AIR TOKEN LOOKING FOR MORE IN BENDER MEM’L STKS.
Corrales Racing’s Air Token, upset winner of the Maryland Million Sprint in his last start, will look to carry that momentum against graded-stakes placed Double Crown and Galerio and multiple stakes winner Whereshetoldmetogo in Friday’s $75,000 Howard and Sondra Bender Memorial at Laurel Park.
The fifth running of the seven-furlong Bender for 3-year-olds and up and 39th renewal of the $75,000 Politely for fillies and mares 3 and up sprinting six furlongs highlight the nine-race post-Thanksgiving Day program.
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Both races, restricted to Maryland-bred/sired horses, return after a one-year absence due to the coronavirus pandemic. First race post time is 12:25 p.m.
Air Token is a durable 4-year-old Golden Lad gelding who will be making his 13th start of the year in the Bender. He owns seven career wins and has run first or second in eight of his last 11 races, the only exceptions coming in races beyond a mile, including the July 13 Bert Allen on the Colonial Downs turf and Aug. 27 Charles Town Classic (G2).
“He’s doing good,” owner-trainer Jose Corrales said. “He’s one of those horses that you’re lucky with. They’re OK and they keep themselves sound and good. He’s a nice horse. He’s ready for this race.”
Corrales claimed Air Token for $10,000 last August out of a maiden claiming win at Laurel, his fourth career start. He would go on to race 13 times in 2020 with four wins, and finished second in the Maryland Million Turf Starter Handicap.
Air Token returned to the Maryland Million for the six-furlong Sprint on Laurel’s main track Oct. 23 and earned his first career stakes victory, stalking the pace before pulling away to a 2 ¼-length triumph over late-running Double Crown under jockey J.D. Acosta at odds of 7-1.
“I was going to run him two weeks before that, but he had kicked something and I had to scratch him,” Corrales said. “I was aiming really good for that race. It didn’t really surprise me that he won the race, to tell you the truth. The horse, he likes that kind of race. J.D. fits very well with him. He found the way how he likes to run.”
LAUREL PARK IN :60
Acosta will return to ride Air Token for the ninth straight race, breaking from Post 8 in a field of 10 at co-topweight of 122 pounds.
“I don’t think I did anything except put him in the races where he can win,” Corrales said. “A lot of people look and think he cannot compete in there. I just gave him the chance and he proved himself that he can do better than what they [thought]. They expect less from him than what I expect. I see more on him than somebody else.
“It’s like taking somebody from the street who you watch and you think, ‘Maybe this person has a talent,’ and then you polish them a little bit and give them what they need to [succeed] and then they become a champ,” he added. “Horses are the same thing we are. Animals, they need opportunity. People need opportunity, and this horse got a chance to do that.”
Air Token has run second in three career tries at seven furlongs. Overall, he has five wins, five seconds and two thirds in 18 lifetime trips at Laurel.
“I feel very good about him because he’s a horse that can go any distance. Three-quarters for me is a little bit shorter than what I want for him,” Corrales said. “I think seven-eighths is the best distance for him. You still have to run them and the competition has to be right. But he’ll be tough in this race.”