Laurel Park picks and ponderings Feb. 28, 2019
by Frank Vespe
In which we pick the races from Laurel Park each day…
Post time: 12:30 p.m.
Carryovers: Rainbow 6 — $3,397
Stat of the day: The leading trainer-jockey combo in action today is that of trainer Hugh McMahon and rider Katie Davis. That duo has combined for eight wins during the Laurel Park meet and will team up in race three with Elusive Hero.
An eight-race card kicks off the racing week at Laurel, with $12,500 claimers in the opener. We’re looking for a mild upset to start the card with #2 Lady Terp (7-2). The Tim Woolley trainee’s last couple have not been good, but both were against better. Here, she should catch a fast track, which would aid her cause, and an easier group after tangling with starter handicap foes. A return to her three-back or four-back form would get her the money in this spot.
We landed on the favored #1 Benchmark Babe (9-5) in the second, a beaten claiming race, but we can’t blame you if you end up elsewhere. She’s got the best speed figs in the group and here makes her third start after a nine-month break, which gives her at least the possibility of moving forward. But she’s also lost to lesser in her last two, in contrast to #7 Gfour (7-2), who throttled never-three rivals last out, and #4 Comica (3-1), who’s won two straight. So… a slight endorsement for the favorite here but definitely would not single her on a ticket.
Not unlike our choice in the opener, #5 Elusive Hero (6-1) will be looking to recapture his better form in this optional claiming/starter event. The Hugh McMahon trainee graduated at the maiden special weight level two back but last out, against allowance foes… well, that was a mess. The cutback in distance might not be a bad thing in this spot, the easier company should help, and the return to a fast track is also a positive. His better efforts look to be good enough here, and most of his major rivals already have multiple losses versus similar.
- RACE 1
- SCR: 1, 5
- RACE 2
- RACE 3
How to figure the fourth, a wide-open third-level allowance? Certainly, there are plenty of ways to go in this one. #4 Warrioroftheroses (5-1) makes his first start of the year and projects to the controlling speed here. If he gets loose at a distance he likes, he might be hard to reel in. But we’re thinking he might be an inch below these and will want to beat him with a runner with some tactical speed; in this spot, we’re thinking that’s #7 Bronx Sandman (3-1). The Gary Capuano trainee crushed second allowance rivals three back and last out was an even third against similar. The bad news is that he’ll have to work out a trip from the outer post with a short run into the turn, but if jockey Johan Rosado can manage that, he might find himself in the right place a length or two back. A similar trip might be in the offing here for #3 River Deep (8-1), who ran just OK last out in the same race as Bronx Sandman but here makes his second start after a four-month break — a spot he’s improved in before.
A solid, two-turn maiden special weight race is carded for race five, and this is another that offers plenty of enticing options. We’re going to go with #4 Casper Slew (6-1) in this one for the upset. The Ghostzapper colt, who is out of the graded stakes-winning turf mare Dynaslew, showed late interest in his debut after trailing by about a mile in the early going; under Julian Pimentel, who returns here, he made up ground along the rail, mostly under his own courage with a single tap of the stick. The added ground should be a positive here, and while we think grass is in his future, there’s no reason he can’t win on the main track.
Four of the six runners remaining after scratches in this second-level allowance look to want to be on the early lead. That narrows our choice to the two who are left: top pick #4 Follow the Petals (9-2) and #1 Moon Virginia (7-2). The former arrives off a dominant win against allowance/optional claiming rivals at Penn National and brings jockey Angel Rodriguez along for the ride. She’s won four times over the strip and has been in the money in eight of 11 at this one-mile distance. The latter won at this level and was claimed last out by trainer Dale Capuano, who waited so he could bring her back here rather than moving her up the ladder. Trevor McCarthy, who has won on her before, will ride.
- RACE 4
- RACE 5
- SCR: 6
- RACE 6
- SCR: 2, 6
Why not #2 Sparty (6-1) in this Maryland-bred allowance? Like a previous Tim Woolley trainee on today’s card, this one has some good efforts in his past but arrives here off a subpar try. In with easier and back on a fast track, he can step forward here. The most interesting horse in the group — albeit, one whose odds are daunting — is #4 Clever Mind (9-5). The Graham Motion trainee debuted in the 2017 Maryland Million Nursery, in which he was left at the gate before rallying to win comfortably in an impressive performance. Two follow-up tries were less impressive — though perhaps a third-place finish in which the runner-up was now-Grade 2 winner Still Having Fun looks better than it did at the time — and he’s been off for a year and gelded in the meantime. Motion has a good record bringing horses back off long layoffs and will leg up Jorge Vargas, Jr. here.
#6 Paz the Wine (3-1) made two good tries at this level before jumping up a couple levels to get clobbered last out. Back where she’s competed, she rates a big shot in the finale, a $12,5000 never-won-two claimer. At long odds, we also wouldn’t ignore #1 Leighla (12-1), who has one good and one poor effort on the main track. The favorite here, #5 Rosy’s Rainbow (8-5), clearly has to show up on the ticket but her declining recent form makes it hard to take short odds.
- RACE 7
- SCR: 5
- RACE 8