Carotari earns popular win in McKay Turf Sprint

Heading into the latest edition of the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint at five furlongs on the firm Pimlico turf course, the final stakes race prior to the main event of the day and the meet, much of the atten5ion was focused on Carotari (Luis Saez), although he had been idle since winning the $100,000 Janus Stakes at Gulfstream Park on New Year’s Eve. 

Sent out as the 7-5 favorite in the McKay field of nine turf sprinters, Carotari did not disappoint his backers or connections.

In fact, when the gates opened in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint Stakes, named in honor of the longtime ABC Wide World of Sports commentator and one of the inspirations and driving forces behind the creation of the Maryland Million, Carotari broke rapidly along the inside.

But the front was crowded early, with four horses, including Hollis, Grateful Bred, and Seven Scents, all within a length through a quarter in 21.90 seconds.

Entering the far turn, the Jim McKay Turf Sprint Stakes was still wide open as Carotari continued to face pressure from a trio of foes. But gradually that pressure dissipated, and Carotari shook loose briefly,, opened a clear lead inside the eighth pole then held safe Smokin’ Jay and Seven Scents for a 1 1/2-length score while stopping the timer in 56.52 for the five furlongs on the firm turf course.

“He;s pretty fast,” said jockey Luis Saez, who had steered Ethereal Road to victory as the 3-2 choice in the $100,000 Sir Barton Stakes roughly 45 minutes earlier, “That is the way he likes to be. Today he ran pretty nice. I rode him pretty confident. When I came to the top of the stretch, I had a lot of horse.”

A six-year-old Artie Schiller gelding trained by Brian Lynch for owner William Branch, Carotari handily prevailed in his seasonal debut and now owns a 9-6-3 slate and over $615,000 banked from 25 lifetime tries. Nearly all of his success has come in sprints on the turf, where he now boasts an 8-6-2 slate nearly $560,000 in 22 tries on the grass.

Smokin’ Jay, who had also exited the Janus at Gulfstream Park and was also making his seasonal debut for trainer Kelsey Danner, rallied from well off the pace and widest of all in the lane to edge Seven Scents for the place spot. Grateful Bred finished fourth.

Carotari paid $4.80 to win, and the exacta returned $21.20 for a one-dollar wager.


Carotari won the Jim McKay Turf Sprint. Photo Allison Janezic.