Updated on 03/03/2011 6:31PM

Red's Round Table stretching out at Laurel

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Maryland Jockey Club/Jim McCue
Red's Round Table, Sheldon Russell up, wins the Marshua.

Red’s Round Table was much better than both Heather and Sweet Susan when the trio of 3-year-old fillies met a month ago in the Marshua Stakes at Laurel Park. The question is whether the same thing will happen when Red’s Round Table is asked to race an extra furlong in Saturday’s $75,000 Wide Country Stakes at Laurel.

A winner of three straight stakes, Red’s Round Table will be racing beyond six furlongs for the first time in the seven-furlong Wide Country. She was much the best in the six-furlong Mashua, contested over a sloppy track, beating runner-up Heather by 4 3/4 lengths and finishing six lengths in front of third-place Sweet Susan.

Although Red’s Round Table is 5 for 6 lifetime and figures to be heavily favored, her trainer, Tim Keefe, doesn’t do particularly well with horses making the second start of their form cycle going 6 1/2 to seven furlongs. Keefe is just 1 for his last 9 in that statistical category the last five years.

Sheldon Russell, Laurel’s leading rider during the current winter meeting, retains the mount. Russell was aboard Red’s Round Table last Saturday when the filly turned in a bullet five-furlong work, stopping the clock in 1:02, the fastest of 20 times at the distance.

 

“It was a nice work,” Russell said. “The plan was to get her to relax because she is quite strong in the morning and gets excited when she works. I went as easy as I could. We were surprised it was a bullet.”

 

For more than a decade, Red’s Round Table’s owner Arnold Heft, a former co-owner of the Baltimore Bullets and NBA referee, met with Boston Celtics Hall of Fame coach Red Auerbach and eight other friends, including Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, award-winning journalist John Feinstein, and former Washington Post sports editor George Solomon for Tuesday lunches in Washington.

“Arnie called me early last year and asked which of our six 2-year-olds was the best, could win first time out and become a stakes winner,” Keefe  said. “I laughed but told him I liked this filly the most so he named her after Red. He got some grief from his buddies by naming a filly after Red Auerbach but it was good to know I was right. Arnie seems like he is having the time of his life with this filly.”


The lightly raced Heather, based at Delaware Park with trainer Tom Iannotti, lost for the first time in her career in the Marshua. As a deep closer, she may appreciate the extra yardage of the Wide Country after winning a first-level allowance going 6 1/2 furlongs at Parx Racing in January.

Sweet Susan won going 6 1/2 furlongs in a two-turn race at Charles Town three starts ago. Her trainer, Tim Tullock is 23 for 78 (29 percent) with horses who finished in the money last time out returning in fewer than 30 days in 6 1/2- to seven-furlong sprints.

The other intriguing upset possibility in a nine-horse field that includes the coupled entry of Side by Side and Sassy Humor is the Penn National invader Trez. She comes from the high-percentage barn of Stephanie Beattie, who shipped in No Advantage to upset the Grade 2 General George Handicap two weeks ago. Trez most recently won a second-level allowance going 6 1/2 furlongs at Charles Town, earning a career-best 70 Beyer Speed Figure that is second only to the 79 posted by Red’s Round Table in the Marshua.