Photo by Laurie Asseo.
by Frank Vespe
- Silverville (20-1) — This is a tough spot for this Tim Woolley trainee, who’s been in the money eight of nine starts. She won two back over the Monmouth lawn, but her first-ever stakes try — in the Flaming Page at Woodbine — wasn’t promising, a ninth-place finish, beaten by 17 lengths. She’s been working well enough at the Fair Hill Training Center for her season debut, and she’s shown the ability to fire fresh before, having broken her maiden in the first race of her ’15 season — but she’ll need to show more than she ever has to be in the mix here.
- Miss Bullistic (30-1) — This Ham Smith trainee looked like she would be a turf sprinting beast back in ’14 when, in successive races, she broke her maiden and then scored an 11-1 upset in the Selima while earning an 80 Beyer speed figure. But she’s only sprinted on the grass once in nine subsequent starts (earning the second highest Beyer of her career, a 78). She ran fourth against allowance foes on the dirt last out; the only three to run back from that March race ran against each other and finished three-five-seven. Her one try on the lawn beyond six furlongs was a last-place finish in last year’s Grade 3 Commonwealth Oaks. This filly has some talent, but it’s tough to make much of a case for her here.
- Ginger N Rye (20-1) — Sagamore Farm homebred has won two of five on the lawn and recorded her best efforts at a mile and 1 1/16 miles. She’s been training nicely at Laurel in preparation for this first race of her four-year-old season, and won her last, over the strip. In that allowance test, she did beat the talented Exaggerated, who was the only one of eight to run back who won next out — but that runner is clearly a sprinter who ran out of steam at the mile distance. She ran well but just missed in her season debut last year — and you have to believe her connections would be ecstatic with a result like that here.
- Nisharora (6-1) — This Irish-bred Excellent Art mare looked perhaps more promising at the start of her career than she’s turned out to be, but that’s not to say there’s nothing to like. She beat allowance rivals last out, in December, and the second through fourth place finishers returned against similar to run one-two-three. That last was a good effort; she was stalled behind horses at the quarter pole found a seam, had to angle farther out, and when finally clear, closed rapidly to prevail. She’s been training well down in Florida and will have Horacio Karamanos in the irons for trainer Kelly Rubley, who’s winless on the season (0 for 19).
- Gypsy Judy (15-1) — Four-year-old daughter of Kitalpha switches from Robin Graham’s barn to Eddie Graham’s, and we’ll see if the change of scenery works. Eddie Graham says he’s using this race “to gauge where I’m at.” This filly has had her moments — winning the Wide Country on the main track last year, finishing third, beaten less than a length, in the Penn Oaks — but interspersed have been some less good efforts. Her last two, on the dirt, were dismal, but she wouldn’t be the first horse who, given a taste of the turf, decided she didn’t like dirt anymore. Having raced in February perhaps gives her a fitness advantage over some in here, and if past is prologue, she figures to be winging it up front.
- Means Well (8-1) — Smart Strike mare hit her stride in the middle of last season, winning an allowance and posting a trio of solid efforts in graded company, though finishing out of the money in all. But she went off form at the end of the season, well-beaten twice in allowance company. She ran eighth in her final start of ’15, though she was wide on both turns — and that was a pretty rugged group: winner Strike Charmer is a Grade 3 winner, and runner-up Keri Belle won a Grade 3 race in her next start. She won her first start off the bench last year.
- Seeking Treasure (12-1) — Doug Matthews ships this runner to Laurel from Hawthorne in search of her first stakes win, her best to date a second-by-a-nose finish in the Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint last September. She ran second in her lone Laurel try to date, in November, as the favorite in starter allowance company and followed that up with a fifth in the Claiming Crown. Her first start this season wasn’t good, but it was an off-the-turf sprint, so nothing to hold against her. Julian Pimentel will ride.
- All in Fun (12-1) — McGaughey trainee has won two of nine but is working on a six-race losing streak. She ran well but was clearly second-best in a Gulfstream allowance — but winner Bride to Be is also here. Angel Cruz will ride a filly whose best effort to date was likely her runner-up finish behind talented Miss Temple City in the Hilltop last May — or her fifth-place finish, beaten just a length, in the Grade 2 Lake George at Saratoga. McGaughey sports a gaudy 12-for-36 record at Laurel and figures not to be here unless he’s in with a shot.
