LAUREL PARK PICKS AND PONDERINGS: december 30, 2022
In which we pick the races from Laurel Park each day…
Post time: 11:25 a.m.
Carryovers: Rainbow Jackpot Pick 6 — $4,695 Super High 5 — $1,207 Late Pick 5 — $8,814
Check out our other handicapping here!
RACE 1: MAIDEN CLAIMING $45,000, 2-YEAR-OLDS, 5 1/2 FURLONGS
We’ve got a loaded card on tap. 11 races, six stakes races, and an early first post time. #4 Duckpins (2-1) was second in what proved to be a fruitful maiden claiming race at Timonium in his debut, then closed for second in a race where the winner saved more ground. It was a solid performance for his first start in almost three months, and he’ll try to build off that race here. #3 Snack (5-2) was well-bet on debut for Mike Trombetta, and finished third behind the highly-touted and impressive winner John Hall. The Trombetta barn tends to do better second time out, so I’m expecting some more improvement here. #6 Landon Jack (4-1) will almost certainly be in front early on, but he hasn’t yet shown the stamina needed to hold on and win. He stopped badly in the last eighth last out and was third behind Duckpins; a similar performance here is the most likely outcome.
RACE 2: CLAIMING $16,000 (N/W2L), 3-YEAR-OLDS AND UP, 7 FURLONGS
#1 Pudge Boy Palace (3-1) got caught up in a brutal speed duel last out going 1 1/16 miles. He battled through very fast fractions, clicking off a first quarter of 23.54 seconds and an opening half-mile of 46.99 seconds. Unsurprisingly, he backed up, but finished the best of anyone who was near that pace. He finished 7 1/2 lengths clear of his sparring partner and ran a career-best brisnet figure of 78. He’s cutting back in distance here, to the same distance at which he broke his maiden at Charles Town three races back. #7 Love Machine (12-1) gobbled up ground to break his maiden going away last out with a career-best mark of 71. He’s slowly improved in his last few races and looks ready to truly put it all together. He’s going first off the claim by Richard Sillaman. #6 Dr. Rags (8-1) has run in the 70s in his last two starts and closed well for second last out when at a pace disadvantage.
- Several local runners among Barbara Fritchie nomsThe nominations for the Barbara Fritchie Stakes upcoming at Laurel Park include several local runners, among them last year’s show horse Fille d’Esprit.
RACE 3: MAIDEN CLAIMING $12,500, 2-YEAR-OLDS, 7 FURLONGS
#10 Best Choice Baby (7-2) did nothing in his debut and was completely ignored in the wagering second time out. While he couldn’t chase down the winner, who coasted on an uncontested lead, he showed some good foot late and outkicked the others to secure second at 21-1. We’ll see which version of him shows up here. #2 Stardust Ziggy (6-1) also showed a lot of improvement second time out, showing speed and fading after lagging lethargically first time out. He’ll likely be on the early pace with #1 Vasy Says Nyet (12-1), who has been well-bet in each of his two starts but hasn’t quite been able to hold it together on the front end. I’m willing to give him another shot, at hopefully a better price than the 13-10 he went off at last out.
RACE 4: HEFT STAKES, 2-YEAR-OLDS, 7 FURLONGS
The stakes action kicks off with a race for 2-year-olds, named in honor of longtime Maryland owners Arnold and Sylvia Heft, most notable in the racing world for owning three-time Maryland Million Classic champion Eighttofasttocatch. Brittany Russell already has a star rising 3-year-old in Post Time, but she might have another one who’s just as good in #7 Prince of Jericho (8-5). He finished third behind his stablemate in debut, then won his next two starts by a combined 16 1/4 lengths. Last out, the Kentucky-bred son of Munnings smoked a first-level allowance field, finishing well-ahead of the respected Valenzan Day, who came back to win next out at Aqueduct. Prince of Jericho is getting a class test here, but if he ran like he did in his prior two starts, he’ll give Russell a promising 1-2 punch for next year. #4 Midnight Trouble (4-1)’s form is somewhat obscured by his dismal outing in the Remsen Stakes last out. That day, he raced wide on both turns and gave way. However, he ran figures in the 80s consistently prior to that while going shorter, including a game second going a mile at Delaware Park in the Rocky Road Stakes at Delaware Park after battling for the lead and dismissing his dueling partner. He has every right to bounce back here. #5 Full Moon Madness (2-1) broke his maiden in impressive gate-to-wire style at Aqueduct two starts back and was a solid second in the Nashua Stakes last out. He’s also been very consistent lately, running between an 81 and an 84 in each of his four starts.
