Harpers First Ride
Harpers First Ride cruised in the Native Dancer Stakes. Photo by Jerry Dzierwinski.

MCA Racing Stable’s Harpers First Ride put the finishing touches on an outstanding 2020 season by dismissing a bid from fellow multiple stakes winner Cordmaker at the top of the stretch and rolling home a 3 ¼-length winner in Saturday’s $100,000 Native Dancer at Laurel Park.

The 53rd running of the 1 1/8-mile Native Dancer, first held at old Bowie Race Course in 1966, was among three stakes for 3-year-olds and up on the undercard of a Christmastide Day program of eight stakes worth $850,000 in purses led by the $150,000 Allaire du Pont (G3).

Favored at 1-5 over his six rivals, Harpers First Ride ($2.40) registered his seventh win from 11 starts this year and fourth stakes win, none bigger than the historic Pimlico Special (G3) Oct. 2 at Pimlico Race Course. The winning time was 1:48.56 over a fast main track.

Jockey Angel Cruz, riding for fall meet-leading trainer Claudio Gonzalez, positioned Harpers First Ride behind pacesetting 45-1 long shot Saratoga Jack through a quarter-mile in 24.61 seconds, with Cordmaker and Hall Pass battling side by side behind the top two. Harpers First Ride was in front after a half in 48.39 seconds and went six furlongs in 1:11.53 when Cordmaker – third in the 2019 and 2020 Pimlico Special – came calling. They straightened for home together but Cordmaker was unable to sustain his drive and got passed by Forewarned for second.

“Claudio told me to get a good position and just sit behind the speed. The speed’s on the outside so [I] just [tried to] get him to relax and go on from there,” Cruz said. “At the top of the stretch I had so much horse, when I asked Harper he responded very well. When Cordmaker came by me I just sat patient and waited a little bit and when I asked him he responded for me. He’s just a game horse. He fights to the end.”

Harpers First Ride won four of his last five starts to cap 2020, all of them in stakes – the Deputed Testamony, Pimlico Special, Richard W. Small and Native Dancer. He owns eight wins from 10 career tries at Laurel with one second and one third.

JUVENILE NOTES In addition to the Native Dancer, Grade 3 Allaire Du Pont, and two other stakes for older horses, Laurel also hosted four juvenile stakes:

  • Favored No Cents (jockey Alex Cintron/trainer Cal Lynch) took the seven-furlong Heft Stakes by a neck, surviiving a tough battle from Kenny Had a Notion and an objection by Jevian Toledo, aboard show horse Singlino, that took slightly less than forever to resolve. It was his second straight stakes win…
  • Favored Steet Lute (Xavier Perez/Jerry Robb) barely held off the late bid of Fraudulent Charge to win the seven-furlong Gin Talking Stakes for fillies by a nose. Street Lute has won five of six, four in stakes company, and is one narrow defeat from a perfect two-year-old campaign…
  • Miss Leslie (Roimes Chirinos/Claudio Gonzalez) rallied from the rear of the field to win the 1 1/16-mile Anne Arundel County for 2yo fillies by a head over Buckey’s Charm, who was a head better than favored The Grass Is Blue. Miss Leslie, a Paynter filly whom Gonzalez claimed for $25,000, has now won three straight…
  • Shackqueenking (Victor Rosales/Gary Capuano) gutted out a nose win over a dead game Ain’t Da Beer Cold in the 1 1/16-mile Howard County Stakes. It was Shackqueenking’s second win, first in stakes company, from four starts. Favored Market Cap was fourth.