In Focus: Wagering Laurel Park “Class on the Grass” Stakes
Our In Focus Guide offers the most in-depth analysis and commentary on the big stakes on “Class on the Grass” stakes day at Laurel Park. All photos by The Racing Biz.
Race 3 – Edward P. Evans Stakes
RACE PARTICULARS: Race 3 (2:10pm EDT), $75,000 purse for VA-breds/VA-sired 3-years-old and upward for, 1 mile (Turf)
- #3 – Rose Brier (2-5): Mth shipper is defending champ who is a perfect 4 for 4 in these stakes races at Lrl restricted to VA bred/sired runners; has placed in multiple graded stakes but this 8-year-old is winless after three starts in ’17 albeit while facing much better than he will today
- #4 – Special Envoy (2-1): Appears to be one in here with the best chance to upset the top pick but has finished 1-3 lengths behind that one in all four previous meetings; will need to be more forwardly placed with anticipated slow early fractions
- #1 – Speed Gracer (15-1): Lightly raced 3-year-old hasn’t finished better than sixth since maiden victory that came 5 races back sprinting on Lrl lawn last Oct.; in most recent two outings stretched out to longer distances for which he was bred and showed improvement
- #5 – Irsaal (30-1): Just four turf starts in 41 race career with best finish a third-place effort behind Rose Brier and Jump Ship in restricted stakes last Fall; jock should try to steal it on the front end as this 7-year-old possess early speed that his competitors do not
THE REST OF THE FIELD
#2 – Jump Ship (30-1): Runner-up to prohibitive favorite in here, Rose Brier in a similar stakes last Fall but has not built on that success, failing to hit the board competing in AlwN1x company… #6 – Officer’s Oath (30-1): Exits a successful steeplechase campaign (3:2-0-1) which followed his fifth place effort in this event last year when 72-1; smart turf rider takes reins for the first time and could help his chances today… #7 – Galaxy Express (30-1): Still eligible for N2L races, will try to get his trainer her first win of ’17; usually does all of his running late on the lawn which could be a detrimental to his chances as the early pace will likely yield slow fractions
Race 5 – Nellie Mae Cox Stakes
RACE PARTICULARS: Race 5 (3:10pm EDT), $75,000 purse for VA-bred/VA-Sired fillies & mares 3-year-olds and upward, 1 mile (Turf)
- #8 – Queen Caroline (7-5): Won this event last year (pictured above, photo by Laurie Asseo) following her maiden win then reeled off two more victories but has failed to hit the board since while facing much better than she will in here
- #1 – Armoire (9-5): Made MD racing debut a winning one on Black-Eyed Susan Day v. a salty group of optional claimers; 3 wins from 6 career starts and a trainer who does best work with turf runners (22%)
- #5 – Secret Or Not (12-1): Makes third start after a 7-month layoff as speed figures continue to climb; runner-up in this event last year when 13-1 going 1 1/16 miles at Pim; 1 for 1 at this one mile distance; prefers a little “give” in the turf grass and gets HOF rider E. Prado back in the irons who may put this gal on the early lead without much pressure and make every pole a winning one
- #6 – Magician’s Vanity (12-1): Just 2 for 36 lifetime but this late-blooming 5-year-old won two races back and then had plenty of excuses in latest outing; is a better horse now than the one who was twice an Also-Ran behind (#3) Complete St.
