Dickie Small Stakes draws full starting gate
Admirals War Chest has won back-to-back runnings of the Maryland Million Classic. Photo by Laurie Asseo.
From a Maryland Jockey Club release
Multiple Grade 3 winner Tommy Macho, Canadian Classic winner Ami’s Holiday and 2013 Kentucky Derby (G1) runner-up Golden Soul are among a solid cast of 14 entered to run in a competitive edition of the $100,000 Richard W. Small presented by Samsung Business Saturday at Laurel Park.
The 16th running of the 1 1/8-mile Small for 3-year-olds and up is one of seven stakes worth $825,000 on an 11-race Fall Festival of Racing program highlighted by the $250,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) presented by Maker’s Mark.
Also on the card are the $100,000 City of Laurel presented by Fidelity First and $100,000 Safely Kept presented by Insight for 3-year-old sprinters; the $100,000 James F. Lewis III presented by Ourisman of Bowie and $100,000 Smart Halo presented by B&B Commercial Interiors for 2-year-olds and the $75,000 Geisha presented by Detail Finishes for Maryland-bred/sired females 3 year-olds and up at one mile.
Post time for the Fall Festival of Racing, which also includes four races over Laurel’s world-class turf course, is noon EST. A total of 142 horses were entered on the day, an average of 12.9 starters per race.
Paul Pompa Jr. and J Stables’ Tommy Macho won the 1 1/8-mile Discovery Handicap (G3) at 3 and opened his 4-year-old campaign with a 3 ¾-length victory in the Fred Hooper (G3) Feb. 6 at Gulfstream Park. The Todd Pletcher trainee underwent knee surgery following the race and made his comeback running last of five in the one-mile Kelso Handicap (G2) Oct. 8 at Belmont Park.
Ivan Dalos’ Ami’s Holiday is coming off a third-level optional claiming allowance victory Oct. 22 going 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland, where she raced near the lead throughout and was bumped in the stretch but was able to edge clear by a length. Winner of the Natalma (G3) as a 2-year-old, the 5-year-old Ontario-bred son of Harlan’s Holiday placed in the first two-thirds of Canada’s Triple Crown in 2014 before tasting victory in the final leg, the Breeders’ Stakes.
Charles Fipke’s homebred Golden Soul has not won in nine tries since closing his 4-year-old season with back-to-back allowance victories at Churchill Downs in November 2014. He was third in the Louisville Handicap (G3) last May, his best finish since a 34-1 runner-up effort behind Orb in the 2013 Kentucky Derby, and he was fifth in a Keeneland allowance Oct. 25 in his first start following a pair of races in Dubai over the winter.
Sharing topweight of 122 pounds with Tommy Macho is Dr. Stephen Sinatra’s Maryland homebred Admirals War Chest, who enters the race with back-to-back wins, including a second straight victory in the $150,000 Maryland Million Oct. 22 at Laurel. The most recent triumph improved him to 2-0 over the track, both wins coming at the Small distance.
“He loves that racetrack. He’s run his best races over that track. I think the surface must be similar to what he trains over because he just loves it. That track must have a little cushion to it or bounce to it because he just floats over it,” trainer Corby Caiazzo said. “It’s almost like he does it effortlessly and his stride looks a little bit longer at Laurel. I don’t know what it is about that track, but he loves it there.”
Front-running Admirals War Chest will break from Post 13 under regular rider Taylor Hole, one spot inside of Ami’s Holiday and Joe Bravo and a dozen away from Tommy Macho, who drew the rail with jockey Paco Lopez.
“There’s some really nice horses in the race. It’ll be a good race,” Caiazzo said. “He loves that track and he loves Maryland. We’ll just have to see what happens.”
Non Stop Stable’s Noteworthy Peach has been unable to recapture the form that saw him voted Maryland’s champion 3-year-old male of 2015 after finishing first or second in six of seven starts with four wins, including a six-length romp in the Jennings Handicap. Second to Small contender Bodhisattva in the Federico Tesio in April 2015, he has one win from five starts this year, a third-level optional claiming allowance July 30 that was taken off the grass. He was most recently fourth in the Governor’s Day Sept. 10 at Delaware Park.
“Their 4-year-old campaigns a lot of times are fairly tough on them. He hasn’t had a chance to run too many times. He didn’t have any conditions and I didn’t want to run him on the grass. We were able to run in those couple races at Delaware to kind of keep him running a little bit,” trainer Gary Capuano said. “The mile and an eighth might be fine. He’s never been the same two turns as he is at the one-turn mile, but he’s competitive anyway, so he’ll be in there doing well. He holds his own pretty good. He’ll be fine.”
Colts Neck Stables’ Grade 2-placed homebred Name Changer returns to stakes company in the Small following his 5 ¼-length romp in a second-level optional claiming allowance going about 1 1/16 miles Oct. 28 in his Laurel debut. Prior to that he ran third in the 1 1/8-mile West Virginia Derby (G2) and was a troubled 10th in the Smarty Jones (G3) Sep. 5 at Parx that preceded his recent win.
“He got banged around pretty good at Parx so he didn’t really run his race, but the last one was great. He breezed the other day and went great and came back great, so we’re all systems go,” trainer Alan Goldberg said. “We always thought very highly of him. The race in West Virginia he probably should have been second, but he got in a little bit of trouble there, too. He’s doing very well.”
Isabelle Haskell de Tomaso’s New Jersey homebred Irish Straight is entered to make his stakes debut in the Small for Fair Hill, Md.-based trainer Graham Motion. The gelded 4-year-old son of turf champion English Channel had run exclusively on grass until an 8 ½-length victory in an off-the-turf third-level allowance Oct. 17 at Parx.
Motion is giving Irish Strait, a winner of two straight and three of his last four dating back to last August, another try dirt in the Small. His half-brother, Irish War Cry, won his debut by 4 ½ lengths in 1:10.62 for six furlongs Nov. 11 at Laurel.
“He’s doing very well. This horse has been a little bit of a surprise to me. He’s not an overly impressive horse in the morning, but he certainly runs very consistently hard in the afternoons,” Motion said. “The last time he ran we experimented when it came off the grass and I thought he handled the dirt very well. His brother just won this week on the dirt, so maybe I should have tried him on the dirt a long time ago.
“It’s certainly going to be a big test for him because it’s going to be different than running against a bunch of grass horses on the dirt. I kind of wanted to find out going into the winter. I need to know which direction to go with him,” he added. “I think he’s a hard-nosed, blue-collar horse. He’s just a hard-knocker.”
Multiple stakes-placed Discreet Lover, For Greater Glory and Grasshoppin, He’s Achance, It Behooves Me and Sea Raven complete the field.