Laurel ended and Pimlico began this past week, and plenty of news from both.
- Laurel ended with a bang as wagering showed solid gains during the winter meet versus winter 2012. According to figures provided by the Maryland Jockey Club, total handle — including live handle, export handle (that is, money wagered elsewhere on Laurel races), and import handle (money wagered at Laurel on races run elsewhere) — rose over 21 percent on a year-over-year basis. Average daily handle was up nearly 18 percent during the stand, which featured 50 live and 39 simulcast days (versus 48 and 36 a year ago). Average daily handle was just short of $2 million.
Mel Brooks famously said that “it’s good to be the king,” but at Laurel this winter it was just as good to be an apprentice. Bug boy Yomar Ortiz earned the riding title for the stand with 57 winners, with fellow apprentice Trevor McCarthy close behind in second, with 51. “It was a battle until the end,” Ortiz noted.
- On the other hand, it’s not bad to be the king — more precisely, the King — either. King Leatherbury, now just past his 80th birthday, led all owners with 12 wins at Laurel and finished fourth among trainers with 15 wins, though well behind Hugh McMahon’s 34.
- In more King-related news, the old master’s best current runner, Ben’s Cat, returned to action in Saturday’s Mister Diz for Maryland-bred older horses going five furlongs on the lawn. Sent off at 2-5, the seven year-old son of Parker’s Storm Cat was the easiest kind of winner, cruising home by nearly two with little urging from rider Julian Pimentel. Two races later, Embarr won the Dahlia for fillies and mares going a mile on the lawn.
- Finally, the Maryland Jockey Club announced that Gabby Gaudet, daughter of local racing mainstays Eddie and Linda Gaudet, would take over as the on-air handicapper for Frank Carulli following the Pimlico meet. MJC president Tom Chuckas described her as “the most well-rounded candidate with a tremendous upside.” She’ll join Carulli on the air on weekends during the meet.