Joy's Rocket, Joe, Carotari Win Pimlico Undercard Races


Photo: Anika Miskar
Joy's Rocket wins the Skipat Stakes at Pimlico Race Course

Team Hanley and Parkland Thoroughbreds' Joy's Rocket , winless in her previous eight starts that included four second-place finishes, looked like a winner all the way around historic Pimlico Race Course May 21 during a dominant 4 1/4-length triumph in the six-furlong $100,000 Skipat Stakes

Joy's Rocket broke running and was quickly joined up front by 2-1 favorite Cilla  as they went a quarter-mile in :22.57 with Maryland stakes winner Time Limit  positioned to the outside in third. Time Limit moved up to second after a half in :45.06 and loomed a threat approaching the stretch when Joy's Rocket began to steadily edge clear under a hand ride to win in 1:09.76 over a fast main track.

"I was glad to see her get away from the gate so clean today. She's run gamely all year. We went back to the pace she showed when she was 2 and was winning races," trainer Steve Asmussen said. "She's competing well. But this put her back in the winner's circle. And I thought the break and the first quarter of a mile was the key. When she was away well, I thought it gave her a very good chance to win and she proved best."

Fillie d'Esprit made a belated move on the outside to get up for second, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Time Limit . Cinnabunny , Cilla, Oxana, Glory Dia , and Street Lute , an eight-time stakes winner making her second start of the year, completed the order of finish.

"She came out of there really well and she showed me some speed," winning jockey Joel Rosario said. "That's what I thought before the race. She showed tremendous speed and was able to keep going with it. She ran a big race today."

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Joy's Rocket had not won since taking the 2020 Letellier Memorial Stakes in December at Fair Grounds for her third stakes victory in five starts. With the outcome, Asmussen now has five wins, seven seconds, and three third from 19 starts at Pimlico in 2021-22, according to Equibase statistics.


No Average 'Joe' Wins $100,000 James W. Murphy

The Elkstone Group's Maryland homebred Joe , a multiple stakes winner on dirt, made the successful transition to the turf with a hard-fought neck victory over favored Ready to Purrform  in the $100,000 James W. Murphy Stakes, a one-mile grass test.

Joe wins the 2022 James W. Murphy Stakes at Pimlico
Photo: Anika Miskar
Joe (inside) wins the James W. Murphy Stakes

"This is so exciting. It really is because this is the second-stakes race in a row where he was headed in the stretch and he just keeps fighting back. It's just awesome when he does that. He just doesn't know how to give up," owner Stuart Grant of The Elkstone Group said. "The switch over to turf, Mike (Trombetta) had been pushing for it and I said, 'Mike, this horse will either make you a genius or a dummy.' Mike said he is a turf horse, and he was right. He ran his first race on turf, but that was too short, and it was the only time he was off the board."

Regular rider Victor Carrasco rated Joe in sixth along the rail inside Crabs N Beer  as Uncaptured Spirit  and 30-1 long shot Epic Luck  dueled upfront through splits of :22.85 and :45.85, with Local Motive  and Ready to Purrform—both previous stakes winners in Maryland—leading the second flight.

Advancing strongly and still with plenty of horse, Carrasco maintained his inside position until midway around the far turn when he tipped out to split Uncaptured Spirit and Ready to Purrform and straightened for home with a short lead. Ready to Purrform ranged up on their outside and the two horses raced stride-for-stride through the stretch with Joe getting clear late.

Crabs N Beer was third, 2 1/4 lengths behind the runner-up, followed by Uncaptured Spirit, Determined Kingdom , Shake Em Loose , Local Motive, and Epic Luck. The winning time was 1:35.26 over a firm course.

Joe—named for Grant's friend U.S. President Joe Biden—was named Maryland's champion 2-year-old male for 2021 after breaking his maiden and winning the Maryland Juvenile in mid-December at Laurel Park. This year, he won his two-turn debut in a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance Jan. 23 and was second to Shake Em Loose in the Private Terms Stakes prior to a Federico Tesio Stakes victory.

"He's been nothing but great to me," rider Victor Carrasco said after the win. "He's always been very professional since Day One, and he's a fighter. I knew when we had the trip we had and hooked up with the other horse down the stretch, he wouldn't give up. He fought all the way down to the wire and got it done.

"He's getting better. Today, it's loud and there are a lot of people, but he was very professional. I tried to keep him quiet because of the heat, but he was just a pro."

It was the first Murphy win for Carrasco. Trainer Michael Trombetta previously won the Murphy in 2016 with Marengo Road .

"He digs, he fights. He did that in the Tesio," trainer Michael Trombetta commented. "He was beat and he came back. He keeps reaching. This is great. Stuart (Grant) is a big Maryland supporter. For him to win a stake on Preakness Day is good."


Carotari Returns to Win $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint

William A. Branch's Carotari , unraced since late December, made a triumphant return to competition with a front-running 1 1/2-length score in the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint, stopping the clock in :56.52.

Carotari wins the Jim McKay Turf Sprint Stakes at Pimlico Race Course
Photo: Jim Duley/Maryland Jockey Club
Carotari wins the Jim McKay Turf Sprint Stakes

Carotari ($4.80) gave jockey Luis Saez his second consecutive stakes victory following Ethereal Road  in the $100,000 Sir Barton Stakes. It was the first McKay win for both he and trainer Brian Lynch.

A gelded 6-year-old son of grade 1 turf winner Artie Schiller , Carotari broke alertly from post 2 and flashed his speed, blazing through a quarter-mile in :21.90 and a half in :44.69. Carotari began to edge away from the field once straightened for home and had plenty left to hold off late runs from Smokin' Jay  on the far outside and Seven Scents , who were separated by a nose on the line.

"When I came to the top of the stretch, I had a lot of horse," Saez said. "We just waited for somebody to come and close and just let him run. He did the rest. He was very comfortable. I could feel someone coming, but I had so much horse. He was still pretty strong. He is a pretty nice horse. He likes a track like this (firm). It was perfect."

Bred by Tom Evans and Pam Clark, Carotari was consigned by Thoroughbred Investment Possibilities at the April 2018 Ocala Breeders Sale of 2-year-olds in Training. His dam is the unraced Rahy mare Soother.

Grateful Bred , the 2021 Maryland Million Turf Sprint winner, was fourth, followed by Mr. Hustle , Bank , Arthur's Hope, The Wolfman,  and Hollis . Concrete Glory  was scratched.

Carotari earned his ninth career win in his first start since capturing the Janus Stakes Dec. 31 at Gulfstream Park. Prior stakes wins came in the 2020 and 2021 Silks Run Stakes, also at Gulfstream, and the 2020 Runhappy Preview Turf Sprint at Turfway Park. He has also placed in four other stakes including a second in the 2021 Troy Stakes (G3T) at Saratoga. He is 9-6-3 in 25 starts with career earnings of $616,863.