsylvania, the gelding ran races last year at Pimlico and Laurel Park.

Motion pulled off a similar upset in the Manhattan last year with Ascend.

“How about two years in a row winning this race with a long shot?” Motion told the publication BloodHorse. “It’s pretty crazy.”

Justify’s win only added to the excitement for Motion.

Brandon Weigel

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