THE REST OF THE FIELD
#2 – Sweet Sandy (15-1): Need to draw a line through last two outings as they were washed off the turf after being claimed for $20k; came on late to get fourth-place purse in this event last year when run at Pim 1 /16 miles… #3 – Complete St.(8-1): Has hit the board in half of her outings over the Lrl turf (8:1-2-1) as those two runner-up efforts came with today’s rider, Forest Boyce in the saddle; an unlucky fifth in ’16 Nellie Mae Cox has a big chance to makes amends … #4 – Grace Is Ready (15-1): In over her head when 57-1 in G3 Gallorette, Preakness Day and ran to those odds; only two victories came sprinting on tur, one via DQ; a minor share would be an accomplishment.… #7 – Street Miz (30-1): 0 for 9 on the grass and lone win against winners came in a $5kN2L on the dirt; on a positive note she earned career best turf speed figure in latest start… #9 – Andrasta (20-1): Got short end of two head-bobbing finishes in last two outings while speed earning career best figures in those two give a glimmer of hope she’s matured beyond the two drubbings received in similar stakes events last year
Race 6 – Jameela Stakes
RACE PARTICULARS: Race 6 (3:40pm EDT), $75,000 purse for MD-bred/MD-Sired fillies & mares 3-year-olds and upward, 6 furlongs (Turf)
- #1 – Everything Lovely (9-5): Bridesmaid in this event last year behind #8 Lovable Lady but can turn the tables as this field came up light on early speed so jock D. Centeno should have her on early lead with enough in the tank to hold off late comers
- #5 – If I Was a Boy (20-1): Making turf debut when she’s flourished so far on dirt (15: 2-7-2) though needs to overcome “Second-itis”; past grass works indicate this is not a “shot in the dark” try as trainer is 2 for 6 with runners in turf debut, and this runner’s a half to turf stakes winner Debbie’s Tude; could surprise at a price
- #3 – Devilish Love (6-1): Tough spot for ’17 debut but trainer A. Dutrow will have her fit based on work pattern at her Bel home track; won MD Million Ladies last Oct. but that was going 3 furlongs further; was runner-up in minor stakes at Bel in lone 6 furlong turf try
- #6 – My Sistersledge (10-1): A lot to like about this 3-year-old facing her elders for first time, makes first start w/ Lasix after 7 starts all on turf at GP; relished being stretched out to two turns and seemed up to task when thrown into stakes but encountered traffic trouble when making late move
THE REST OF THE FIELD
#2 – Le Weekend (15-1): Will be heard from in the early stages but speed figures from both turf starts don’t measure up rivals in here; might benefit from the additional furlong; will be interesting to see if this top local 3-year-old is up to the task facing much better… #4 – Rockin Jojo (20-1): Makes turf debut in twentieth career start and bloodlines don’t indicate she’ll embrace the opportunity, especially cutting back to a sprint as she wants more real estate; not worth the gamble despite winning two state-bred stakes at long odds… #7 – Daylight Ahead (5-1): Speedster can hang with others on or near the lead early but lacks the stamina and class to stay on; would behoove jock K. Davis to stalk the pace as this filly did successfully going 6 furlongs on dirt… #8 – Lovable Lady (7-2): Won this event last year in turf debut (pictured above, photo by The Racing Biz) taking advantage of a quick early pace which may not happen today; third race after layoff angle and trainer M. Eppler has won with 32% of her runners in minor stakes races over the past year #9 – Thissongisaboutyou (30-1): Still eligible for N2L races but owner/breeder willing to take chances v. other MD bred/sired runners; switch hot rider V. Carrasco may yield dividends… #10 – Holiday Blues (15-1): In tough as she has finished behind a trio in here but those were on dirt w/ one exception; should enjoy added distance based on late running style but needs to run a career best to beat this field… #11 – Look Who’s Talking (30-1): Lone turf win from 5 such starts came in career debut over this Lrl lawn and would have to greatly improve off recent turf efforts just to hit the board
Race 8 – White Oak Farm Stakes
RACE PARTICULARS: Race 8 (4:40pm EDT), $75,000 purse for VA-bred/VA-sired 3-year-olds and upward, 5½ furlongs (Turf)
- #4 – What a Wildcat (5-1): Appears to have drawn in with half dozen others who all will be forwardly placed and reunited w/ jock S. Hamilton who will take back early and unleash a furious rally in deep stretch trying to catch the leg-weary leaders; ran career best speed figure over this Lrl turf course
- #7 – Two Notch Road (4-5): Defending champ (pictured above, photo by Laurie Asseo) has raced just three times since and might be asking a lot for a 10-year-old to be in top form in first race in 7-months; only OTB finish on Lrl lawn in 6 starts was on a good v. firm turf
- #1 – Available (7-2): Hard to like this gray for the WIN due to 2 for 32 career mark on turf; has a runner-up and two SHOW efforts in the three VA bred/sired turf sprint stakes on his resume’; usually keen out of the gate, jock F. Boyce may want to avoid getting caught up in suicidal pace and make late run which he’s shown in the past
