Laurel Park stakes Saturday quick hits

“In 60 seconds” recaps playlist

Saturday’s Laurel Park card features four stakes, and two of them – the $125,000 Federico Tesio and $125,000 Weber City Miss – offer automatic entry into Maryland’s biggest races, the Grade 1 Preakness and Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan, respectively.

Also on tap are the $100,000 Frank Whiteley Stakes, a seven-furlong sprint for older runners, and the $100,000 Heavenly Cause, a one-mile test for older fillies and mares. The Whiteley kicks off the 2022 MATCH Series.

For more on these races:

Here’s a preview in quick hits:

  • Local hopefuls: A pair of Laurel-based horses will be gunning to earn their tickets to the big dance Saturday. In the Tesio, the Rudy Sanchez-Salomon-trained Shake Em Loose is the 3-1 second choice in the field of nine, and his trainer has said the goal is to win here and head to the Middle Jewel. In the Weber City Miss, the Ham Smith-trained Luna Belle is the overwhelming 3-5 morning line favorite and faces just five rivals.
  • And the nominees are…: Three Tesio runners are nominated to the Triple Crown series,which is required to enter the Preakness. In addition to Shake Em Loose, other nominees include Smarten Up for Alfredo Velazquez and Secret Alliance for John Servis. They are 9-2 and 10-1 on the morning line, respectively.

  • Just Joe: Joe, named for President Joe Biden, had a three-race win streak snapped last out when second in the Private Terms, behind Shake Em Loose. Trained by Mike Trombetta, Joe won the Maryland Juvenile Championship to close his freshman campaign and then won a January allowance in his first try around two turns.
    • QUOTABLE: “I don’t think the distance should bother him,” Trombetta said. “Being a two-turn race, and he’s done it now a couple of times, it should be to his benefit.”
  • Two for Trombetta: In addition to Joe, Trombetta will saddle longshot Mr Jefferson, who started off his career in promising fashion but enters off back-to-back disappointing efforts. But that fourth-place finish in the Remsen three back is looking a lot better now that top pair Mo Donegal and Zandon are looking like major Kentucky Derby players.
  • Two-turn winners: If Luna Belle has a weakness – and in this group, she may not – it’s that she’s never been two turns. Only two of her rivals possess two-turn wins on the main track: Chardonnay for Mike Stidham and Click to Confirm for Rudy Sanchez-Salomon. The latter, 10-1 on the morning line, was up in time to win a restricted allowance against older rivals last out.
  • Lordly: The tepid 3-1 morning line favorite in the Whiteley is Sir Alfred James, who’s also been (by far) the busiest horse in the field: the Whiteley will be his seventh start of the season. The Norman Cash trainee ran big to be third in the G3 General George and then was second in the Fishtown at Parx before winning an allowance last time. 
  • Back from a break: American Patrol looked solid to start his career. The American Pharoah colt won two of his first three main-track races, including a flashy nine-length score in a Delaware allowance. But that was June 19, 2021, and he’ll make his first start since in the Whiteley..
    • QUOTABLE: “We gave him time to grow up last year. We had him ready and he won pretty impressively the first time going around two turns and we had very high hopes on him. Then he came back and he just wasn’t doing right or eating well,” trainer Cal Lynch said. “I talked to Nick and he said, ‘Listen, if you like the horse that much, give him some time,’ so we did. We just backed off him. Here at Fair Hill we have the paddocks and just turned him out for a couple of months and he just blossomed, grew up and got in the right mind. We’re really, really happy with him and hopefully he’ll have a good 4-year-old year.”

  • To the front: It looks likely that all of the Whiteley horses will be chasing Borracho (4-1) early. Trained by Mike Gorham, this one arrives on a two-race win streak and has led at the first call in three straight, two at six furlongs. Jaime Rodriguez will ride.
  • Spirited: Fille d’Esprit obliterated the field in the state-bred Conniver last out. The waters get deeper in the Heavenly Cause for the Jerry Robb trainee, with rivals including multiple stakes winner Miss Leslie and graded winner Sharp Starr.
  • Dance every dance: Artful Splatter (10-1) will make her fourth stakes start of 2022 in the Heavenly Cause. She hasn’t won any of ‘em, but the Kieron Magee trainee has been second or third in all three prior ‘22 outings.
  • Streaking: Pennybaker (5-1) has won four straight entering the Heavenly Cause – but all four were on the synthetic in France. The Medaglia d’Oro filly shifts into the Stidham barn for her first U. S. outing.