Laurel Park picks and ponderings Feb. 22, 2019
by Frank Vespe
In which we pick the races from Laurel Park each day…
Post time: 12:30 p.m.
Stat of the day: Trainer Ham Smith is 4-for-20 with 11 runners in the money in recent years with runners debuting in maiden claiming company who are owned by his brother, Franklin “Goree” Smith.
It’s $50,000 maiden claimers to kick off the card, and we’ll eat the chalk with #6 One Two Three Go (2-1). The Tim Keefe trainee returned last out from a 10-month break with an OK effort against better, a race in which she showed speed, was rated back, had to wait at the three-eighths, and then didn’t quite kick on. Here, in her second start off the break and facing an easier group, she has every chance to take a step forward.
Claiming sophomores take center stage in the second, and the 9-5 favorite is #3 No Refunds. The John Salzman, Jr. trainee has faced much better throughout her brief career but here drops rather abruptly to the bottom off an even effort against better. That’s not necessarily a great sign and leads us to take a swing against. Howzabout #1 Rossby (8-1)? Making her first start in the Chuck Lawrence barn, this miss has some better efforts to run back to; she was third against NY-bred $50,000 maiden claimers and graduated at the $30,000 level. Her two tries since are not promising, but she’s received a bit of a freshening since that last, drops to the right spot, and will have solid journeyman Jorge Vargas, Jr. in the irons. She may also be the main speed in this spot, and a return to earlier form could get it done.
The top horses in the morning line in this tilt — #2 Pikachu Princess (5-2) and #3 Ten Count Out (2-1) — both have been on the engine early in recent races. If they go head-and-head here today, they may well set this one up for #5 Thesweetesttaboo (7-2) to pick up the pieces late. The Claudio Gonzalez trainee had a willing try last out when running into the pace in her first sprint in nine starts. She can improve in his second sprint here today, and note the Gonzalez, who exposed her to being claimed last out, protects her in this spot.
- RACE 1
- RACE 2
- RACE 3
There are pretty good reasons not to take short odds on the favorites in this nickel, never-won-four claimer. #2 Ingadore (2-1) has failed as the favorite at this level in three straight and has not won in seven tries on the main track (all three of his wins came on synthetic. And #6 Throw the Deuce (5-2) is skipping a condition — he’s still eligible to run at the never-three level — after losing four straight at that lower level. Either could win, of course, but taking short odds on them is unappealing. What to do? How about giving #8 Earned It (6-1) one more shot? The Sam Davis trainee dropped to the bottom last out for the first time and offered a mild rally going seven furlongs. The added ground here in this two-turn event shouldn’t be a problem, and this runner will have solid journeyman Sheldon Russell up. Russell will have to work out a trip from the outside, but 6-1 on that possibility is more appealing than short odds on the chalk.
Here’s another race with a favorite who’s not all that enticing; #3 Trapper’s Delight (6-5) clearly has the best figs here but has lost at this level three straight. We’ll try to beat him with #7 Great Nation (4-1). The Charlie Frock trainee finds his way to the bottom level here for the first time and will pick up Wes Hamilton in the irons. He figures to be running late — possibly too late — and facing easier company has a chance to step forward here.
#6 Elevated Vision (2-1) ran a big one last out to win the Politely Stakes by a length at 38-1, and that even came with a bit of a trouble line. Was it a fluke? Or just a three-year-old improving suddenly? The data we have to date suggests it might be the latter, as all three to run back from that test have finished in the money in their returns, including two, Anna’s Bandit and Hailey’s Flip, who won. She’s showing a couple of strong works in the interim and will retain Jevian Toledo in the irons. A repeat of her last would make her tough in here, though she’ll have to overcome, among others, favored #2 Assail (9-5), who drops in for the tag in this allowance/optional claimer after having faced some tough customers in her last two at Parx.
- RACE 4
- RACE 5
- RACE 6
The favorite in this maiden claimer is #1 Eliav (8-5), who arrives with the best numbers but also is rising in class — from $16,000 to $25,000 — off a defeat. As a betting matter, that’s one of my least favorite moves and immediately sends me scurrying to find another runner. In this case, in a race where six of eight have never won before, that’s #8 Lucky Junior (5-1). The Ham Smith trainee is owned by Smith’s brother, Franklin “Goree” Smith, and was mostly prepped at Goree’s Elloree training center in South Carolina. This runner is a half-brother to three winners thus far, and the Smith brothers are 4-for-20, with 11 in the money, when debuting horses in maiden claiming company.
Three-year-old fillies will go 1 1/16 miles in this allowance test, and after one scratch, it looks likely to come down to the two favorites. #2 Marvelous Martina (8-5) has had the misfortune of running into two next-out stake winners in her last two outings, one at Keeneland and one at Churchill. She’ll make her first start here for trainer Jose Corrales, who’ll add Lasix for the first time in what will be the Awesome Again filly’s first start since November. She may be tough, but it won’t be easy to come off a two-plus month break and navigate two turns for the first time. On recency alone, we’ll give the nod to #1 Pat’s No Fool (2-1); the Gary Capuano trainee graduated last out in front-running fashion and may reprise that trip here today. The daughter of Cross Traffic will once again have Jevian Toledo in the irons.
It can’t be a great sign that trainer Jamie Ness, who claimed #3 My Chesa Charm (2-1) last out for $16,000, drops her in here in her first start back for $5,000. Or perhaps he’s merely trying to take advantage of her poor showing that day. What is a positive sign, on the other hand, is that pilot Katie Davis, who regularly rides for trainer Hugh McMahon and last out rode #4 Polarization (8-1) for that trainer, bails on that mount to take this one. If she can get back to her better form, My Chesa Charm will be a handful in here; but if she gets cooked early in a race with some other early speed, look for horses like #5 Big Momma (15-1) or #10 Given Achance (12-1) to come running late.
- RACE 7
- RACE 8
- SCR: 4
- RACE 9
- SCR: 1, 2, 8