Laurel Park: Picks and ponderings Feb. 18, 2019
by Frank Vespe
In which we pick the races from Laurel Park each day…
Post time: 12:30 p.m.
Carryovers: Rainbow 6 — $7,213
Stat of the day: Trainer Jerry Robb is 7-for-35 with second-off-the-claim runners, such as #4 Top Czar in the ninth race.
A solid group of $16,000 claimers kicks off the holiday card, and we landed on #3 Grecian Prince (3-1). The Gerry Brooks trainee has demonstrated his competitiveness at this level and here drops from better company. We’re also a little intrigued by #4 Concordia’s Way (6-1), who ran poorly last out and was claimed by Hugh McMahon. McMahon has a solid first-off-the-claim record, and it’s notable that, despite the poor effort last out, he keeps the horse right here at the same level at which he claimed him.
The short answer to race 2 is this: if #3 Dr Bolt (9-5) is right and ready, he wins here. This runner has been keeping much better company than these and drops — precipitously — from $16,000 to a nickel. That’s a bit of a red flag, though — he was third last out at the higher level — and we’ll try to beat him with #7 Humbolt Street (7-2), the formful Dale Capuano trainee who ought to be able to find a good trip while breaking from the outside.
There’s an odds-on favorite in the third in the form of #2 Global Citizen (3-5), who ran past ’em all last out to win easily in his first try in three months. That was a big effort, and a repeat of that probably gets it done here, but we’re not convinced a) we’ll see a repeat — this runner has had plenty of gaps in his running lines — and b) that the shorter, 5 1/2 furlong trip here works to his advantage. We’ll take a stab instead with #4 High Roller (3-1). Another Capuano-trained runner, this one ran decently last out against similar, and interestingly, after exposing him to the possibility of being claimed in each of his last two starts, Capuano here waives the claiming tag. He’ll also leg up go-to rider Wes Hamilton.
- RACE 1
- RACE 2
- RACE 3
These starter handicaps have drawn consistently solid — and big — fields, and this one is no exception. #2 S W Briar Rose (5-2) has won two of them in a row, and in this one she stretches out to a six-furlong distance she relishes. She may also catch a bit of an off-track, and she has a 4:2-2-0 ledger on those. But… she’s obviously a must-use, but we will try to beat her on top. #9 Miss Jak (3-1) has lost narrowly to S W Briar Rose in each of those last two tilts. But she’s done her best work breaking from the outside, and last out she was stuck down inside throughout; here, she has the outer post and a little more ground than in her last couple. We’re betting that’s enough to turn the tables.
RACE 5 — $100,000 MARYLAND RACING MEDIA STAKES
The “about 1 1/16 mile” distance at Laurel Park is a tricky one, because it starts quite near the turn. That puts horses breaking from the outside at a disadvantage and requires that riders of those horse make an instantaneous decision: take back and tuck in to save ground if possible, or gun for the lead and hope the horse will settle afterwards. Fortunately for jockey Wes Hamilton, #8 Timeless Curls (5-2) is exactly the sort of tractable horse who can do either. Last out, when she won the Nellie Morse at this distance, she really put on a show: breaking sharply, then ceding the lead to the favorite before taking over on the far turn and drawing away. As long as the trip from the far outside doesn’t beat her, she should be tough in here. A longshot we’re curious about is #3 Blue Union Rags (15-1). Trainer John Servis has continually handled this Union Rags filly like she’s a good thing, though the afternoon results are inconclusive at best; she’s run in a pair of graded events and two other stakes in her dozen-race career. The expected spot here, following a five-month break, would be to drop into allowance company for easier pickings. That he tries her in this spot suggests she’s thriving and might be ready to show her best side.
It only feels like there are a million horses in this nine-furlong starter event; it’s really only 14. A bunch of runners here have seen each other before with mixed results. But one new shooter here is #4 Cause I’m Alex (9-2). This Jeffrey Englehart trainee has mostly been facing NY-bred allowance foes and last out was fourth in an even effort against them. Englehart had him cross-entered in this spot and a NY-bred allowance on Sunday but opts for this one. He’ll make his second start after a three-month break here and has demonstrated an affinity for this distance (6:2-0-3). One question here: can #2 Birdies Honor (12-1) do it again? Last out, he zipped to the lead, set fast fractions, and just failed to hold on. There’s another sixteenth to navigate here, which is a concern, but he might be able to find the same trip, and if he can slow it down a tick or two early, he might be tough to reel in.
- RACE 4
- RACE 5
- RACE 6
An astute claim by trainer Jamie Ness, #5 Awesome Singer (2-1) has won three of four since the change of hands and looks to rate a big shot in here. She has been facing second-level allowance foes, last out cruising to a three-length win, and that certainly says she fits in here. The one question is the distance, as she’s never been beyond 1 mile 70 yards. But her running style and breeding both suggest this longer trip should be within her scope.
Three scratches, including a pair of speedsters who figured to be in the early vanguard, change the complexion of this starter handicap a bit. But we’ll stick with our original top selection, #11 Cautious Giant (3-1). The Kieron Magee trainee has run against stakes rivals in each of his last four, winning a minor stake at Gulfstream at the beginning of that sequence. Two back he ran very well in the Dave’s Friend over the strip, and we suspect his just-OK follow-up when fourth in the Fire Plug might have been a little quick back, as it came just two weeks after the Dave’s Friend. He’s had a bit over a month to freshen up since, and Magee will leg up jockey Jorge Vargas, Jr. (that duo wins at a 24 percent clip).
The favorite in the finale is #9 Arrivederci (3-1), the Hugh McMahon trainee who galloped against $10,000 maidens last out in a race that’s produced a next-out winner. But this is a tough ask — not only to face winners for the first time but also to move up the claiming ladder — and we’re going to try to beat him. #4 Top Czar (9-2) has some pretty good efforts to run back to after a willing try last out against similar. Trainer Jerry Robb has a 20 percent strike rate with second-off-the-claim runners like this one, and he’ll leg up his go-to rider, Xavier Perez.
- RACE 7
- RACE 8
- RACE 9