For Amy Cortez, a win to smile about

Amy Cortez gallops horses in the mornings at Laurel Park, and she trains a horse or two for herself. That’s generally not a recipe that lends itself to competing at the higher levels, and her runner-or-two barn had never earned more than $23,000 in a single year previously.

But with a good-looking score in Saturday’s sixth race at Laurel Park, a first-level allowance with a solid field, the Cortez-trained Audacious Quality served notice that he might be one to climb the ladder.

“I was expecting a big performance, but racing is racing, so you never know,” Cortez said after the race. “I was very happy with that.”

Under jockey Denis Araujo, Audacious Quality bided his time while saving ground for the first five-eighths of the one-mile contest. He began making up ground rounding the turn, and when Araujo steered him to the outside for a clear path, Audacious Quality blew past the field, running past post time favorite Royne to win by 2 ¼ lengths in 1:37.33 over firm turf.

It was the second consecutive race in which the Michael Dickinson-trained Royne and Audacious Quality had faced each other. They had finished about a length apart April 29 after Audacious Quality encountered traffic in the late stages.

“I think if I hadn’t had to check, I would have given him a run for his money,” Cortez said.

Bettors weren’t impressed, though. Royne was off at even money; Audacious Quality was 10-1.

Audacious Quality paid $22.80 to win and topped an exacta with Royne worth $32.30 for a one-dollar wager. He now has four wins from 18 career starts with earnings of $124,992.

Cortez bought Audacious Quality, a son of Elusive Quality, privately early in 2021. The Maryland-bred gelding, a homebred for D Hatman Thoroughbreds, had been running for trainer Phil Schoenthal. But when Schoenthal relocated his base to Fair Hill, he was willing to part with a horse whose most recent start had been at the $5,000 claiming level. Cortez was in the right place at the right time.

“He was looking to cull his stable a little bit,” she remembered. “He was bringing the better horses [to his new Fair Hill barn], and also he had a lot more coming in. So he was just looking to find him a home, and I just happened to really like him because I galloped him.”

Cortez started Audacious Quality three more times on the dirt and then shifted him to the turf, where he won a claiming contest by a neck at odds of 21-1. That was in May 2021, and Cortez gave him most of the next year off; he didn’t return until April 29.

“He got a little injury, and then turf season was over,” Cortez said. “I think he’s just much better on the turf, and he needed to grow and mature. So I just decided to stop on him.”

That seems to have been the winning answer. His seasonal debut was a very good effort, despite the troubled trip, and Saturday’s win was a powerful one against a good group of horses.

“Any win feels good,” Cortez said with laugh. “I only have two horses.”


  • Audacious Quality won an allowance at Laurel Park. Photo Jim McCue.

NOTES Plot the Dots and jockey Angel Cruz won the seventh race, a third-level allowance. Plot the Dots, trained by Claudio Gonzalez, is now just shy of $300,000 in career earnings… Trainer Michael Merryman ran one-two in the eighth, a second-level allowance sprinting on the turf for fillies and mares, with Whispurring Kitten (Jorge Ruiz up) holding off Epic Idea (Carlos Lopez) to get the money…

Maryland Million Nursery winner Buff Hello returned to Laurel for the first time since and won a first-level allowance, throwing down grueling early fractions and just holding on to win. Jeiron Barbosa was up for Claudio Gonzalez; both won three races on the day… Trainer Ferris Allen kicked off the day with an exacta of his own in the first race, a claiming event in which Miss Moreno (Jean Alvelo) took the inside route to win easily over Simmard Shenanigan (Yan Aviles)…

3 wins apiece for Claudio Gonzalez and Jeiron Barbosa. Photo Jim McCue.