Conniver, Not for Love quick hits

Saturday’s Laurel Park card features a pair of stakes for Maryland-bred and -sired runners in the Conniver for fillies and mares and the Not for Love for the boys. The former, at seven furlongs, has attracted a half-dozen runners, while the latter, a six-furlong test, has seven.

The Conniver will go as the fourth race on the 11-race card. The Not for Love is the seventh.

Our quick hits:


On the rise: Fille d’Esprit (7-5) may be six years old, but she doesn’t have much wear on the tires. The Great Notion mare has made just 13 career starts and arrives here off a career-best outing when third in the Grade 3 Barbara Fritchie. She’ll get Lasix back on in her return to ungraded company.

Quotable: “She ran a huge race [in the Fritchie],” said Fille’s trainer, Jerry Robb. “The time before she got tangled in the gate, and that race was impressive, too, because she came out like 15 lengths behind the field and turning for home she was in a stalking position to win it.”

Smooch for the champ: Kiss the Girl (9-5) arrives off back-to-back wins in the Geisha and, last out the two-turn Nellie Morse. Her recent good races have all been at a mile or beyond, but not to worry: she’s two-for-two at this trip and is the defending champ in this contest.

Quotable: “[Kiss the Girl] just shows up every time. She shows up and she’s been able to get a lot of things accomplished in a shorter period of time,” trainer Mike Trombetta said. “She’s been fantastic. Those kind of horses are very rare.”

Long time between drinks: Artful Splatter hasn’t won a race since Sept. 2020 – 15 consecutive defeats since. But she continues to run good races and has been second in three consecutive stakes. On the more bad news front: she’s finished behind Kiss the Girl in the last two.

Stake your claim: Two of these runners have been claimed in their careers. Fille d’Esprit was claimed for $10,000 out of a win in August 2020 and has since won three allowance races and finished third in the Fritchie. And Artful Splatter was a $16,000 claim for trainer Kieron Magee in Sept. 2019. She’s won two stakes since.

Outside information: The remaining trio – Combat Queen, Champagne Toast, and Coconut Cake – all look to have their work cut out for them. Of that group, Coconut Cake (10-1) looks to have the best shot, especially if the pace heats up up front. She had no answers for ultra-speed Princess Kokachin last time, but that runner’s not here today.


Revved up? Big Engine (5-2) figures to get a long look from the bettors after winning an Aqeuduct allowance while earning a 96 Beyer speed fig. But we’re not entirely sold on the field he faced, and there were just four of ‘em other than him. The betting value looks likely to land elsewhere.

Fresh as a gelding: Since the calendar flipped from ’20 to ’21, the seven-year-old El Padrino gelding Whereshetoldmetogo (3-1) has shown a consistent pattern: he fires fresh, and then not so much. He’s won three times off the bench, and each time followed that up with a defeat as the favorite. This’ll be his first start since Dec. 26, and when he followed that exact schedule in 2021-21, he won last year’s Not for Love one year ago. Just sayin’.

Quotable: “He always kind of appreciates being backed off of a bit. But he always needs time between races, too, and it seems like he’s kind of shown us that,” said trainer Brittany Russell. “If you really want to see his best efforts you have to give that horse quite a bit of time between runs.”

Fly me to the…: The Grade 3 General George – and no Lasix – might have been too much to ask of Air Token (5-1). But if you discount that fifth-place finish a bit, you’ve got a horse in solid form: a win in the Maryland Million Sprint, a neck defeat to Whereshetoldmetogo in the Bender Memorial, a length defeat in the Dave’s Friend, and an easy allowance score. Might not want to sleep on this guy.

Speaking of not sleeping on: Another runner who might offer some value here is Youngest of Five (4-1). The Hugh McMahon trainee has been second or third in three straight stakes, once a neck behind Whereshetoldmetogo and last out three lengths in arrears of Wondrwherecraigis. That runner’ll make his next start in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1).

Well Travelered: Jaxon Traveler (7-2) has made his last seven starts at seven different racetracks in two different countries. But the Munnings colt trained by Steve Asmussen has just one win during that period, that coming in a three-horse Star de Naskra at Pimlico in August. We kinda feel like we want to see more than we have of late before taking these sorts of odds.