Laurel Park: Picks and ponderings Jan. 26, 2019
by Frank Vespe
In which we pick the races from Laurel Park each day…
Post time: 12:30 p.m.
Carryovers: Super Hi 5 — $1,855
Stat of the day: Three horses that have won in recent days are the first three to win more than once at Laurel Park during the current meet. They are Totalitario, Rein Supreme, and Bobcat, and all have two wins at the meet thus far.
Saturday’s opener is a $16,000 lifetime claimer, and the obvious favorite — and (sadly) our top choice — is #1 Rag Top (6-5). The Cal Lynch trainee just missed at this level last out after winning the speed duel but being unable to contain the winner, Belle ‘n Tonic. She was 1-5 that day — an obvious disappointment — but can make amends here. Notably, jockey Trevor McCarthy, who also rode #4 Brushing (10-1) last out picks Rag Top here. Also worth a look here is #6 Millie’s Journey (6-1). Trainer Graham Motion’s patience has obviously expired with this runner, whose lone dirt try came versus allowance foes, but she can contend in this group.
Here’s a notable stat: Trainer Michelle Nevin wins with 27 percent of her starters at Laurel Park. The New York-based conditioner has the chalk in here in the form of #2 Sierra Leona (4-5), who figures tough in here. Also worth a look is #1 Include Gold (7-2); the Scott Lake trainee finds her easiest spot in quite a while, and the nine-time winner made the “one since July 26” condition of this race by just two days.
The best race of the day, quality-wise, is this one, a third-level allowance going a flat mile in which you can make a case for most of the runners. #3 Moe Trouble (5-2) ran a pretty solid race last out in his first start in about nine months, chasing the loose-on-the-lead Uncontested to no avail but holding the show. Race note: the fifth- and sixth-place runners from that allowance test returned to be second and third, respectively, in stakes races. Don’t sleep on #8 Marengo Road (5-1), who was hung out wide last out in the Native Dancer and still stuck with it to the end; or #6 Papa Zulu (12-1), who’s run some pretty OK races at Laurel, including, in September, a win at this level against the estimable Laurel lover Bonus Points.
- RACE 1
- RACE 2
- RACE 3
Leading trainer Claudio Gonzalez sends out the chalk in here in the form of #1 Gringo Star (7-5), and he possesses a good record with horses in his barn for the first time. But why can’t #5 Sound Off (2-1) get the money here? The Mario Serey trainee ran a good one last out, rallying into second against better than these. A repeat of that might be enough here.
Nickel claimers going a flat mile are featured in the fifth, and this is a pretty wide-open group. We’re going to settle on #6 Accusing (7-2) in the top spot. Trainer Anthony Farrior claimed this one from Alphonso Griffin out of his last start, which wasn’t great. Farrior wins at an 18 percent clip first time off the claim, and this runner cuts back slightly to a distance (one mile) at which he has run well (8:2-2-2 record); another good sign here is the presence of top local jock Trevor McCarthy. We’re also giving one more — just one! — chance to #5 Vicar’s Chalice (12-1). The Robbie Bailes trainee disappointed last out in a paceless race that foiled his late run; he might get a little better scenario in here, and despite that last, owns a solid overall record of 6:2-1-0.
The sixth is a sprint for $16,000 maidens, and, with six horses making their debut, your guess is about as good as anyone else’s. One notable stat in here: trainer Lynn Ashby, who had a gaudy 25 percent win rate in 2018, has an oddly poor record with horses making their second career start in maiden claiming company: 0-for-20. That’s notable because she trains one of the main contenders, #8 Polished Gal (6-1), who ran credibly in her career debut against similar and here makes — yup — her second career start. We turned instead to #9 One Odd Story (4-1), who finds her lowest level to date in her third career start and retains the services of newly minted Eclipse Award winner Wes Hamilton in the irons. But feel free to look around; maybe you prefer firsters like #2 Gaby Vee (5-1) for trainer Rudy Rodriguez, who’s 3-for-9 at Laurel with horses who debut in maiden claiming company; or #3 Graceygab (15-1), the Bullsbay filly who had a sharp gate work in late December and is a half-sis to an eight-time winner. Or….
- RACE 4
- RACE 5
- RACE 6
Claiming sophs square off in the seventh, and we’ll look to beat the fave in here with #8 No Stone Unturned (7-2); the Claudio Gonzlaez trainee, in her second start in the barn, makes a precipitous drop from allowance company to this $12,500 level and is drawn well outside the other speed. A return to her maiden-breaking effort would get the money in here. Another worth a gander in here (at a more enticing price) is #2 Perfect Exchange (6-1), who cuts back after backing up versus better going a mile and makes her second start off a two-month break, which gives rise to a notable stat: her trainer, Rodney Jenkins, is 13-for-55 with horses making their second start off a break.
The favorite in this maiden sprint is #6 Gateau St Honore (2-1), and let’s be honest: she could certainly win, but she’s exactly the sort of favorite to stand against. She’s winless in 11 tries, has lost at this level three times, and has failed as the 6-5 and 8-5 fave in her last two. Better to look around for value, and one horse who might (maybe?) fit the bill is #8 Hard Rockin Blues (8-1). The Jason Smith trainee drops to the lowest level here, and Smith removes the blinkers here for this one’s third start off a year layoff. Looking for a longshot? What about #4 Sea Candy (12-1), who flashed a bit of speed before backing out in her debut, which was won by a late runner. She’s clearly light on talent, but has the benefit of having made only one career start, and she’s showing a couple of works since.
We’ll eat the chalk in the race nine allowance with #4 Elverson (2-1); the Chuck Lawrence trainee won nicely at first asking, slugging it out on the front end, spurting clear, then holding off the late runners. That race has not produced a next-out winner, but three of her beaten rivals have returned to finish in the money, and this miss is showing three works since that last. Speaking of works, take note of the last work for #6 Music of Life (7-2), who zipped a half in 48 flat two weeks ago — second-fastest of 57 at the distance that day. The Brittany Russell trainee won at first asking, hasn’t run as well since, but gets blinks on here and has a chance to work out a good, pace-pressing trip from the outside stall.
It’s fair to say that #4 Trion Wings (2-1) was probably best in his last when he ended up second against slightly better than he’ll see in here; the Dorothy Worton trainee was stymied for much of the stretch run before finally finding an inside seam too late and still was beaten just a half-length. A cleaner trip could get the money in here. Among the runners he’ll contend with are #3 Village Prince (3-1), who takes a big drop in his second try for trainer Rudy Rodriguez; and #7 Carabinieri (12-1), who drops out of maiden allowance company and has been gelded since his last; trainer Phil Schoenthal is 8-for-40 dropping horses from maiden special to maiden claiming company.
- RACE 7
- RACE 8
- RACE 9
- RACE 10