- Maryland Racing Media Association S. (LRL) — Fillies and mares three years old and up, 1 1/8 miles
- Grade 3 General George H. (LRL) — Three year-olds and up, 7 furlongs
- Presidents’ Day H. (CT) — Fillies and mares three years old and up, 6 1/2 furlongs[/boxify]
With the cancellation of Saturday’s races at Laurel Park (and everywhere else in the mid-Atlantic), the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap and the John B. Campbell Handicap will be run next Saturday instead. There are, however, two stakes on tap on Monday at Laurel and another on Tuesday at Charles Town…
Prior to the Maryland Racing Media, the Maryland Racing Media Association will honor its 2013 Maryland-based Horse of the Year. According to the organization:
“Dance to Bristol, the multiple-graded stakes winner who was among the three finalists in her division for an Eclipse Award, was selected as the 2013 Maryland-based horse of the year by members of the Maryland Racing Media Association on Thursday evening at Laurel Park.
“A four-year-old daughter of Speightstown trained by Ollie Figgins, III, for owners David & Susan Wantz of Taneytown, Maryland, Dance to Bristol won seven of 10 starts and earned over $820,000 in 2013, including consecutive victories in the Grade III, $150,000 Bed o’ Roses at Belmont Park, the Grade II, $300,000 Honorable Miss at Saratoga and the Grade I, $500,000 Ballerina at Saratoga. The Ballerina was her fifth straight stakes tally and her seventh consecutive win overall.
“Dance to Bristol, retired after her sixth-place finish in the Grade I, $1 million Breeders Cup Filly-Mare Sprint at Santa Anita, and her connections will be honored with a winner’s circle trophy presentation on Monday, February 17, the same day as the annual, $100,000 Maryland Racing Media Association Stakes for fillies and mares at Laurel Park.”
Stakes story lines
- In the $100,000 Maryland Racing Media Stakes,which filly or mare will secure the first stakes victory of her career? None of the six set to go 1 1/8 miles has won a stake in her career. Favoritism falls on the two of the three most lightly raced, which makes sense, since they have the greatest upside. Graham Motion’s Ilikecandy (9-5) has two wins and two seconds from four starts, and the daughter of Malibu Moon has given indications that she’ll like the distance. Lunar Surge (2-1) doesn’t win much — just one from seven starts — but has never been out of the money. One hard knocker worth a look is Malibu Red (3-1), who ships in from Florida for trainer Marty Wolfson; Wolfson has made just one start at Laurel in the last five years — when he shipped in Miss Singhsix to win this very race four years ago. She throttled allowance foes in her last, and one of those has returned to win. Can Tanivan (6-1) find the range in stakes company? Her 56-race career to date says no, though her figs are competitive. Celtic Katie (10-1) ran gamely to be second in January’s Nellie Morse, and she may try similar tactics here — head straight for the lead and go as far as possible.
- In the Grade 3 General George, can Javerre (20-1) become the first horse to win two runnings of the race? No — because he’s stuck at Parx, where a quarantine spurred by a case of equine herpesvirus means no shipping in our out.
- Was January’s Fire Plug a useful local prep for the General George? The top four finishers from that race are here to find out. Winner Broad Rule (10-1) turned a Fire Plug win last year into a third-place finish in this race, and he’s a pretty consistent sort who figures to run his race. Service for Ten (9-2), about as good a $25,000 claim as you’re likely to find, took the worst of the trip before rallying to be second. He’s a two-time stake winner, and a win here would give trainer Mike Geralis his first career win as trainer of record. Show horse Warrioroftheroses (12-1) ran a terrific race that day at long odds, leading late before finishing third. His follow up, in the Native Dancer at 1 1/16 miles, was less terrific, but a reprise of his Fire Plug effort could put him in the mix.
- Will shippers get the best of the locals? The two faves in here are both New York shippers. Linda Rice sends down Fall Highweight winner Palace (8-5), who’s looking to find the winning mix again after failing in his last two at odds-on; trainer Rice believes that he may not like the Aqueduct inner track, so perhaps a trip to Maryland is just what he needed. He’ll have to contend with David Jacobson’s Tenango (7-2), however, a horse who won his last against allowance foes at Aqueduct while earning a gaudy 97 Beyer. On the other hand you have a local like Smash and Grab (12-1), who just ran the race of his life in beating an allowance group in which half the field were stakes winners.
- Happy returns? Two horses made useful returns to the races in their last starts and are hoping to use those as a springboard to General George glory. Well Spelled (8-1) rallied into fourth in the Fire Plug after lagging well behind the field. This will be the first time that the son of Spellbinder runs two races on more or less normal rest since 2012. Back then, he ran down Trinniberg to win the Gallant Bob at Parx, which that rival used as his prep for winning the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Another horse with spotty attendance is Bandbox (15-1), who won the Private Terms in 2011, placed in three stakes in 2012, and then was away until late January. He ran well to be third in allowance company at a distance, 5 1/2 furlongs, that figured to be too short for him. Trainer Rodney Jenkins liked what he saw enough to wheel the son of Tapit back on just 17 days rest for this one.
- In Tuesday’s Presidents’ Day Handicap at Charles Town, the big question is: can any horse break up the Pink Ribbon reunion? Three of the top four finishers from that race, back in September, reconvene for this one at a slightly different distance (6 1/2 furlongs Tuesday versus 7 in the Pink Ribbon). That number includes Pink Ribbon winner Wardelle (2-1), who made her one career trip to Charles Town a winning one when she scored in the Pink Ribbon. She is favored, along with entrymate Here’s Zealicious, to strike again on Tuesday. She’s lost her three starts since — all at double-digit odds — but she’s a 13-time winner who seemed to take to the track quite nicely, earning her career-best Beyer en route to an easy victory. Hymn Note (5-2) and Saturday Surprise (5-1) ran third and fourth, respectively, in the Pink Ribbon and return to try their luck in this event, and both could run well here. Two to consider as interlopers are Empress Hatsheput and Gold Edge. Empress Hatsheput (7-2), part of an entry with Wild Gabriella, ran down Saturday Surprise in the last race for both, has won two straight, and owns three wins over the strip. Trainer Javier Contreras claimed her for $12,500 two back, doubled her in price and won, and now looks for a handsome return on investment. How about Gold Edge (10-1)? The winner of the 2012 running of the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Lassie has lost nine straight since, and though she’s mostly kept better company, her last couple — in the Municipalities Mayors at Charles Town and in an allowance at Laurel — were not inspiring. Still, a return to her earlier form would give her a shot here…