by Frank Vespe
Score one — no, make that two –for the home team.
Both Laurel Park undercard stakes today were won by locally based horses.
In the Wide Country, a seven-furlong test for three-year-old fillies, Gypsy Judy, trained by Robin Graham, stalked the pace before romping to a three-length victory at odds of 6-1. One race later, in the Miracle Wood for three-year-olds going one mile, Donald Barr trainee Savvy Street logged a nose victory in a four-horse photo at 3-1 odds. Both horses are based at Laurel Park.
For Graham, who trains Gypsy Judy for owner-breeder James Hibbert, it was the continuation of a strong weekend that began with Lady Sabelia’s win in Saturday’s Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap.
“I was a little bit worried about backing up to seven furlongs,” said Graham. “But it’s been long enough between races, she was just real sharp.”
Indeed, on a deep, slow track — running time for the seven furlongs was 1:25.75 — that Gypsy Judy was backing up in distance might have worked to her advantage.
“As slow as the track was today, I think backing up from a mile might have made us a little bit fitter,” said Graham.
The win marked the third stakes win, of six contested during the weekend, for jockey Horacio Karamanos, two of which came for Graham. A pair of New York shippers — Hot City Girl and Diannestillworks — ran second and third. Gypsy Judy paid $14.80 to win and topped a $65.80 exacta.
Graham, who called the weekend “absolutely nuts,” added, “It’s terrific fun doing it here at home with your friends and all that stuff. It is really cool.”
One race later, the Miracle Wood, which, with two scratches, included just six runners, ended up being a thriller. Just a half-length separated the first four finishers, with Savvy Street and Forest Boyce getting the nose in front.
It was the first stakes win for Savvy Street, a son of Street Sense owned by Barbara Houck, and his third overall from six starts. He has now earned nearly $120,000.
“It went like I planned it,” said Barr. “I wanted to bring him off the pace a little bit and Forest [jockey Forest Boyce] is the best at that. It was a tough race. The scratch of one of the favorites helped, but my horse has been improving over time.Savvy Street bided his time in fourth behind moderate fractions, just a couple lengths behind Bodhisattva, who was solo on the lead. Golden Years, the West Virginia-bred who went off as the 4-5 favorite, tracked the leader in second.
As the horses straightened for home, Governmentshutdown, in third, checked out, and Measured, in fifth, ran on evenly.
That left the other four horses to slug it out with Savvy Street just nosing out late-running Combat Diver, Golden Years, and Bodhisattva. Savvy Street paid $8.00 to win and topped a $49.00 exacta.
Jockey Forest Boyce, who shipped in from her Fair Grounds base today and rode Savvy Street for the first time in a race, said that she’d always “thought a lot of” the horse.
“He had a clear lane at the top of the stretch and he was really coming on when I asked him,” she explained. “It looked like there were horses everywhere in front of us. But we got to our spot and he really dug in to win the head-bob.”
Barr said that his charge would get a break after a busy period. And then?
“I’m excited to see him go two turns,” he said. “This is his last one-turn race. We hope to go to Pimlico and see what happens.”