Arch Cat
Arch Cat won an open allowance race at Laurel Park. Photo by Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club.

Burns Thoroughbred Racing’s Arch Cat, back in Maryland for the first time since being narrowly beaten in a pair of stakes over the winter, surged ahead in the final strides to upset multiple stakes-winning favorite Laki by a neck in Thursday’s feature at Laurel Park.

It was the 13th career win from 36 starts but the first from just three tries at Laurel for Arch Cat ($23.80), a 6-year-old Arch gelding who ran seven furlongs in 1:21.66 over a fast main track to take the open, stakes-quality allowance for 3-year-olds and up under jockey Julian Pimentel.

“He was very game. When the horses came to him, he kept on running,” Pimentel said. “I had never been on him but I have seen him run a bunch of times before. He’s a nice horse. He beat some good ones today.”

Breaking from Post 6 in a field of seven that included multiple stakes winners Laki and Cordmaker, 2020 General George (G3) runner-up Threes Over Deuces, nine-time winner Eastern Bay and Panamanian Group 1 winner Carlos L., Arch Cat rated in fifth in the clear three wide as Laki set fractions of 22.87 seconds for a quarter-mile land 45.51 for the half.

Stakes-placed Onemoregreattime gave closest chase in second as Carlos L., racing along the rail, led a tight second flight flanked by Threes Over Deuces and Arch Cat. Eastern Bay began to launch a bid on the turn as six furlongs went in 1:09.48, but Laki maintained a slim lead as they straightened for home. With Eastern Bay at their right hip, Pimentel set Arch Cat down for a drive down the middle of the track and was able to hold that one at bay while steadily gaining on a game Laki down on the inside.

Eastern Bay was third, a neck behind Laki and 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Onemoregreattime. It was another half-length back to Cordmaker in his third straight fifth-place finish to open 2020, followed by Threes Over Deuces and Carlos L. Threes Over Deuces had his streak of finishing in the top three snapped at 16 consecutive races dating back 18 months.

Arch Cat has crossed the wire first in his past three races. He was disqualified to third for interference in a Parx allowance Feb. 10, then came off the layoff with a popular one-length optional claiming triumph going six furlongs July 8 at Delaware Park.

Last December, Arch Cat closed his 5-year-old campaign running second behind favorite Threefiveindia in the six-furlong Dave’s Friend at Laurel, where he opened 2020 in the 6 ½-furlong Fire Plug. He ran fourth as the favorite, beaten 1 ¼ lengths by Grade 3-placed Honor the Fleet.

“It was a very valid effort. I was very impressed,” Delaware-based winning trainer Daniel Velazquez said by phone. “He’s been getting inside posts for the last five starts. The last two starts he finally got outside posts and it just helps him because he a big horse.

“When he gets clear trips like that, he’s dangerous,” he added. “He beat some nice, top-end horses. I like that. We just want to see him come back healthy and then we’ll figure out what’s next. Maybe a small stake somewhere.”

Elsewhere on Thursday’s card, Dorsey Brown and Richard Palmer’s Mona Luna ($5.80), a 3-year-old homebred daughter of champion Uncle Mo, dueled with Sing Along Suzy for a half-mile before putting that rival away and had plenty left to hold off 16-1 long shot Incontrovertible and graduate with a front-running maiden special weight triumph in 1:51.22 for 1 1/8 miles on the main track, having been rained off Laurel’s world-class turf course.

Mens Grille Racing’s Hall Pass ($20), third in the City of Laurel and Star de Naskra Stakes last year at Laurel, reeled in previously undefeated pacesetter Bull Shark at the sixteenth pole and drew off to a three-length triumph over late-running Ballivor in Race 4, a six-furlong second-level optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds and up. The winning time was 1:09.93.