Poppy Flower proves best in Stormy Blues

Arnmore Thoroughbreds’ Poppy Flower, racing second time for her new connections, weaved her way through traffic down the stretch under jockey Victor Carrasco and emerged with her first career stakes victory in Sunday’s $100,000 Stormy Blues at Laurel Park.

The 14th running of the 5 ½-furlong Stormy Blues for 3-year-old fillies headlined a Father’s Day program featuring three turf stakes worth $250,000 in purses. It was preceded by the $75,000 Find for 3-year-olds and up and followed by the $75,000 All Brandy for fillies and mares 3 and older, both at 1 1/16 miles and restricted to Maryland-bred/sired horses.

Carrasco, the 2013 Eclipse Award-winning apprentice, was riding Poppy Flower ($22.20) for the first time in the Stormy Blues, which was just her second race since last fall after joining the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. She ran six times in 2021 for trainer Wesley Ward with one win and three seconds, two of them in stakes. Both her maiden win and runner-up finish in the Bolton Landing on turf came with Jose Ortiz aboard; Ortiz and Carrasco grew up together in Puerto Rico.

“I called Jose Ortiz early in the morning,” Carrasco said. “He told me that she was very nice and classy and she could do anything, be forwardly placed or come from off the pace. I knew that there was going to be some speed so I just let her settle and get herself together the first part, and when it was time to go she responded and she got it done.”

Poppy Flower was unhurried early rating in seventh along the rail while Fly Me Home, riding a two-race win streak, and 60-1 long shot Lola Flo sizzled through an opening quarter-mile in 21.50 seconds chased by Artos and Visby with even-money favorite Derrynane and jockey Jaime Rodriguez in the clear in fifth. Carrasco still had some work to do once straightened for home, but tipped off the rail at the top of the stretch and split horses to gain the advantage past the sixteenth pole.

Poppy Flower hit the line 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Artos in second while Derrynane made a late bid to get third, another 1 ¼ lengths back. Lost My Sock, Visby, Buy the Best, Lola Flo, Still My Babe and Fly Me Home completed the order of finish.

The winning time was 1:02.20 over a firm Bowl Game turf course.

“She broke pretty good and I knew [Fly Me Home] on the outside and [Lola Flo] were going to go, so I was just very patient following [Derrynane] who I thought was the filly to beat,” Carrasco said. “I followed her and when Jaime decided to go down the lane, I tucked in and got it done.”

Poppy Flower was bred in Kentucky by Brenda Harding and Megan Jones. She is a chestnut daughter of Lea out of the Excellent Art mare Nisharora. Arnmore also owned Nisharora, who finished third in the 2016 Dahlia at Laurel.

“She’s been a sweetheart since she was a little baby. She used to lay in my lap in the stall and she was really, really sweet. And she stayed sweet,” Harding said. “We raced the mare for about four years and then when it was time to retire her, the partners gifted her to me. We still have the mare.

“This was a good stakes race for [Poppy Flower]. It was one to get her feet under her,” she added. “She was coming back off a long layoff and she did great.”

Stormy Blues was one of the top 2-year-old fillies of 1994 whose four wins in six starts that year included the Matron (G1), Sorority (G3) and Selima (G3), the latter at Laurel Park. Trained by late Hall of Famer Scotty Schulhofer, she finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).