- #3 – Lawyer Dave (10-1): Claimed for a mere $5k two races back by connections who bred, sold, bought back and raced this 8-year-old gelding going back to 2012 on turf; one must believe this event was in mind when they patiently turned him out then used dirt sprint just 17 days ago as a paid workout; will sweeten exotic payouts
THE REST OF THE FIELD
#2 – Rare Art (12-1): Prx shipper has been unlucky as 3 of last 4 attempts to run on turf were washed off; should be among a crowded early pace scenario after stumbling at start in first outing for trainer J. Guerrero (23% in ‘17)… #5 – Lime House Louie (20-1): 3-year-old ’17 debut was first v. elders and was not a factor; needs to find form when he won restricted stakes turf stakes last Sept. but must vastly improve speed rating as well… #6 – Tiz Our Time (15-1): Mare takes on the boys having never crossed the Finish Line first as lone win came via DQ has been no worse than third in past 8 starts which includes a SHOW placing in a similar F&M restricted stakes last Fall when 58-1… #8 – Fly E Dubai (30-1): Lone turf win came in career debut going one mile but appears this 3-year-olds future is sprinting; exit two synthetic surface sprints v. N2L
Race 9 – M. Tyson Gilpin Stakes
RACE PARTICULARS: Race 9 (5:10pm EDT), $75,000 purse for VA-breds/VA-Sired fillies and mares, 3-years-old and upward, 5½ furlongs (Turf)
- #7 Rapid Rhythm (4-5): Winner of last year’s Oakley at 1-2 odds figures to see similar action here. She’s been keeping much, much better company than these; two-back winner Lady Aurelia dusted males in the Group 1 King’s Stand Monday at Royal Ascot and last out winner Mississippi Delta now has four stakes wins. Figures to be rolling late and tough to contain under Feargal Lynch.
- #2 Do What I Say (15-1): A return to best form required to contend here but not out of the question on second off lengthy layoff. First two turf efforts suggested genuine talent, plus flexibility to lead or chase. Four to run back from her last all finished second or third in their follow-ups.
- #6 Ring Knocker (6-1): Half-sis to Early Grey, who won but was DQed from a maiden score on last summers Virginia/Maryland day, but she and her sibs are winless in 11 turf tries. One of her two turf tries wasn’t bad, beaten three lengths by the stakes-placed Tizanillusion, and this miss did win a stake earlier this year. On her second off a brief layoff, this Gary Gullo trainee has a chance to run well here.
- #10 Trish’s Wish (10-1): This Tim Shaw trainee has back class that fits here – she was second in the ’16 Oakley against similar, including Rapid Rhythm – but she’s working on a 10-race losing streak with declining speed figs. Backers might hang their hats on “third off a layoff” angle, but minor share is likely to be her high end.
THE REST OF THE FIELD
#1 Why Not Be Queen (15-1): Has lost five straight, most not close, at the second allowance level at KEE, FG, and CD, with declining speed figs. Ran a decent 4th in the ’15 Brookmeade around two turns, has done better work sprinting, but will need a big one here… #3 Awake the Day (8-1): Have to imagine trainer Bailes would have preferred to get a race or two in this More Than Ready mare before this event, but she didn’t post a work until three weeks ago. Was seventh, beaten less than four, in last fall’s Oakley against similar, but top three all return here. Turning tables figures to be a tough assignment, despite positive work tab… #4 Up Hill Battle (30-1): Aptly named filly is winless in four career tries on the lawn and has a career-best grass speed fig of 60, and neither of those figure to get it done here… #5 Perfect Trace (30-1): Another who figures to be up against it, this Pleasantly Perfect mare failed twice recently against $16,000 lifetime claimers, which means she’ll need a big step forward to have a say in here. Jockey Karamanos has been known to score at big prices on the lawn – but this big? #8 Kloonie (50-1): Wouldn’t be a Virginia-bred race without trainer Susan Cooney, but this sure is asking a lot of this sophomore Posse filly, who broke her maiden last out at Charles Town – on the dirt… with a Beyer speed fig of 34… whose siblings have never tried turf… whose dam never tried turf… #9 Sister Says (30-1): Nice effort last out to break her maiden in first turf try, closing from the clouds to win by a couple. That race produced two next-out winners, but this Keefe trainee hasn’t run since – more than two months ago… #10 Trish’s Wish (10-1): This Tim Shaw trainee has back class that fits here – she was second in the ’16 Oakley against similar, including Rapid Rhythm – but she’s working on a 10-race losing streak with declining speed figs. Backers might hang their hats on “third off a layoff” angle, but minor share is likely to be her high end… #11 Northern Eclipse (10-1): Lightly raced five-year-old has done her best work when closing into a pace, would need a career-best effort here… #12 Tiz Our Time (20-1): Tiz Wonderful filly was the show horse in last September’s Oakley, while still a maiden; it took her five more tries, a switch to dirt, and the DQ of rival Dirty Laundry for her to break her maiden, and follow-up, against allowance foes, was just so-so.
