Thursday, December 31, 2020
LAUREL, MD – Jockey Sheldon Russell, returning from a four-day absence, won with two of his first three mounts on today’s New Year’s Eve program at Laurel Park to clinch the 2020 fall meet riding title.
Russell, 33, entered the day leading Jevian Toledo, 42-39, before winning with Dr. Ferber ($9.20) in Race 2 and Fast Cash ($6.40) in Race 4 to seal his eighth career riding title in Maryland and first since Laurel’s 2015 winter stand.
Both Russell and Toledo are represented by agent Marty Leonard. Toledo had won with 10 of his previous 23 mounts (43 percent) to close the gap and make it a tight race. But he wound up winless in five races today.
“It’s been a while since I won a title, but I’m just very happy. It’s nice to look back and come back from all the injuries and have the support that I do from some of the top trainers here,” Russell said. “To win a meet title means a lot.
Thanks to my agent, who does a fantastic job, and thanks to my competitors in the room because it keeps you going. I ride with some good guys in the room and we’re all friendly in there. Unfortunately I had to have a few days off and I was a bit worried there because [Toledo] was on a roll but luckily we had a good enough cushion to keep it going.”
Maryland’s leading rider of 2011, Russell also won Laurel’s fall meet in 2008 and 2011 as well as Laurel’s 2011, 2012 and 2015 winter stands. He topped the spring meet standings at Pimlico Race Course in 2011 and 2013.
Russell registered 11 multi-win days during the fall meet including three-win days on Dec. 6 and 11 and a four-win afternoon on Maryland Million Day Oct. 24 led by Monday Morning Qb in the Classic, Hello Beautiful in the Distaff and Pretty Good Year in the Turf.
On Nov. 28 Russell won stakes with Hello Beautiful in the Safely Kept and Whereshetoldmetogo in the Frank Y. Whiteley, both horses trained by his wife, Brittany. Together the Russells won with 18 of 35 starters at the meet (51 percent) and finished in the money 30 times (86 percent).
“She keeps me busy in the mornings. There isn’t really a day where she doesn’t have workers because she’s got so many horses so it’s a big advantage that I have,” Russell said. “I get to get on them as soon as they come in and I do a lot of work with them and sort of get an idea of what their good and bad traits are. It’s a big plus.”
Russell was leading Laurel’s 2020 summer meet standings when he suffered a broken wrist in a starting gate mishap July 16 at Delaware Park. He returned on Sept. 24, opening day of the short Preakness Meet at Pimlico, and earned the mount on sixth-place finisher Excession in the Preakness.
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