LAUREL PARK PICKS AND PONDERINGS: JAN. 29, 2022

Air Token
Air Token won the Maryland Million Sprint. Photo Allison Janezic.

In which we pick the races from Laurel Park each day…

Post time: 12:10 p.m.

Carryovers: Rainbow Jackpot Pick 6 — $773 Super High 5 — $2,201 Late Pick 5 — $0

Check out our other handicapping here!

RACE 1: MAIDEN CLAIMING $10,000, 4 AND 5-YEAR-OLDS, FILLIES AND MARES, 1 1/16 MILES

2-3-4-1

Lots of good racing on tap for today, assuming the weather cooperates. #2 Got a Good Reason (3/1) showed a new dimension in her last start. Unlike in her first two races, she went to the front after the first quarter and hung around on the early pace. She held on to win a show photo, losing second by less than two lengths. Looks to be in improving form. #3 Icy Harbor (7/2) showed speed and held on for third in her first two-turn dirt try last out, and will try to rebound after a dull performance last out. She’s also lightly-raced, having competed just four times prior to this race. #4 Saint Rita (7/2) made what looked like a big move to the front last out, but she flattened out in the stretch while failing to change leads. Nonetheless, it was a much-improved performance from her prior races.

RACE 2: CLAIMING $10,000 (N/W3L), 4-YEAR-OLDS AND UP, FILLIES AND MARES, 6 FURLONGS

5-3-2-1

#5 Minnetonka (3/1) has improved with every start as of late, for the dangerous combo of Jerry Robb and Xavier Perez. She’s not a need-the-lead type, but there’s not much early speed in this race, so she could take them gate-to-wire. #3 Little Ms Scarlet (5/2) shipped back from New York for her last start and finished a solid second behind Miner’s Gem, who is riding a four-race winning streak. #2 Thea’s Theme (8/1) takes a big drop from the open $12,500 level. While she has good tactical speed, she’ll need to improve off her last few starts, where she faltered in the stretch after pressing the pace, to have a serious win chance.

RACE 3: JENNINGS STAKES, 4-YEAR-OLDS AND UP, MD-BRED, 1 MILE

4-1-7-3

We’ll get the stakes party started here, and we begin with a favorite who looks much the best. #4 Cordmaker (7/5) was a four-time stakes winner last year, capping off his season with back-to-back wins against open company. He has a similar profile as Harpers First Ride did at this time last year, but elected not to ship to Florida and instead stay home in search of some easy money. If he runs back to his recent races, he’ll be very tough. #1 Bustoff (4/1) has won three of his last four and is the main speed threat in the race. Charlie Marquez has gotten off to a slow start at the meet, but all he’s got to do is send this one to the lead from the inside to give him the maximum shot. #7 Galerio (7/2) loved winning in 2020, but preferred finishing second last year. He was second seven times from eleven starts, against similar fields to the one he’ll see here. He hasn’t quite packed the same punch in his recent starts, but he should at least hang around for a piece.

RACE 4: GEISHA STAKES, 4-YEAR-OLDS AND UP, FILLIES AND MARES, MD-BRED, 1 MILE

1-3-4-5

Three Diamonds Farm has a busy day today, with three horses in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational, but they’ll also race #1 Kiss the Girl (8/5) for Mike Trombetta and the red-hot Victor Carrasco. She finished second in this race last year behind the much-the-best odds-on choice Gale, but since then has won the Conniver Stakes and raced well against open company on dirt. She had to shift paths a bit late in the Ladies Stakes last out, but still closed well for third. Her stablemate, #3 Lookin Dynamic (9/2) almost upset the Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes two back with a strong, wide move, but ended up second to Miss Leslie. She got stuck behind a slow pace last out in the Carousel Stakes and looks for a rebound. #4 Artful Splatter (9/5) got plenty of checks last year but didn’t win a race, oftentimes setting the pace and flattening out. The only serious speed threat here is longshot Double Fireball, so she could get away easy on the front end.

RACE 5: CLAIMING $5,000 (CONDITIONED), 4-YEAR-OLDS AND UP, 6 FURLONGS

9-4-12-6

#9 Extra Medium (7/2) takes a big drop in class after a strong second-place effort against open $8,000 types last out. The winner of that race, Swing West, came back to soundly defeat a $12,500 claiming field, while the third-place finisher, Hard Fought, won a starter optional claiming race next out. With those kind of class lines, Extra Medium shouldn’t have much trouble with these. #4 Jungle Warrior (9/2) ran a huge race in his first start off a long layoff last out, setting the pace and battling well in the stretch. He stays at this level and cuts back from a mile. His best races have come while going shorter. #12 Big Hambone (5/1) just missed at this level last out after a wide trip. He’s in improving form but is susceptible to getting caught wide once again.

