Sunday, June 26, 2022
LAUREL, MD – Champion Maryland jockey Sheldon Russell is nearing a return to the races more than nine months after being hurt in a pre-race spill at Laurel Park.
“He’s doing great,” Russell’s agent Marty Leonard said. “He’s been getting back on horses for a couple weeks now and feeling good. He’s really close to returning to riding.”
The 34-year-old Russell was originally hurt last Sept. 9 when 2-year-old Maryland-bred filly Little Bit of That got spooked and reared heading to the track before what was to be her career debut. Russell was thrown and landed on his right foot, toes-first, and was diagnosed with a Lisfranc injury, involving both the bones and ligaments in the middle part of his foot. Russell underwent successful surgery to repair the injury and, following a long recovery and rehab, began getting on horses again in April but was back on the sidelines after breaking his collarbone during morning training.
“He was probably about a week away from returning when that happened, so it was another minor setback,” Leonard said. “It was about an eight to 10-week injury.”
Russell is married to Brittany Russell, leading trainer this year during Laurel’s spring stand as well as the subsequent Preakness Meet at Pimlico Race Course. Ironically, it was Little Bit of That’s victory on Mother’s Day, May 8, that clinched the mom-of-two’s first meet championship.
At the time of his injury last fall, Russell led all jockeys in Maryland in purses earned and was second in wins. He has won more than 1,500 races and $43 million in purses since 2007, overcoming several injuries during his career.
“He’s gone through this a few times. He’s resilient and relentless, he really is,” Leonard said. “We’re just going day by day and we’re going to let him tell us when he’s ready to go. When he’s ready to go, I’m sure we’ll have a horse to get on.”
Tiz No Clown All Business in Maiden Triumph
Experience and a familiarity with the racing surface proved to be a winning combination for Tiz No Clown, who graduated in style with a 2 ½-length maiden special weight triumph, and became the first winner for Pleasant Acres Stallioons' freshman sire No Never No More.
Owned and trained by Charles Town-based William Earl Atkins, Tiz No Clown ($9.80) won the six-furlong maiden special weight in :59.29 seconds over a fast main track with Yomar Ortiz aboard for the first time. The win came six weeks after the colt finished first by 1 ¼ lengths in a 4 ½-furlong maiden claiming event May on 12 at Pimlico Race Course, but was taken down and placed third for coming over from his outside post position out of the starting gate.
“He got it back today, in a maiden special weight,” Atkins said. “That was a good deal.”
Tiz No Clown broke sharply and raced alongside Ice Cold Frosty in the early stages before getting away to a clear lead leaving the backstretch. Tall Order, favored at 6-5, moved into a challenging position around the far turn but Tiz No Clown straightened for home in command and opened up through the lane. Ice Cold Frosty held second over Lacey Gaudet-trained stablemate Quincy Cafe, with Tall Order fourth.
Bred in Maryland by Stephen Smith and Denise Jones, Tiz No Clown was the only horse in the field of six that had raced previously. After the last start, Atkins decided to regularly make the 90-minute trip from West Virginia to Maryland to further his education.
“I’ve been bringing him here and working him every week and I’ve been working him at home. We live in Charles Town and we trailered him in here to work him over this surface, and I said, ‘OK, now he’s ready to go,’” Atkins said. “The first time I ran him here he wasn’t sure of the dirt and he was climbing real bad, so he did no good. The second time I ran him was when I ran him at Pimlico, and the dirt there is more like it is at Charles Town where he trains, and he won, but they set him down, I said what we needed to do was trailer him over to Laurel and work him over the surface and let him get used to it. So, that’s what we did. It worked out perfect.”
In addition to regular gallops, Tiz No Clown had one timed breeze at Laurel prior to his breakthrough win, a three-furlong move in 36.80 seconds on June 15 which ranked second of 15 horses on the day. “He’s fast and the thing about it is, this horse can go all day. When I train him down here, this horse can go two laps at Laurel and comes back and doesn’t even break a sweat. He can go a mile, mile and a sixteenth; there isn’t a distance this horse can’t go,” Atkins said. “I sure do like him a lot. He’s so easy. When we ship in, he’s so quiet he never does anything wrong. Nothing. And he’s still a colt, too.”
The 37th Jim McKay Maryland Million on Oct. 22 at Laurel is a late-season goal for Tiz No Clown. “He’s Maryland Million nominated, so that’s where he’ll go,” Atkins said. “Now I can give him a little break because he won. It’ll be a little while before they write an allowance race for 2-year-olds, so I’ll just give him a break for a couple of months and just play with him and then bring him back.”
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