Lewisfield “doing great,” looking to take big step in Maryland Sprint
Lewisfield won the Not for Love Stakes at Laurel Park for his first stakes win. Photo by Laurie Asseo.
by Ted Black
Typically when horses arrive from Charles Town on Preakness Day at Pimlico Race Course they are often quickly dismissed by the betting public. But those who quickly discard Lewisfield when he goes postward in the Grade III, $150,000 Maryland Sprint Stakes on the Preakness Stakes undercard simply based on his home track may soon regret not giving the Jeff Runco trainee a second look.
The Maryland Sprint is also the first race in the dirt sprint division of the revitalized Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships (MATCH) Series. The first two races of the new MATCH, the Jim McKay Turf Sprint and Skipat Stakes, took place Friday at Pimlico; and the fourth MATCH race of the weekend, The Very One Stakes for female turf sprinters, will take place as race 11, one race after the Maryland Sprint.
A four-year-old Great Notion gelding trained by Runco for owner-breeder Linda Zang, Lewisfield has won both of his starts this year and prevailed in five of seven career outings with earnings just shy of $161,000. He has been idle since winning the Not For Love Stakes at Laurel Park on the St. Patrick’s Day card on March 17 and he has actually won four of five starts at Laurel after romping home 20 lengths clear in a maiden special weight event at Charles Town last August in his second start.
“He’s been doing great since his last start,” Runco said. “I had briefly considered trying him in the [Grade II, $500,000] Churchill Downs Handicap on Derby Day, but I really didn’t think anyone could beat Imperial Hint in there. As it turned out, that horse just never fired, so I might have had a chance. But this race on Saturday at Pimlico has really been the target all along. He’s training great and I’m anxious to see how he does in there.”
In actuality, Lewisfield is hardly going to attain longshot status in the Maryland Sprint and he is weighted as the 7-2 third choice on the morning line. Long Haul Bay, hero of the Grade III Bay Shore Stakes 13 months ago and a winner of his four-year-old debut at Aqueduct last month, is the 2-1 morning favorite for trainer Chad Brown, while Switzerland is the 5-2 second choice in the midst of a three-race win streak for trainer Steve Asmussen, although the Maryland Sprint marks the stakes debut for the Speightstown gelding. Long Haul Bay has won three of four starts overall, while Switzerland owns a 3-2-3 slate from 10 lifetime tries.
“Looking at the past performances, it looks like Chad Brown’s horse is going to be tough,” Runco said. “He already has a graded stakes win and he won his last start. Switzerland has won his last three, so he looks like he is coming into it pretty good. But I’m happy with the way Lewisfield has trained since his last start. He’s really been getting over the track good here and he should be right there if he runs his race.”
With all due respect to multiple West Virginia-bred stakes winners Moonlit Song and Charitable Annuity, Lewisfield perhaps owns the distinction as the best horse on the grounds at Charles Town and there is a good chance that his continued success in Maryland will likely mean that he may not make one start over the West Virginia oval this year. Lewisfield tuned up for the Maryland Sprint with a 35.6 breeze on May 11, nine days after he got four furlongs in 47.8. He also had two sharp works in April, getting a half in 48.6 on April 19 and three furlongs in a crisp 34.6 on April 6.
“He’s a Maryland-bred and he’s always shown a lot of ability and he’s proven that he can compete in races in Maryland,” Runco said. “I doubt there will be anything for him up here [at Charles Town] unless he stretches out. But right now he’s doing really good training here and he’s been able to ship to Maryland compete well down there. I know will be his first start in graded stakes, but he’s going to be right there if he runs his race. It just all depends how the race sets up.”
Speaking of Maryland-breds, Lewisfield will be one of three in the race on Saturday along with Sonny Inspired and Laki, both of which will be genuine outsiders at post time and listed at 20-1 and 15-1, respectively, on the morning line. Of the trio, Lewisfield is clearly coming into the Maryland Sprint in peak form. He prevailed by a length as the 3-2 favorite in the Not For Love while getting the six furlongs in 1:09.13 and six weeks earlier he romped home six lengths clear in an allowance affair by drilling the six panels in 1:08.95 as the odds-on choice.
“This race on Saturday will be his toughest test so far,” Runco said. “He’s been training great and he’s been getting a little better with every start. I’m really pleased with the way he’s been training. There looks like there is plenty of speed in there, so hopefully he can work out a trip. If he runs his race, I’m confident that he will be right there at the finish.”