“Good jocks in the room”: Local riders sweep Laurel stakes
by Ted Black
Among the seven stakes races on the Maryland Fall Festival of Racing card on Saturday afternoon at Laurel Park, local jockeys may have been overlooked on paper throughout the day but throughout the program they more than held their own by winning all of them with horses ranging from an odds-on favorite to a dramatically overlooked 25-1 shot. Their success came as no surprise to the group.
In the first stakes race on the card, the $100,000 Selima Stakes for two-year-old fillies on the turf, Wise Gal benefited from patient handling early from jockey “Cowboy” Steve Hamilton and rallied five-wide in the lane to score in 1:09.43 for the six furlongs. A juvenile daughter of Einstein trained by Dove Houghton for owner-breeder Eric J Wirth, Wise Gal remained unbeaten in two career outings after having posted an 18-1 upset over the Laurel lawn in her career debut on August 11.
Two races later on the card Snowday (Daniel Centeno) rallied from well off the pace to forge a mild 3-2 upset in the $100,000 Laurel Dash for older male sprinters. The Monmouth Park invader trained by J. Willard Thompson for owner Quiet Winter Farm notched his third win in four starts this year after getting the six furlongs in 1:09.02. The seven-year-old Falco gelding finished third in the Grade 3 Turf Monster at Parx last out after capturing the $63,000 My Frenchman Stakes at Monmouth and his victory in the Laurel Dash was the first of two stakes wins for Centeno.
“When we turned for home I knew we were in a good spot,” Centeno said. “My horse had settled into a good spot and I was able to get him out toward the middle of the course. It seemed like the middle part of the turf course was good today. I think the course was playing fair, but the middle seems to be the best.”
One race later in the $150,000 All Along Stakes for fillies and mares, On Leave lived up to her role as the 3-5 favorite when she rallied from midpack to score by two lengths by getting the one-mile and one-sixteenth in a solid 1:40.24 for her second win in five starts this year. A four-year-old daughter of War Front trained by Shug McGaughey, III, for owner-breeder Stuart Janney, III, On Leave notched her third stakes score and impressed jockey Forest Boyce who had climbed aboard her for the first time.
“Anytime you ride for Shug, you know they’re ready,” Boyce said. “You never have to worry. All you have to do is make sure to stay out of trouble and then the horse will do the rest.”
Then one race later on the card, Always Thinking posted the biggest upset of the day when she rallied from well off the pace to forge a 25-1 upset under Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado in the $100,000 Sensible Lady Stakes on the lawn. One of two fillies in the field that slipped into the race off the also eligible list, Always Thinking notched her second win in six starts this year, and the daughter of Street Sense pushed her seasonal earnings toward $100,000 for trainer Thomas Albertrani for owner Godolphin Racing LLC and impressed Prado her late surge.
“She had come out of some tough races [the Grade III Violet at Monmouth] and she settled well down the backside,” Prado said. “When I steered her into the lane she still had plenty left. This is a good jockey colony here. There’s a lot of good, young riders here. They’re definitely a lot younger than me. But its a good group.”
Then one race later on the card, Canessar (Feargal Lynch) made an impressive United States debut when he rallied from well off the pace to run down Infinite Wisdom and loose leader Renown in the lane to score by two lengths in 2:26.33 for the one-mile and one-half. A four-year-old Kendardgent gelding trained by Arnaul Delacour for owner Guy Pariente, Canessar continued the stellar day for local riders.
“There are a lot of good riders here,” Lynch said. “Anytime a lot of these horses ship in and they don’t send a jockey down from New York or New Jersey to ride, I think the other trainers know they can get a quality jockey here. There are a lot of good trainers in Maryland and they have their horses ready to run. I know Arnauld always does a good job with his horses. This one was certainly ready for a big effort today.”
One race later jockey Horacio Karamanos guided Chublicious to a determined victory in the Grade III, $250,000 Frank DeFrancis Memorial Dash at six furlongs on the main track. A six-year-old Hey Chub gelding trained by Claudio Gonzalez for owner Davis Gruskos, Chublicious recorded his first graded stakes victory and gave Karamanos a doubly memorable victory after inheriting the mount earlier in the week when Victor Carrasco was injured in a five-horse spill at Delaware Park.
“When I set him down, he really dug in,” Karamanos said. “I didn’t want to use him too early because I knew there was plenty of speed inside me [with Awesome Banner and Blu Moon Ace]. I just kept him clear and turning for home I knew I had a good chance to win it. He had never won a big stakes like this before.
“I was lucky to get the mount because Victor was unlucky the other day,” Karamanos continued. “I have been texting him the last few days. He can’t talk. He’s still in the hospital and he’s on a lot of medications. But he can text and he wished me good luck on this horse. I hope he comes back soon. We have a close group of jockeys here. We ride together all year. We spend a lot of time in the jocks’ room together. We’re all very competitive, but we’re also friends.”
In the last of the stakes races on the card, Therapist overcame a slow start and rallied from midpack while gradually angling to the center of the track to capture the $100,000 Laurel Futurity at six furlongs on the grass. A New York-bred juvenile son of Freud trained by Christophe Clement for owner-breeder Oak Bluff Stables, Therapist prevailed for the second time in as many starts this year and gave Centeno his second stakes victory on the card.
“He seems like he’s going to be a nice horse,” Centeno said. “I talked with Christophe the other day and he told me he acts good and trains good and was okay. If he had broken a little better, he might have been able to do it easier. But he broke a step slow and then we had to rally on the far turn and he closed a lot of ground late. He seems like a good horse and that was only his second start.”
Centeno has been a fixture in the Maryland Jockey Club colony for the past three years and says the group has plenty of ability which explains why trainers are not shy about using local jockeys when others may not be available.
“There are a lot of good riders in that room,” Centeno said. “It’s a very talented colony. There are a lot of serious riders, real professionals in that room. Anytime you step out onto the track you know that you have to ride a good race to win because if you don’t someone else will beat you.”