New.Pick5.PIMIt won’t be too hard for one Laurel Park bettor to find the holiday spirit this year.

A sharp-eyed gambler was the lone player to nail Laurel Park’s Jackpot Pick 5 yesterday, giving himself (or herself) a $75,273.94 payday just a week before Christmas.  Merry Christmas, indeed.

Laurel’s Jackpot Pick 5 pays out to a single, unique winning ticket.  If there is no winning ticket — or if there are multiple winners — 40 percent of that day’s pool carries over, with 60 percent paid out to that day’s winners or “best of” players.

On Thursday, fairly logical horses won three of the five legs — Germaniac (5.20-1) in the fifth, Stormin Wendy (8-5) in the sixth, and Bodhisattva (3-2) in the eighth — but the winner had to suss out two horses with double-digit odds to knock down the wager.

In the seventh, a maiden special weight for two-year-old fillies, bettors had to choose among seven first starters and two horses that had run poorly in their debuts.  They settled on one of the latter, Rose Essence, as the 1.90-1 favorite.  And they completely ignored Cool Tears, a Graham Motion-trained daughter of Cool Coal Man, making her 13.30-1.  But Cool Tears chased the pace around the turn, engaged with the leader in the lane, and took over in the last sixteenth to win by a couple.

In the day’s final race, a weak $5,000 conditioned claiming event, Play Like a Raven didn’t much figure, having having lost 15 consecutive races dating back to last year and owning a record of two wins from 32 starts.  But the daughter of Dance With Ravens, trained by Sherry Rudolph, simply dominated the field of nine, rallying from sixth to a decisive six-length score.  She paid $23 to her relatively few backers and locked in a big score for one bettor.

The $75,000+ payoff was the wager’s second highest this year.

Our advice: don’t spend it all in one place.


The day’s most impressive winner might have been Stellar Wind, the two-year-old filly trained by Donald Barr for owner Barbara Houck.  She blitzed a decent-looking field of maidens by nearly nine lengths after an eye-catching finish.  She navigated the one mile journey in 1:38.55, essentially the same time that two-year-old colts managed in an allowance later on the card.  And she zipped the last quarter-mile in a sharp 24.01 seconds…