From a Maryland Jockey Club release
Laurel Park will kick off the New Year with four $100,000 stakes races Saturday afternoon.
The most intriguing may be the What A Summer, which features three horses hoping to turn a good effort Saturday into a spot in the starting gate in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie here next month. The race also includes the top three finishers from a year ago.
Yet the other races also offer plenty to consider for the bettor.
Bakken is the 4-5 morning line choice to capture the $100,000 Fire Plug Stakes (race 6), a 6-furlong test for older horses. Chad Brown supplemented the son of Distorted Humor, who has three victories in seven starts, into the race. The 5-year-old has competed in four graded races, including a second place finish in the True North Handicap (G2) at Belmont Park and an eighth place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).
Cutty Shark (4-1) and Smash and Grab (5-1) appear to be the best local hopes. Cutty Shark finished first or second in half of his 14 starts a year ago, including a runner-up finish in the City of Laurel Stakes. The son of Old Fashioned comes into the race off an allowance score on December 19 for trainer Donald Barr.
“It is a little fast back. I wish I had another week but he is on his game right now,” Barr said. “The supplemented horse makes this a tough spot. He showed flashes as a younger horse but has started putting it together on a more consistent basis as the weather got colder. The last race didn’t take too much out of him. He does his best running just off the pace and I expect that is where we will be in this race.”
Smash and Grab won three of his final four races last year, all at Laurel, for trainer Damon Dilodovico. In the $350,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash, the son of Sharp Humor stumbled at the break and finished next to last but he came back to win an allowance test last month in wire-to-wire fashion.
Miss Mischief (3-1), who won three times last year for trainer Dale Capuano after she moved into his barn during the summer, is the likely choice in the $100,000 Nellie Morse Stakes (race 7). Graham Motion has entered Star Pearl (4-1), Zucchini Flower (6-1) and Unbound (10-1).
Stormin Monarcho earned the role as the favorite in the $100,000 Native Dancer Stakes (race 8) off three stakes victories a year ago, including the Richard Small Stakes at Laurel in November. The David Jacobson trainee is the 2-1 morning line choice. Last year, Jacobson runners won 14 races from just 25 starters at Laurel. Other contenders include Turco Bravo (9-2), Cerro (5-1), Elnaawi (6-1) and Cosmic Gold (8-1).