Top Line Growth
Top Line Growth won an allowance at Laurel Park in September. Photo by Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club.

The Elkstone Group’s G3-placed Maryland homebred Top Line Growth, promoted winner of the Iowa Derby last summer, is entered to make his first start in nearly a year in Friday’s stakes-quality allowance feature at Laurel Park.

Trained by Kelly Rubley, Top Line Growth is the narrow 5-2 program favorite in the open third-level allowance for 3-year-olds and up going one mile on the main track. Matthew Schera’s John Jones, whose 12 career wins include stakes on turf and dirt, is next at 3-1.

Also among the field of six are Taco Supream, upset winner of the Maryland Million Sprint last fall at Laurel; and Tybalt, five times stakes placed running behind such horses as multiple stakes winners Alwaysmining and Cordmaker.

“We were looking for the easiest spot for our start back this year. I’m not so sure we found it, but we’ll make do,” Rubley said. “It came up tougher than I had hoped, but aren’t they all when you get to this level.”

Top Line Growth, a 4-year-old bay son of Tapizar has not raced since his 3 ¼-length victory over older horses in a second-level optional claimer Sept. 27 at Laurel, where is a perfect 3-0. That win also came at a mile, making him unbeaten at the distance in two tries.

He was given some time off which, combined with Maryland’s 2 ½-month pause in live racing until May 30 amid the coronavirus pandemic, pushed his season debut back. He has been working forwardly at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md. for his highly anticipated return with several sharp drills including a half-mile breeze in 48.20 seconds July 31, the fastest of 25 horses.

Julian Pimentel, aboard for six of Top Line Growth’s seven starts including all four wins, returns to ride from Post 2.

“He’s doing very well. He’s been breezing right along here steady and Julian’s actually breezed him the last couple of works and been very happy with him,” Rubley said. “He’s always been a very good work horse in the morning, absolutely. We’re hopeful that we’re back to where we were before he took some time off. It’s been almost a year, so he may need the race, but we’re hopeful that he’ll run very well.”

Unraced at 2, Top Line Growth debuted with a front-running 9 ½-length maiden claiming romp last April 22, then stepped up into stakes company for his second start, the Sir Barton at Pimlico Race Course, where he ran fifth behind King for a Day. In his subsequent start, King for a Day would upset Maximum Security in the Pegasus at Monmouth Park.

Top Line Growth beat older horses in the open allowance last June at Laurel, this time by eight lengths, then ran second by two lengths in the 1 1/16-mile Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows but was elevated to the win when Winning Number was disqualified and placed third for interference.

Last August, Top Line Growth traveled to Mountaineer where he ran fourth in the 1 1/8-mile West Virginia Derby (G3) then to Parx where he pressed the pace before settling for third in the Smarty Jones (G3), contested at 1 1/16 miles 25 days before his most recent triumph.

“We believe he’s a very, very nice horse,” Rubley said. “We thought that we’d start in a conditioned race since he still had it and we’ll plan our path from here.”

Rubley also reported that seven-time stakes winner Alwaysmining, who ran in last year’s Preakness (G1), and Grade 3-placed filly Arrifana, winner of the March 14 Nellie Morse at Laurel last out, are both getting a freshening in anticipation of a fall campaign.

“We actually decided to give [Alwaysmining] a little time off, so hopefully he’ll be back ready to go in the fall,” she said. “The same with Arrifana. She’s taking a little time off and on about the same time frame, hopefully back for the fall.”

John Jones, the only one in the field entered for the $50,000 tag, was last seen running third to Harpers First Ride in a similar spot June 6 at Laurel, just a head behind runner-up Tybalt. The 8-year-old Smarty Jones gelding is 12-for-44 lifetime with nearly $600,000 in purse earnings and is 10-for-28 at Laurel, with 10 wins from 18 tries at one mile. Johan Rosado rides for trainer Lacey Gaudet from Post 1.

Damon Dilodovico, who has won with 11 of his last 28 starters (39 percent) including Air on Fire ($5.80) in Thursday’s sixth race and Go Amanda ($xxx) in the eighth to rank among the summer meet’s leading trainers, will send out Big Bertha Stable and Stormy Stable’s Taco Supream. A gelded 5-year-old son of El Padrino, he is winless in three tries this year with two thirds, and was placed fourth for interference after finishing first in a six-furlong optional claimer Feb. 17.

Completing the field are Awesome D J, who has earned five of his six career wins at Laurel, and Compound It.