by Ted Black
In more than one sense, jockey Jevian Toledo took an overland route to winning a pair of open stakes at Laurel Park on Saturday afternoon.
Neither of his two stakes victories came aboard a favorite, and the second of them came almost by accident.
Toledo climbed aboard Karen’s Silk for the $75,000 Marshua Stakes for three-year-old fillies, but most of the attention in the six-furlong affair for sophomores was focused on Lost Raven, ridden by Trevor McCarthy, a daughter of Uncle Mo trained by Todd Pletcher for the Repole Stable. In her only previous start over the track, Lost Raven had won the $100,000 Smart Halo Stakes by three lengths as the 4-5 favorite, and many expected a repeat performance in the Marshua.
But the public also gave Karen’s Silk a chance for an upset. The High Cotton filly trained by Michael Dilger for GRD Two Racing was the solid second choice, having won her two most recent starts, including an allowance event over the inner track at Aqueduct where she was dismissed at 30-1. On Saturday afternoon in the Marshua, Karen’s Silk proved that her previous tally was no fluke as Toledo handled her flawlessly.
Away in good fashion to sit behind dueling leaders Lost Raven and Aye a Song, last year’s champion West Virginia-bred freshman filly who was making her debut against open stakes company, Karen’s Silk bided her time down the backside and through the far turn. When Toledo asked the Dilger trainee for a response approaching the quarter pole, Karen’s Silk responded favorably by overtaking both Lost Raven and Aye a Song to score by over a length in 1:12.53 for the six furlongs.
“I thought those other two fillies might battle early,” Toledo said after guiding Karen’s Silk to her third straight win and third in four starts overall, pushing her career earnings to nearly $108,000. “My filly relaxed for me down the backside. I just let her run a little bit on the far turn and then I took her out toward the center of the track. I had to get after her a little bit inside the eighth pole, but she really dug in. She’s going to be a nice filly.”
Toledo was in the right place at the right time prior to the latest renewal of the $75,000 Fire Plug Stakes for older horses, the last local prep for the $250,000 General George here on President’s Day, February 15.
Toledo was initially slated to ride Any Court Inastorm in the Fire Plug, but that Jason Egan trainee was one of four horses to scratch from the race. Egan had intimated to Toledo two days earlier that he would likely scratch Any Court Inastorm, so the jockey inherited the mount on Sonny Inspired, who did not have a program rider. Toledo was very familiar with Sonny Inspired, a five-year-old Artie Schiller gelding trained by Phil Schoenthal for D Hatman Thoroughbreds. Sonny Inspired won twice in 10 starts in 2015, both with Toledo aboard, and then was later a good fifth in the De Francis Dash with Victor Carrasco in the irons.
When the gate opened in the Fire Plug, Jake N Elwood broke best of all to gain the initial advantage with Majestic Hussar in close pursuit along the rail. Toledo allowed Sonny Inspired to settle well off the pace and then gradually steered the Schoenthal trainee four-wide through the far turn. At the top of the lane as Jake N Elwood began to weaken and Majestic Hussar encountered traffic trouble along the fence and then was steered widest of all in the lane, Sonny Inspired swept to command nearing the furlong pole and then held safe the troubled Majestic Hussar to score by over a length in 1:10.95 for the six panels.
“I didn’t know if there was a lot of speed inside me, but I thought this horse could settle back and make one run,” Toledo said after guiding Sonny Inspired to his first win of the season and his fifth in 27 career starts, pushing his lifetime bankroll to nearly $300,000. “He always tries hard. I talked to Jason this week and he said he might scratch his horse, so I told Phil if he needed someone let me know.”
Schoenthal, who suggested that Sonny Inspired would probably skip the General George, said that an equipment change might have been the key.
“He’s just a real, honest, hard-trying horse,” Schoenthal said of his charge, who has been in the money in 17 of 27 lifetime starts. “He’s always been really consistent. But the difference was we put the blinkers back on him today. I took the blinkers off for his last two starts and he just didn’t run well.”
After his fifth place finish in the De Francis, Sonny Inspired was an indifferent fourth against allowance foes. He was bred in Maryland by Mr. and Mrs. Charles McGinnes.
Meanwhile, for Toledo, being in the right place at the right time proved a winning strategy.
“It worked out okay,” he said. “It’s not easy to win any stakes, so winning two in one day is special.”