NewsThe Latest About Jim McKay Maryland Million Day

Connections Looking to Serve Coconut Cake in $125,000 Ladies

Originally published by the Maryland Jockey Club - October 21, 2022

NRS Stable, James Chambers and Avalon Farm’s Coconut Cake, twice stakes-place don dirt but having found new life running in longer turf races, will go after her first stakes win in Saturday’s $125,000 Maryland Million Ladies at Laurel Park.

A 5-year-old daughter of Bandbox trained by co-owner Tim Keefe, Coconut Cake is favored at 2-1 on the morning line in an overflow field of 11 for the Ladies that includes Maryland-bred also-eligible Champagne Toast.

“I’m looking forward to running her. This is the race I’ve been pointing her toward all year,” Keefe said. “She had a little bit of time off after her last start, which wasn’t planned. We just had to go to Plan B to get her here, and she’s been training great and doing well.”

Coconut Cake has not raced since finishing fourth, beaten two lengths, in the July 16 Big Dreyfus at Laurel, contested at the Ladies’ 1 1/8-mile distance. She was third in her two other tries this year going a distance on grass, the one-mile Conniver April 23 and 1 1/16-mile All Brandy June 19, both against Maryland-bred/sired horses.

“I think finally after all this time I figured out what she prefers,” Keefe said. “She kind of tricked me a little bit because she’s run well on all the surfaces and at different distances. I think her definite preference is long on the grass, and that’s what she’s going to get on Saturday.”

Keefe also entered Shamrock Farm’s Gals Gal, a 3-year-old maiden claiming winner July 22 at Laurel that has faced older horses in each of her last two starts, running third by a half-length Aug. 19 and fifth by 1 ½ lengths Sept. 30. All four of her starts have come at 5 ½ furlongs.

“I have been anxious to run her long,” Keefe said. “It’s kind of a tall task to ask her to run long first time in the Maryland Million, but she’s doing really well. We’ll put her in, take a look at it and then decide.”

Trainer Brittany Russell considered the $100,000 Distaff sprinting seven furlongs on the dirt before settling on the Turf for Designated Hitters Racing’s Gamestonks. The 3-year-old Blofeld filly has won three of six starts including two of three at Laurel, but has yet to try the turf. She was fourth in a one-mile, 70-yard stater Sept. 20 at Parx, her first race since winning a one-mile optional claiming allowance Feb. 26 at Laurel.

“She ran ok. She ran like a horse that needed a race. Obviously, we’re going to be trying turf for the first time. I was hoping to get her on it in the morning, but we just haven’t had the chance with the weather. Hopefully she takes to it. We know she likes the route of ground, so that’s good anyway,” Russell said. “A lot of [owners] have horses sired in Maryland and you get one day a year to kind of take a swing, so lets try it.”

My Thoughts, Maldives Model, Amplio Esquema, My Dixie Lass, Mosalah, I’m Gittin There and Double Fireball are also entered.