by Katherine O. Rizzo (first published in the July 2023 Equiery)

While the Kentucky-bred National Treasure claimed the biggest race of the 2023 Preakness meet by winning the 148th running of the Preakness Stakes, the Maryland Thoroughbred racing industry shone bright through local trainer Graham Motion, who claimed the top spot in the Maryland Jockey Club’s $100,000 Trainer Bonus.

To be eligible for the bonus program, trainers had to run a minimum of five horses in 15 Thoroughbred stakes races during Preakness weekend. Points were accumulated for finishing first (10), second (7), third (5), fourth (3) and fifth through last (1). This was the seventh year MJC has offered the trainer bonus and the first time Motion has won.

Motion, a native of England who has been training here in Maryland for more than three decades, started seven horses in three stakes races at Pimlico. He is based out of the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton and holds a career win record of 2,653 races as of the conclusion of Preakness weekend. Motion trained the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom and has saddled multiple Breeders’ Cup winners.

He finished the weekend with 34 points with his biggest points coming from Nagirroc’s victory in the $100,000 James W. Murphy turf race. Nagirroc, owned by Little Red Feather Racing, Madaket Stables LLC and William Strauss, finished second in the Kentucky Utilities Transylvania Stakes (G3) at Keeneland in April.

Motion also saddled three of the top five finishers in the $100,000 Gallorette (G3) for fillies and mares with Sopran Basilea finishing second, Bipartisanship in third and Vergara in fifth. Sopran Basilea, owned by Madaket Stables LLC and Bill Strauss, is a recent Irish import with the Gallorette being her first run here in the U.S. Bipartisanship is a British import that has been running in the States since 2021 and is owned by As One Racing LLC, Commonwealth Thoroughbreds LLC and Edgar Harty. Vergara is Kentucky-bred and owned by Gary Broad.

Motion saddled three in the $200,000 Dinner Party (G3) with Hurricane Dream finishing second, Speaking Scout in fourth and Easter in sixth. Hurricane Dream is a 2017 French gelding owned by Team Valor. The Kentucky-bred Speaking Scout is owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Easter, a 2018 French gelding, is owned by Madaket Stables LLC.

Trainer Chad Brown, who trained the $100,000 Hilltop winner Aspray, finished second in the series with Ken McPeek finishing third. McPeek saddled Rattle N Roll to win the $250,000 Pimlico Special (G3).

Maryland-based trainer Brittany Russell tied with Brad Cox for fourth place with 21 points each. Russell earned points with Prince of Jericho, who ran second in the Chick Lang; Circling the Drain, who finished third in the James W. Murphy; and L Street Lady, who ran third in the $100,000 Miss Preakness (G3). The Maryland-bred Circling the Drain (West Coast x Who’s Cozy, Cozzene) is bred and owned by Sycamore Hall Thoroughbreds LLC.

Russell walked away with the top trainer bonus for points earned in non-stakes races. She earned $25,000 with 43 points. To qualify for the non-stakes bonus, trainers had to start a minimum of three horses over Preakness weekend. Motion finished third in this series.

Jockey Jevian Toledo and Russell teamed up for the second year in a row to win the jockey and trainer titles for the whole Preakness Meet.

Toledo earned eight wins, along with one second and three thirds, from 19 mounts trained by Russell. He won the jockey title with a 10-win margin over co-runner ups Sheldon Russell, Horacio Karamanos and Victor Carrasco. Overall, Toledo won races on 12 of 15 race days. This year’s title marks his 11th individual riding title in Maryland.

Russell ended the Preakness Meet title with 15 wins from 42 starts and $592,630 in purse earnings. Michael Trombetta, Hugh McMahon and Anthony Farrior were runner ups this year. At the conclusion of the Preakness Meet, Russell has logged 310 career wins since becoming a trainer in 2018. Russell currently leads all trainers in Maryland with 52 wins so far for 2023.