Five questions for this weekend’s Midlantic stakes
Turf stakes winner Miss J McKay looks to earn her first stakes score on dirt in the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship. Photo by Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club.
There are four stakes Saturday at Laurel Park and a fifth on the same day at Parx Racing. All five are for horses bred in their respective states.
Here are five questions for Saturday’s stakes actions in the Mid-Atlantic:
1) Can the comebackers, you know, come back?
Three of the more popular runners of the last couple of years at Laurel Park all are set to return from breaks in Saturday’s Maryland stakes. Three-time stakes winner Las Setas – last seen running up the track in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico – makes her first start since May in the six-furlong Politely, which goes as the third race. The Katy Voss trainee is 7-2 on the morning line and will have Jevian Toledo in the irons.
Five races later in the six-furlong Howard and Sondra Bender Memorial, Still Having Fun and Alwaysmining both return to action. The former, a Grade 2 winner trained by Tim Keefe, hasn’t finished in the money in three 2019 starts, all in graded company. He’s 3-1 on the morning line for his first start in seven months and will have Feargal Lynch up. The latter, trained by Kelly Rubley and making his first start since July, ran off five straight stakes wins before finishing 11th in the Grade 1 Preakness. Julian Pimentel will ride a runner who’s 6-1 on the morning line.
2) Speaking of the Bender Memorial, how good is this race?
Still Having Fun – a graded winner and earner of over $522,000 – is the tepid 3-1 morning line favorite in this state-bred contest. In addition to that runner and Alwaysmining, the group also features: last-out Maryland Million Sprint winner Taco Supream (7-2) for Damon Dilodovico; multiple stakes winner Lewisfield (9-2), an earner of over $440,000 who was third in this event a year ago, for Jeff Runco; and multiple stakes winner Clubman (9-2), who won an allowance at this distance last out over the strip and four back won Timonium’s Maryland Coalition Stakes by a pole. He’s trained by Rodolfo Sanchez-Salomon.
And that’s to say nothing of the richest of all of them, Sonny Inspired (30-1). At eight, he doesn’t seem to be the horse he once was, but the Phil Schoenthal trainee is a multiple stakes winner of over $642,000.
3) Can Newstome keep it going in the PA Nursery?
The two-year-old Mike Trombetta trainee is 3-for-4 in his brief career, including stakes wins in the Mark McDermott on the synthetic at Presque Isle and in the James F. Lewis, III – by a nose – at Laurel Park. He has a rather remarkable record: four career starts at four different tracks on three different surfaces.
The only one of those surfaces he didn’t seem to take to was the turf, on which he led early but faded to seventh in the Rosie’s Stakes at Colonial Downs. But then again, the winner of that race, Four Wheel Drive, came back to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.
Regardless, this son of Goldencents hasn’t done a thing wrong and – for the first time – returns to a track at which he’s raced previously. His major competitors look likely to be the Kathleen De Masi-trained Breezy Gust (7-2), an easy maiden winner last out; and First State Dash winner Golden Candy (6-1), an Anthony Pecoraro trainee who was third in the Parx Juvenile last out.
4) Hello Beautiful? Or Miss J McKay? Or someone else altogether?
The Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship is about as good an edition of this race as we’ve seen in the last few years.
The favorite is the Cal Lynch trainee Miss J McKay (2-1), a daughter of Hangover Kid who’s crossed the wire first in three of four starts. She was targeted to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint but did not draw in, and while she’s done her very best work on the lawn to date, she did win at first asking on the main track.
Hello Beautiful (5-2) dueled for the early lead last out in the Maryland Million Lassie before drawing away to win by three lengths for her second consecutive main-track victory. That was a good-looking effort for the daughter of Golden Lad, and a repeat of it could make her a handful here. Sheldon Russell will ride for trainer Brittany Russell.
But if all the chalk makes you uneasy, there are other places to look. Project Whiskey (6-1) won the Parx Juvenile Fillies last time out for her second straight win and looks to be coming to hand nicely for trainer Butch Reid, while the Claudio Gonzalez-trained Lucky Trinity (10-1) won at first asking and was the runner-up last out in the Smart Halo Stakes here.
5) Value in the Maryland Juvenile Futurity?
The favorite in a pretty wide-open Maryland Juvenile Futurity is Monday Morning Qb (5-2). The Butch Reid trainee graduated last out at Parx Racing going 5 ½ furlongs and here will try to stretch out to seven with Frankie Pennington up.
But if the added ground – or jump in class – gives you pause, there are plenty of other places to look. The only runner in here who already owns a stakes win is Raging Whiskey (5-1), who may end up being the value play. The Bourbon Courage colt began his career in California, breaking his maiden in June at Santa Anita, and later won a stake at Los Alamitos after having run third in a Grade 3. Now in the care of local trainer Jerry O’Dwyer, he was an even fifth last out in the James F. Lewis, III and may appreciate the additional furlong he gets today. Feargal Lynch will ride.
Elsewhere, Tommy Shelby (6-1) and Laddie Liam (3-1) both exit allowance victories, while Sir Back in Black (5-1) won at first asking and was fourth, though beaten just two lengths, in the Lewis here.
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