RACE 6: SPECTACULAR BID STAKES, 3-YEAR-OLDS, 7 FURLONGS

3-8-10-2

A few of these are cross-entered in Sunday’s Jimmy Winkfield Stakes at Aqueduct. Whether they’d genuinely rather race in New York or are covering themselves in case of bad weather isn’t necessarily known. One of those cross-entered is #3 H P Moon (9/5), who makes his long-awaited return to the races. He made waves on debut, when he crushed the field at Pimlico by 9 3/4 lengths with a brisnet figure of 89. He returned to the worktab about a month ago, and looks raring to go as he gets set for his 3-year-old debut. It’s possible he needs a race first off the bench, but he looks like a serious horse, so the long layoff might not bother him. #8 Alottahope (3/1) drew away impressively to beat a first-level allowance optional claiming field last out with a career-best mark of 90. He’s shown good tactical speed for Robb and Perez and will take full advantage should H P Moon flatten out. #10 Last Romance (10/1) made a bit of a premature move last out in the Heft Stakes and flattened out to second, but he’s shown the ability to pack big punches and could shake things up.

  • Direct the Cat returns with flair
    Direct the Cat, last year’s champion 2yo WV-bred filly, returned to action June 20 with a sharp score, and owner-trainer Cyndy McKee is thinking big.

RACE 7: XTRA HEAT STAKES, 3-YEAR-OLDS, FILLIES, 6 FURLONGS

3-4-2-6

#3 Luna Belle (1/1) closed strongly in the stretch last out to defeat favored Jester Calls Nojoy in the Maryland Juvenile Fillies Championship last out. She’s shown good closing speed in all of her recent starts and gets a fairly easy field for her 3-year-old debut. In contrast, #4 Beneath the Stars (5/2) has blazing early speed and held on for second in the Smart Halo Stakes after setting an ambitious pace. Trainer Anthony Farrior is off to a strong start at the meet, including two wins yesterday. #2 Buff My Boots (4/1) got some time off after a tough trip in the Smart Halo Stakes last out, and has worked well since. She took advantage of a rail-biased track to win the Maryland Million Lassie two back, but at least she’ll have the advantage of being the speed on the rail this time.

RACE 8: WHAT A SUMMER STAKES, 4-YEAR-OLDS AND UP, FILLIES AND MARES, 6 FURLONGS

1-3-7-12

For most of the Willa On the Move Stakes, #1 Princess Kokachin (8/1) looked like the heir apparent to the title of top Maryland-bred female sprinter. She opened up a long lead early and looked home free, but faded late and finished second. She had won five in a row prior to that, showing blazing early speed every time. If you still believe, you’ll get a great price. #3 Regal Retort (7/2) absolutely crushed an allowance optional claiming field at Churchill Downs last out, running a huge figure of 103. She’ll get the trip off the pace, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see her win this one easily as well. #7 Don’t Call Me Mary (4/1) went gate-to-wire in impressive fashion two back, but was a distant third in the Mrs. Claus Stakes last out. The winner of that race, Jakarta, is one of the favorites in the Inside Information Stakes today at Gulfstream Park, while the runner-up, Miss Mosaic, won the American Beauty Stakes at Oaklawn Park last Saturday.

RACE 9: FIRE PLUG STAKES, 4-YEAR-OLDS AND UP, 6 FURLONGS

2-4-6-7

#2 Wondrwherecraigis (4/5) has crossed the wire first four times in a row. He was disqualified out of a win in the DeFrancis Dash, but bounced back to win the Bold Ruler Stakes to give Brittany Russell her first graded stakes win. He hasn’t raced since that October 30 race, but has dominant figures and shouldn’t have much trouble with these. The top three finishers in the December 26 Dave’s Friend Stakes are all back here. I lean towards third-place finisher #4 Youngest of Five (8/1). He surged late and just missed by a neck, an impressive effort after getting thrown out of his pace-setting element early on. He’ll likely press Wondrwherecraigis from the outside. #6 Jaxon Traveler (4/1) returns to this track for the first time since his Maryland Juvenile Championship win in December 2020. He tends to chase the leaders and end up with a check. Worth using underneath in the trifecta and superfecta.

RACE 10: CLAIMING $8,000, 4-YEAR-OLDS AND UP, 1 MILE

6-4-2-7

#6 Bahama Channel (5/2) crushed a similar field two back with an 86, far and away a career-best mark. He drops back in class after stepping up last out and should enjoy this distance. #4 Oxide (3/1) closed strongly at 6 1/2 furlongs last out and goes second off the claim for Lacey Gaudet. #2 Frankee Merch (6/1) has run in the 70s in his last three starts and battled well in the stretch last out.

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