Salty locals to contest Bender Memorial Stakes

by | Dec 8, 2016 | Breaking, Maryland, MD Racing, Racing

Sonny Inspired won the Ben’s Cat Stakes earlier this year. Photo by Laurie Asseo. 

From a Maryland Jockey Club release

Final Prospect and Rockinn on Bye share two distinctions, one impressive, the other, dubious.

On the impressive side, both have shown the ability to compete with top rivals in stakes events.  Less impressive is this: neither wins all that much, and both are riding lengthy losing streaks heading into Saturday’s $75,000 Howard M. Bender Memorial Stakes for Maryland-bred or -sired runners contested at one mile over Laurel Park’s main track.

Still, both are among the logical contenders for win honors in the event.

Since opening his 4-year-old season with an optional claiming allowance victory on New Year’s Day at Laurel Park, Non Stop Stable homebred Final Prospect has gone winless in 10 subsequent starts for trainer Gary Capuano.

Capuano hopes the Jump Start gelding can end the year on a similarly successful note in Saturday’s $75,000 Howard M. Bender Memorial, a six-furlong sprint for Maryland-bred/sired horses 3 and older.

“He’ll get some time off after this race. He’s been here a year and a half, training and running, so he’ll get a couple months off. That’s the plan, anyway,” Capuano said. “Hopefully everything works out good, he runs good and we give him some time and have a fresh horse next year again.”

Final Prospect has yet to earn a stakes win, having run third in the 2014 First State Dash and second in the New Castle Stakes Sept. 10, both at Delaware Park. Last time out, he finished fourth to Midwest shipper Ivan Fallunovalot in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) Nov. 19 at Laurel.

“I thought he ran a great race in the De Francis. Those horses were better horses than him. It was a graded race, and I really didn’t have any other place to run him,” Capuano said. “He runs good all the time, it’s just hard to find the right races for him. This race being a Maryland-bred helps; of course, you’ve got Rockinn On Bye in there. He’s a solid horse. He doesn’t win much but he runs huge races against anybody. He’s going to be a tough one in there. We’ll see how it goes.”

Rockinn on Bye is winless in 2016, riding an 11-race winless skein, and has just six triumphs from 39 career starts.  But he’s also placed in two Grade 3 races this year, including the De Francis, when he was second, and has been in the triple in seven of 10 starts on the season.

“I thought he ran fabulous last time [in the De Francis],” trainer Stephen Casey said.  “He caught the one real nice horse (1-5 favorite X Y Jet) to finish second, and the winner just beat him. We couldn’t catch him, he ran lights out. He came out of the race in tip-top shape so I expect him to run huge when we run him back.”

He added, “It’s really unfortunate that he hasn’t won a stake this year and he hasn’t won a race this year. We’ve just been unlucky more than anything else. He keeps running his bang-up races but there always seems to be that one horse that we don’t get by. I think it’s just a matter of time.”

Also exiting the De Francis is fifth-place finisher Sonny Inspired, a multiple stakes winner who has run in the money in 16 of 21 lifetime starts at Laurel, with six wins. His victories this year have come in Laurel’s Fire Plug and Ben’s Cat, each at six furlongs.

“He’s doing well. We were disappointed in the race in the De Francis. I think it was my fault. I thought on four works he would be fit enough and he got pretty tired at the eighth pole,” trainer Phil Schoenthal said. “In hindsight, the inside was just not the place to be. He was trapped on the rail the entire way and he’s a horse that wants to be on the outside of horses anyway. Everything kind of stacked up against him. He came out here with a nice five-eighths work the other day and he’s going to be fitter, tighter and ready to run.”

[su_box title=”Howard M. Bender Memorial Stakes ENTRIES” style=”glass”]
  1. Any Court Inastorm (10-1) — Victor Carrasco/Jason Egan
  2. Morning Fire (5-2) — Brian Pedroza/Keith Nations
  3. Final Prospect (8-1) — Trevor McCarthy/Gary Capuano
  4. Struth (8-1) — Julian Pimentel/Mike Trombetta
  5. Rockinn on Bye (7-2) — Taylor Hole/Stephen Casey
  6. Jrock (12-1) — Feargal Lynch/Hugh McMahon
  7. Just Jack (8-1) — Alex Cintron/Hamilton Smith
  8. Jack’s in the Deck (20-1) — Malcolm Franklin/Robin Graham
  9. Sonny Inspired (4-1) — Jevian Toledo/Phil Schoenthal