Harrison Johnson Stakes quick hits
The Harrison Johnson Memorial Stakes, named for the late trainer who died in a 1985 plane crash, has been shaved from nine furlongs to eight – the first time it’s been run at one mile since its second running, in 1987.
That extra furlong isn’t the only thing missing this year. So, too, is defending champ Cordmaker, who in 2021 won this event for the second time in three years. Following his win in last month’s Grade 3 General George, the veteran Rodney Jenkins trainee is getting a bit of a well-deserved break.
Our Harrison Johnson quick hits:
- Six Midlantic-breds among Triple Crown nomsAmong the 369 three-year-olds nominated to the Triple Crown series of races kicking off with the Kentucky Derby, six were bred in the Mid-Atlantic.
Dreamy: The Robin Graham-trained Workin On a Dream (7-2) disappointed last out, fading to sixth in the Campbell as the 6-5 chalk. That snapped a streak of three straight plus efforts, a win and two stakes seconds behind Cordmaker. He can bounce back, but the pace scenario presents the same questions it did last time.
At long last: Galerio (7-5) had failed repeatedly to break through in stakes company; the Jump Start gelding had finished in the money in six of eight stakes starts without a win. That all changed when he just held off Forewarned last out in the John B. Campbell. Now, off a career-top 102 Beyer and first stakes win, the John Salzman, Jr. trainee is the heavy favorite to make it two straight.
Quotable: “He’s doing super. Do I have to run him back in a stake? I don’t, but Cordmaker’s not showing up so I think he’s going to be one of the choices. I hope,” Salzman said. “He runs big every time. He deserved it for sure.”
Big day? Salzman is one of a handful of trainers who’ll by vying to have a big day. In addition to the favorite here, he’ll also send out 3-1 second choice Local Motive in the Private Terms. Also worth a watch: Mike Trombetta, who has logical horses in the Miracle Wood (morning line favorite Joe), Conniver (9-5 second choice Kiss the Girl), and here, with Torch of Truth (5-1). Torch of Truth was fifth in the Campbell in an even effort.
Quotable: “He kind of ran his race last time. That race just went extraordinarily fast that day,” trainer Michael Trombetta said. “I don’t know if those horses are going to bring that game back again or not, but he kind of fits with them.”
Speaking of… trainers to watch, there’s also Ham Smith. He has even-money choice Luna Belle in the Beyond the Wire and 3-1 Gentleman Joe here. Gentleman Joe ran a big one last out when third in the Campbell, dueling with post-time favorite Workin On a Dream and dispatching that rival before trip-sitters came and picked up the pieces. One concern today: Workin On a Dream also returns today, which might lead to a pace scenario reprise.