Mr. d'Angelo
Thumbs up for Mr. d’Angelo from jockey Jevian Toledo. Photo by Dottie Miller.

Kevin P. Morgan homebred Mr. d’Angelo, 17-1 upset winner of the Maryland Million Turf last fall, ends a nine-month break between starts when he launches his comeback in Saturday’s featured ninth race at Laurel Park.

The second-level optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds and up, scheduled for 1 1/8 miles over the Exceller layout on Laurel’s world-class turf course, will be the first race for 4-year-old Mr. d’Angelo since erasing an early 13-length deficit on the far outside to win the Million by 1 ¾ lengths in his stakes debut.

“He’s fun to watch,” trainer Tim Woolley said. “I think the race could set up the same for him tomorrow. That’s what we’re kind of hoping for. At least we’ll get a race back into him and he gets back on the track. He might be a little rusty but he seems like he’s in good shape at the moment.”

Mr. d’Angelo, a gelded son of German-bred Australian Group 1 winner Seville, has been working steadily since late May over the all-weather surface at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md. for his return. Jevian Toledo, aboard in the Maryland Million, gets the return call from Post 8 in the field of 10. They are listed at 5-1 on the morning line.

“He’s doing really well. I couldn’t be more pleased going into the race. He seems happy and fit and hopefully it’s a stepping stone to the Maryland Million down the road,” Woolley said. “We just wanted to get him started and this seemed like a good spot. He likes Laurel and we got Jevian Toledo back on him, so I think he should run well.”

Who is the actual Mr. d’Angelo?

Mr. d’Angelo owns two wins, two seconds and a third from seven career starts, all at Laurel. He captured his April 2019 debut going 1 1/16 miles and was second in back-to-back starts at 1 1/16 and 1 ½ miles, respectively, prior to his breakthrough stakes triumph that ultimately was his last of 2019.

“He went off with some issues for the winter and then the coronavirus came along, but we took our time getting him back to the races. We weren’t in a rush to start him back,” Woolley said. “Everything’s going good right now.”

Gamma Racing Stable’s Papal Law, one of two horses in for the $35,000 tag, is the lukewarm 7-2 favorite. The 7-year-old gelding was beaten less than a length going the distance in a June 27 optional claimer at Laurel, his first race in nine months. Katie Davis rides from Post 4.

Other notable entrants are Silverton Hill’s Irish-bred Rambaldi, making his 12th lifetime start and first in North America for trainer Heather Brown; Mint Meadows Farm’s Mokheef, who beat Mr. d’Angelo one race prior to the Maryland Million; and Rosbrian Farm’s Sixty Five, a maiden winner over hurdles racing for the first time since July 2018.

Saturday’s co-feature comes in Race 3, a third-level optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds and up sprinting 5 ½ furlongs over the Bowl Game turf course layout. Favored at 5-2 in the program is Lael Stables’ Tricks to Doo, winner of the Inaugural Stakes and third in the Hutcheson (G3) on dirt in 2018. He has placed twice in turf stakes, including the 2019 Jim McKay Turf Sprint at Pimlico Race Course, and was second as the favorite in his seasonal debut June 8 at Laurel.

Completed Pass, who beat Tricks to Doo in the Jim McKay, will break directly to the outside of the favorite in Post 4 for summer meet-leading trainer Claudio Gonzalez. Second in two turf sprint stakes that sandwiched his McKay victory, beaten each time by a neck, the 6-year-old gelding was fifth by three lengths in a six-furlong dirt sprint July 4 at Laurel.

Among their rivals are Oldies But Goodies and Love You Much, who ran first and third, respectively, in the 5 ½-furlong Ben’s Cat Stakes last July at Laurel; and Stroll Smokin, a winner of three of five starts this year and seven overall, his lone turf triumph coming in a 5 ½-furlong dash last August at Laurel.