Race 10 – Mr. Diz Stakes
RACE PARTICULARS: Race 10 (5:40pm EDT), $75,000 purse for MD-bred/MD-sired, 3-year-olds and upward, 6 furlongs (Turf)
- #9 Phlash Phelps (3-1): Multiple stakes winner on the turf, though all going long – but note that he broke his maiden off an off-season layoff sprinting on the lawn, and that the runner-up that day has gone on to win a turf stake. Training ledger since he returned mid-April shows three bullets, and it’s likely that all systems are go.
- #5 Grandiflora (10-1): Made some progress late after being pretty much out of it most of the way last out in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint, but maybe the better race for comparison purposes is two-back third place effort – beaten a head – in an allowance race which included two of today’s rivals. Will need a pace to materialize in front of him.
- #10 Ben’s Cat (7-2): It’s clear this old-timer – 11 years old! – isn’t the horse he was a year ago when third in this event at 7-10 odds, but he’s still good enough that a seventh win in this event isn’t out of the realm. His two efforts this year are just OK, and two that finished ahead of him in the allowance test are both here. He’ll need some things to go right, and for the first time since ’15 will have a rider other than Trevor McCarthy aboard, in the form of Horacio Karamanos. (Pictured above winning this race in ’15, photo by Laurie Asseo.)
- #7 Jrock (12-1): Trainer Hugh McMahon does well with turf sprinters and produced a productive ’16 campaign with this guy. Winless so far this year, but we’re not inclined to judge the two-back effort too harshly on very soft going at Laurel; in third off a brief layoff, a return to better form easily a possibility here.
THE REST OF THE FIELD
#1 English Minister (10-1): Winless 2016 campaign include three near-miss runner-up efforts, one against stakes foes in the nine-furlong Find; this’ll be the season debut for a hard-hitter who nevertheless rarely wins and hasn’t run this short since ’14… #2 Blu Moon Ace (20-1): Jamie Ness trainee has run decent races on the turf and was sixth in this event last year, finishing behind two that return. Threw in the towel last out on the dirt, against talented Seymourdini, whose two ’17 wins are by a combined 26 lengths. Shows a couple of sharp works in the interim, and an improved effort here isn’t out of the question… #3 Rockinn On Bye (6-1): Rock Hard Ten gelding figures to appreciate the class relief here on drop from graded company but finished eighth in this event a year ago and will need to pass several that bested him that day… #4 Eyeplayeveryday (12-1): His career-best efforts have come around two turns but does own an off-the-bench win sprinting on the dirt, form he’ll need to replicate here in his first since last September’s Laurel Turf Cup. Trainer Komlo is 2-for-11 in the last five years off long layoffs, though this guy has just three modest works to ready for this… #6 Sonny Inspired (8-1): Last couple aren’t great, but this guy has plenty of back class and ran fourth in the allowance in which Grandiflora was third, less than a length farther back with trip troubles. Ran second in this event in ’14 and third in ’15 – back when Ben’s Cat was, you know, Ben’s Cat… #8 Concordia’s Way (20-1): Best result for this Bailes trainee in four turf tries was a show effort, he’s lost three straight to first allowance foes, and it’s hard to see a much better outcome here… #11 Talk Show Man (8-1): Ham Smith trainee actually hasn’t run badly in two starts since a 17-month layoff, though well-beaten in both at odds of 96-1 and 70-1. He won’t be anything like that here, and full bro Just Jack won twice sprinting on the lawn — but it’s tough to know what to expect from a horse making his first sprint start in four years and 27 starts… #12 (ae) Spartianos (6-1): This speedster rates a legit shot if he draws in, and in a field full of routers and closers, might be all by his lonesome on the lead. One of his beaten rivals from two-back score beat allowance foes next out.