- Hope Cross (7-2) — Arnaud Delacour runner has been second or third seven times in 14 starts, while winning three of them, and has run well without breaking through in four straight stakes tries. Celestine, the show horse from her last, took the G2 Honey Fox next out. This runner didn’t have the cleanest of trips that day — rank and in traffic early, wide on the turns — but loomed a big threat in upper stretch before flattening out. Forest Boyce will ride a mare making her first start after switching over from Chad Brown’s super-productive barn; that switch is a bit of a red flag — nobody’s winning bigger with turf horses than Brown right now — but otherwise this runner has the look of a major player in here.
- Nakuti (3-1) — The tepid morning line favorite makes her first start in Graham Motion’s barn after a modestly successful career in Britain and France that included a win in the Group 3 Atalanta at Sandown Park. Her first North American start, in the G1 E.P. Taylor at Woodbine, was a solid effort, beaten less than three lengths after flattening out late in a distance that might be longer than her best. That was a tough spot — good rivals and a very slow pace that hindered her closing style. Two of her career wins are at the mile distance, but you have to imagine that this is a prep for a hoped-for big season. Motion wins at an 18 percent clip first after a trainer switch, and Trevor McCarthy is named to ride.
- Catcha Rising Star (20-1) — The “other” Motion trainee gave a decent accounting of herself in her first turf try when fourth in the faster of two divisions of the Little Silver Stakes at Monmouth last July, and the winner of that heat, Isabella Sings, has gone on to be a G2 winner. Notably: Motion has sent out seven starters in the last five years running in ungraded stakes off similar layoffs, and none has finished in the money. Alex Cintron will ride.
- Tela (15-1) — This Michael Matz trainee finished seventh in the Sand Springs last out, two spots, and four lengths, behind Hope Cross in the same race. One of seven to run back from her two-back allowance win has won their next start. This four-year-old Smart Strike filly has made only 11 starts and still has some upside, but this is a pretty tall order. Brian Pedroza will ride.
- Bride to Be (6-1) — Candy Ride filly has never been worse than second in five career starts, including three wins. The 13-hole is a problem — horses outside the seven-hole are 0-for-14 going a mile on the grass at Laurel this season — but her tactical speed could be a huge asset on a surface that’s played to speed so far. Only one runner has run back from her last, and one of five to run back from her two-back win has won next out. She still has plenty of upside and figures to get a stakes win sooner than later. Jevian Toledo will ride for trainer Alan Goldberg, who won last weekend’s Federico Tesio with Awesome Speed.
DAHLIA STAKES DETAILS
- Race 6, 3:53 p.m. EDT
- Fillies and mares, 3yo and up
- 1 mile, turf, $75,000 purse
- 14th running of a race named for Hall of Famer Dahlia, winner of the 1973 Washington, DC International. Dahlia was twice voted England’s horse of the year and was the 1974 champion US grass horse.
- Inaugurated in 1985, the Dahlia was not run between 1988 and 2005. The first eight runnings were at Laurel, while the five prior to this one were at Pimlico, with most runnings contested at one mile on the turf.
- 2015 winner: Nellie Cashman
- Stakes record (1 mile): Sweet Talker, 1:34 flat, 2006
- Bride to Be (6-1) — Tactical speed’s the key, as she stalks and pounces for her first stakes win, which would continue Jevian Toledo’s run of being involved in the outcome of stakes races.
- Nakuti (3-1) — The class of the field probably wins on best — but the concern here is that a speed-favoring turf course may undermine her late turn of foot, and the suspicion is that this is the prep with connections’ eyes towards bigger prizes down the road.
- All in Fun (12-1) — McGaughey doesn’t ship here without intending to win, and this Tapit filly had a good prep chasing our choice in here last out. Look for a step forward here.
- Hope Cross (7-2) — Forest Boyce and Arnaud Delacour are wining at a 43 percent clip together, and nobody’d blame you if that magic counted more in your ‘capping than this mare’s ofer record in stakes company.