It took just about the entire length of the stretch to decide it, but Coconut Cake got up to win the $125,000 Maryland Million Ladies on Saturday, Oct. 22 at Laurel Park.
The 5-year-old daughter of the late Bandbox entered the Ladies without a win since a Laurel allowance on New Year’s Eve 2020, a streak of 14 races, including seven in 2022. However, she had been competitive in stakes company on grass all year long, including a narrow defeat in the All Brandy Stakes at Laurel in June and a game fourth-place finish, beaten two lengths, against open stakes horses in the Big Dreyfus Stakes on the Laurel course in July. She went off as the 6-5 favorite in the 10-horse Ladies field. Regular rider Kevin Gomez was sidelined in a spill the day before, so Sheldon Russell picked up the mount.
The pace was set by 16-1 longshot Double Fireball, who crossed to the rail and grabbed the lead from the far outside post heading into the first turn and proceeded to set a moderate early tempo, with a first quarter in :23.74 and a first half in :48.96. Russell kept Coconut Cake in mid-pack while racing off the rail. As they rounded the far turn, Coconut Cake was asked to run, and she made a strong move after the leader.
At the top of the stretch, Russell set Coconut Cake down for the drive, and it looked as if she was ready to roll by Double Fireball. However, Double Fireball refused to give in and fought back gamely. The two dueled down the stretch, having pulled well clear of the others. Neither one was willing to give an inch, but in the final few yards, Coconut Cake began to wear down the early leader. Double Fireball waved the white flag late and Coconut Cake crossed the wire a head in front. Double Fireball held second as Amplio Esquema rallied for third. The final time for the mile and an eighth over firm turf was 1:50.22.
The Ladies was Coconut Cake’s first stakes win, and her fifth career win overall from 21 career starts, which pushed her earnings to $276,863.
Coconut Cake was purchased for $30,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Fall Yearling Sale in 2018 by her owners, N R S Stable, James Chambers and Avalon Farm, the nom de course of trainer Tim Keefe. This was Keefe’s sixth Maryland Million victory. Coconut Cake was bred by Charles and Cynthia McGinnes and their second Maryland Million victory on the day (the other was The Wolfman in the Starter Handicap). They are now the breeders of the winners of 10 Maryland Million races.
The gray/roan mare Coconut Cake represents three generations bred by the McGinneses. She is out of their unraced mare English Muffin (by English Channel), a daughter of stakes-winning Cranberry Muffin (by Shelter Half out of Muffies Muffin). Those in the family include multiple graded stakes winner Wicapi, Maryland Million Classic winner Frugal Doc and Maryland Million Turf winner Target Sighted. English Muffin has three other foals, all starters, including additional winners Coffee Cake and Fudge Cake, the latter a 4-year-old full sister to Coconut Cake. English Muffin was not bred from 2018 to 2020, and does not have a reported foal of 2022 when bred to Irish War Cry.
Following The Wolfman’s victory, Bandbox also had two wins on the day. The son of Tapit stood his entire career at Northview Stallion Station in Chesapeake City until his untimely death at age 13 at the start of the 2021 breeding season. Bandbox is the sire of three Maryland Million winners, the other 2018 Nursery winner Follow the Dog from his first crop.