Perhaps the biggest story in Saturday’s grassy, six-furlong, $100,000 Laurel Dash is who’s not coming to dinner.
For the first time in five years, millionaire Ben’s Cat, having run in the Grade 3 Turf Monster on Labor Day, will not contest the race. Thus, for the first time in five years, he won’t be the post time favorite.
Ben’s Cat’s shadow’s loomed large over this event, as he’s won two of the last four runnings and finished second or third in the other two. So perhaps it’s no surprise that in his absence, the race has attracted a crowded, and wide open, field of a dozen.
Who will play the leading role?
Perhaps it will be one of two horses who recently faced off in the My Frenchman at Monmouth Park. Jamie Ness trainee Oak Bluffs (3-1 morning line) ran his win streak to four with a head score in the $72,000 event. That gave him six wins — and two seconds — from nine turf starts. Ancil (6-1) also ran well in the My Frenchman, narrowly missing in game effort. The Joan Scott trainee, a stakes winner on the turf, has now earned nearly $300,000. Trevor Mccarhty will ride Oak Bluffs, while Taylor Hole rides Ancil.
Alternatively, perhaps one of a pair of Bruce Brown-trained runners will prove best. Night Officer (5-1), a Maryland-bred son of Officer, most recently ran a good second to Ben’s Cat in the Mister Diz over the strip, and he’s won three of six at the trip. Forest Boyce will ride. Brown also brings Spring to the Sky (4-1), who’s been running against arguably better company — including three straight finishes behind razor-sharp Shore Runner — but may have lost a step from his best efforts a year ago. Mike Luzzi will ride.
The rest of the field all are in double-digit odds. Among them:
- Choctaw Chuck (10-1), the Kevin Rice trainee whose best efforts are in range but who is just one-for-eight on the grass;
- A P Elvis (12-1), trained by Thomas Iannotti. This old-timer, who’s ground out nearly $300,000 in career earnings without winning a stake, enters on a two-race winning streak;
- Majestic Hussar (15-1), trained by William Campbell, is a half-brother to Joes Blazing Aaron, who earned more than $400,000 on the lawn, and Tiz Sardonic, who earned over $200,000. But this runner has not yet tried the grass in 19 career starts.
- Against the Win (15-1), trained by Arnaud Delacour. He’ll need to step it up here to compete, but he has won three of four sprinting on the grass and, with just six career starts, still can improve.
Post time for the Laurel Dash is 5:11.