Laurel Park picks and ponderings May 31, 2019
Doctor Mounty held off Projected narrowly to upset the G3 BWI Turf Cup at Laurel Park. Photo by Laurie Asseo.
by Frank Vespe
In which we pick the races from Laurel Park each day…
Post time: 1:10 p.m.
Stat of the day: Trainer Claudio Gonzalez, who has been one of the most successful trainers at Laurel Park in recent times, nevertheless has won with just seven percent of turf starters in the last three years.
The runners in this first of two divisions of this maiden claimer for 2-year-olds look to have caught a break, as the other division (race 3) has an overwhelming favorite. There’s no such runner in this spot, and the two who have started have each run twice, seen each other both times, and swapped positions. First time out, #1 Cold Sweat (9-2) finished third and was six lengths ahead of #3 Malibu Moonstruck (2-1), while in their last meeting, the latter finished fourth, about five ahead of Cold Sweat. Both are dropping here, and it’s hard to get overly excited about either. Of more interest is one of the first-time starters, #6 Lectric Choke (6-1); the Wayne Potts-trained Flashback gelding has been working well enough towards his debut for a barn that’s about 10 percent with debut runners. Jenn Miller will ride.
One thing we can be fairly confident about in this six-furlong sprint: #5 Poplar Avenue (3-1) ought to have the early lead. The Claudio Gonazalez trainee has been in front at the first call in eight of his last 10, the lone exceptions being a turf race and a 4 1/2-furlong dash at Charles Town. We’re not quite sold he’ll stick around all the way to the end though, as he’s making his first start since January (and Gonzalez doesn’t have a great off-the-layoff record). We’re going to give a shot to #7 Belmont Ride (9-2); the Damon Dilodovico trainee gave a decent accounting of himself last out when chasing a controlling speed type. The added ground here should help — he’s never been worse than third at the trip — and others probably will heat up the pace and give him a target to run at.
This race runs through the favorite, #2 Quad Eights (1-2), who’ll get blinkers on for his third career start. In his debut, he ran a good second to Rookie Salsa, who won the Kentucky Juvenile, and in his second start, he was again second, this time to Lebda, who’d run an 82 Beyer on debut. Trainer Jerry Robb will leg up go-to rider Xavier Perez here.
- RACE 1
- SCR: 2
- RACE 2
- SCR: None
- RACE 3
- SCR: 1, 4, 5, 7
Last time out, #3 Neetee Rides Again (4-1) finished first in a turf event at Pimlico at this level, only to be DQed to second for impeding a rival in the lane. She was probably best that day, and both of her two-turn turf tries are good for a runner who has a big shot to win in this one. The favorite in here is the Arnaud Delacour trainee #6 Music Maker (7-2), who graduated last out at Tampa; she ought to be on the ticket, but we’re not inclined to use her in the top spot; seven of her beaten rivals have since run back, with a single third-place finish the best result.
Good try last out for #3 Daystrike (9-2), who rallied to the lead in a $12,500 claimer on the grass before emptying out to third. The two that bested her that day return to go one-two in a $12,500 starter, and two others also returned to be second, so that appears to have been a legit heat. That’s enough for us to give him the nod over two runners that figure to take more action at the windows, #7 Prime Time Man (3-1), who has kept better company but last out threw in the towel when eased against better, and #6 Aire Bueno (7-2), who finished second in the other division of the claimer Daystrike ran in but has since shipped to Suffolk and back and will be making her third start, to go with the ship, in three weeks. Forest Boyce will ride.
That was a solid effort last out by #3 Sir Orinoco (5-2). He pressed the 6-5 favorite into submission, and while he couldn’t hold off late-running #5 The Great Casby (3-1), he still managed to hold second and was nearly a half-dozen lengths clear of that favorite. If the pace is a bit more manageable today, and it probably should be, he’ll be tough to reel in late under Daniel Centeno.
- RACE 4
- SCR: 4, 5
- RACE 5
- SCR: 5, 9
- RACE 6
- SCR: None
We don’t have any idea what to do with #2 Rough Sea (8-5), who’s really the key horse in this spot. Two back, the runner, who’d run competitively against high-priced maiden claimers at Saratoga, returned from a 20-month break at the very bottom ($10,000 maiden claiming), never ran a step, and was claimed. Trainer Rob Bailes jumped him up to the $25,000 maiden level, and he responded by winning for fun after making an eye-catching move midway on the turn. If he’s back to being the horse he looked like he could be in 2017, he should win here, but given the gap in performance and the return at the bottom, he’s a little bit tough to trust at 8-5.
Another runner we believe ran a sneaky-good race last time out is #9 Hayne’s Fever (5-1), who finished fifth but beaten just two lengths against similar three weeks back going 1 1/16 miles at Pimlico. He was in between horses in a three-way duel that saw them motor the first half in 46.85 seconds and three-quarters in 1:11.87. The closers came and got the money, but this one finished best of the three who were dueling, and the horse who finished worst of that trio, Battle Ready, returned to win next out at Suffolk. Under Tais Lyapustina, this runner may find the pace a bit more congenial this time around.
Let’s look for an upset in the getaway race. #10 Polished Gal (12-1) tried the lawn for the first time (in just her third career start) and certainly took to it, circling the field to rally to a length victory. That was at the maiden $25,000 claiming level, but the race may have been better than it looks; the runner-up returned to win next out at the $40,000 maiden level. This one will need to improve to contend with runners like #5 Flyingontheground (5-2), but with just three starts under her belt, she certainly can. We’re using that runner, as well, but an obvious horse we’re tossing is #6 Lunar Rille (3-1), who was claimed by Claudio Gonzalez last time out. Her figures make her a major player in here, and while we’re not sold shortening up to a sprint is the best idea, you can’t argue with the success Gonzalez has enjoyed. Or can you? Over the last three years, he’s won with 25 percent of dirt starters — but just seven percent of turf starters. It’s a staggering (and inexplicable) difference, and one that makes it hard to accept what figure to be short odds.
- RACE 7
- SCR: 5
- RACE 8
- SCR: 5
- RACE 9