Fillies vie for Black-Eyed Susan spot in Weber City Miss
Layla Noor. Photo by Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club.
From a Maryland Jockey Club release
Lael Stables’ homebred Layla Noor, unraced since finishing third behind multiple graded-stakes winner Wonder Gadot in the Demoiselle (G2) Dec. 2, will make her 3-year-old debut in Saturday’s $125,000 Weber City Miss at Laurel Park.
The Weber City Miss for 3-year-old fillies at about 1 1/16 miles is one of five stakes worth $550,000 in purses on the 11-race Spring Stakes Spectacular program. For the third straight year, it is a ‘Win and You’re In’ event for the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) May 18 at legendary Pimlico Race Course.
Highlighting Saturday’s card is the $125,000 Federico Tesio for 3-year-olds, a ‘Win and You’re In’ race for the $1.5 million Preakness (G1), the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, May 19 at Pimlico. Also on tap are the $100,000 Primonetta for female sprinters 3 and up on the main track and the $100,000 Henry S. Clark and $100,000 Dahlia at one mile on Laurel’s world-class turf course.
The Primonetta, Clark and Dahlia each received a $25,000 purse increase from 2017.
A dark brown or bay daughter of champion sprinter Midnight Lute, trained by Fair Hill, Md.-based Arnaud Delacour, Layla Noor won two of five starts at 2. She broke her maiden on the Saratoga turf last summer and was fourth behind Rushing Fall in the Jessamine (G3), both at 1 1/16 miles.
She overcame an early stumble and some traffic to rally for a 2 ¼-length triumph in a one-mile off-the-turf entry-level optional claiming allowance last November – her lone previous try at Laurel – that preceded the 1 1/8-mile Demoiselle, also on dirt, where she came with a wide late run.
“She won at Laurel last year and I thought she put a good performance on the dirt and it was good enough to go and try her in the Demoiselle and she finished a good third so I was happy with that,” Delacour said. “We gave her a little break and are bringing her back now.
“I think she can do both turf and dirt. She wasn’t like completely ready to take on the good fillies on the turf so we just waited and she seems like she’s coming along now so it could be a good spot to bring her back,” he added. “I need to see the race to see how she runs to determine if we should stay on the dirt or on the turf, but we’ve got options with her. She’s had a break, she’s coming back fresh so I hope for a good performance.”
Feargal Lynch, aboard for both her Laurel win and the Jessamine at Keeneland, gets the return call from Post 8 of nine. All fillies will carry 116 pounds.
D.J. Stable’s Blue Union Rags, a chestnut daughter of 2012 Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Union Rags, will make her stakes debut in the Weber City Miss. She has won her only two starts of 2018, both coming over Laurel’s main track, breaking her maiden Jan. 27 and coming back with an optional claiming allowance victory going about 1 1/16 miles March 4.
Blue Union Rags made five starts as a 2-year-old, three of them on turf, and had a second and two thirds before finding her stride this year. Both wins came under Laurel’s winter-spring meet-leading rider Jorge Vargas Jr., who has the mount again from Post 3.
“We’ve always known she wanted two turns, she wanted more ground. Unfortunately I had to throw her on the grass to get that early on, because the longer races weren’t going on the dirt,” trainer John Servis said. “She ran pretty good on the grass so we thought maybe she’s a grass filly. Then I missed a little time with her and we got to Florida so I sprinted her once and she ran OK, but then I put her back on the grass and she didn’t run well so that’s when we decided just to freshen her a little bit and get her back on the dirt long and she came right around.
“She’s gotten a lot better, this filly. She’s trained very good, she’s happy and she’s ready to run. She needs to run. She’s full of herself so I expect a real good effort from her,” he added. “I think the longer for her the better it will be. The light’s gone on and she’s definitely getting better, but she’s going to have to prove it to us on Saturday.”
The Weber City Miss will mark the stakes debut for Ridgely Thomas’ Firth, making her second start since being claimed for $35,000 by trainer Lacey Gaudet out of a six-furlong sprint March 4 at Laurel. The trainer brought her back 27 days later for an optional claiming allowance going one mile where she led into deep stretch before finishing second, beaten a half-length, but was disqualified to fourth for drifting out late.
“She ran a huge race first time with us stretching out, with blinkers on and just got beat,” Gaudet said. “In all honesty what we had in mind when we claimed her was to put her on the grass. She’s pretty much bred to try the grass again but she was training really well and tearing the barn down so we thought if the a-other-than is there let’s get a race into her instead of just continuing to train her.
“She was 30-1 that day and she had no shot but the filly has been really, really good since coming into the barn and she’s woken up a lot. She ran a huge race and came out of it great,” she added. “At this point I think a lot of the 3-year-olds are on the same level so I don’t think it’s out of the question but she’s clearly going to have to improve. [Jevian] Toledo rode her last time and he said he thought she’s going to be even better going two turns. She showed so much speed last time so he thought it would actually really help her.”
Toledo will ride Firth back from Post 5.
Conrad Farms’ Shamrock Rose won the Ontario Debutante in her career debut and was second in the Mazarine (G3) last fall over Woodbine’s synthetic surface. She has raced twice this year for Canadian Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse, finishing fourth in the one-mile Busher and second in the six-furlong Cicada 22 days apart last month on Aqueduct’s main track.
“She broke her maiden in a stake and came back and was second in a stake last time in New York. She’s a nice filly and we’re just still trying to see where she fits in,” Casse said. “She’s kind of good on everything but her dirt races have been fairly good in New York. She’s a talented horse. She can do a little bit of everything. She definitely has run against better horses. I don’t know how she’ll stack up there but we’ll give it a go.”
Empress Livia, a Penn National maiden winner in the slop Feb. 24; Goodonehoney, a winner first time out going six furlongs March 24 at Laurel; graded-stakes tested Indy Union, unraced since finishing sixth in the Demoiselle; Stakes On a Plane, fourth in the one-mile Beyond the Wire March 17 at Laurel; and Stormologist, a one-mile optional claiming allowance winner March 31 at Laurel, round out the field.