RACE 5: GIN TALKING STAKES, 2-YEAR-OLDS, FILLIES, 7 FURLONGS
Gin Talking was a six-time stakes winner who was voted Maryland-bred Horse of the Year in 2000. She’s the great-aunt of Swayin to and Fro, who will race later today. #5 Tappin Josie (7-2) looks like yet another rising 3-year-old star for Brittany Russell. This Pennsylvania-bred filly was originally campaigned by Jerry Robb, and won a first-level allowance optional claiming race last out in very impressive fashion. She raced wide on a very destructive pace, but held clear in the stretch and won by 2 1/2 lengths. Two races back, she crossed the wire first against similar company, including some rivals she’ll see here, but was disqualified. Russell thought enough of her to take her out of her last start for $62,500, and the filly now looms as a serious contender here in her stakes debut. #1 Malibu Moonshine (3-1) is a perfect 2-for-2 in her career, having most recently won the Maryland Juvenile Filly Stakes last out in a come-from-behind performance. She improved second time out and first off a layoff, running an 86. She’s coming back down here from New York for Charlie Baker, who has named Dylan Davis to ride with Aqueduct dark today. This daughter of Anchor & Hope stallion Bourbon Courage will do her best running late. #8 Stonewall Star (2-1) went gate-to-wire to win the Key Cents Stakes at Aqueduct last out. She’s run an 86 and an 87 in her last two races, and while she’ll likely get pace pressure here, she’s shown herself fast enough to merit respect in this one.
RACE 6: MAIDEN SPECIAL WEIGHT, 2-YEAR-OLDS, FILLIES, 1 1/16 MILES
#5 Diamond Sue (12-1) ran a career-best figure last out, in her first start going a mile. She was pressed on the lead and held on for second, although well-beaten by odds-on favorite Cover the Spread. She could surprise here with the right trip. #7 Diamondsifyoudo (9-5) disappointed as one of the favorite in the Smart Halo Stakes, following a debut at Keeneland where she sat the trip and had all day to go by but couldn’t do it. She’s getting some class relief here but will have to show more of a punch late. #8 Creole (8-1) closed well late first time out for Brittany Russell; now adds lasix and stretches out from six furlongs.
- Which horses had the best post-CT Classic careers?Art Collector’s win in Saturday’s Grade 1 Pegasus got us wondering: which winners of the Charles Town Classic had the best careers after their Classic win?
RACE 7: WILLA ON THE MOVE STAKES, 3-YEAR-OLDS AND UP, FILLIES AND MARES, 6 1/2 FURLONGS
There’s two great Maryland-breds named Willa on the Move. The first one won five stakes races as a 3-year-old, including the 1988 Ashland Stakes, while the other, her niece, was a four-time stakes winner in the early 2000s. #1 Fille d’Esprit (2-1) has made some Maryland-bred history of her own this year, and looks ready to lock down her status as Maryland-bred horse of the year in this race. Her victory in the Politely Stakes last out, her fifth win of the year, was essentially an exhibition, as she stalked the pace and won going away. She’s beaten better fields this year, including a sharp win in the Seeking the Pearl Stakes at Colonial Downs in August, and was second to Frank’s Rockette in the Misty Bennett Pink Ribbon Stakes at Charles Town in August. She’ll have to face some classy rivals here, but she’ll get the trip off the pace on the inside and from there should power on to victory. If she wins, she’ll be, as far as I can tell, the second horse in the country to win six stakes races this year. #5 Swayin to and Fro (6-1), a South Carolina-bred who was claimed for $16,000 earlier this year, comes off a victory in the Safely Kept Stakes, where she dug in gamely on the lead and drew off. She should be able to get to the rail and the lead here, and a similar performance wins this. #8 Union Lake (9-2) showed promise over the summer at Saratoga, with back-to-back figures of 96 and 97, and has worked well since a dismal showing in the Raven Run Stakes last out. She has a lot of upside and has to be respected.
RACE 8: DAVE’S FRIEND STAKES, 3-YEAR-OLDS AND UP, 6 FURLONGS
This race is named after the great Maryland-bred sprinter of the 1980s, who was the Maryland-bred Horse of the Year in 1980 and retired as the richest Maryland-bred in history in 1986. #4 Beren (3-1) has touched triple-digits twice in his last two starts. He dominated fellow Pennsylvania-breds in the Jump Start Stakes at Parx last out, then ran a big race on the lead and held third in the Let’s Give Thanks Stakes. He won the DeFrancis Dash on this track earlier in the year, and he’s battle-tested when encountering pace pressure. #5 Savoy (15-1), who was taken by Serey for $25,000 at Timonium in August, has won three races in a row, including a dramatic come-from-behind victory against second-level allowance optional claiming foes last out. He’s getting a class test here but is in improving form and is worth a shot at a price. #10 Factor It In (5-2) won the Challedon Stakes on this track in October and finished third in a blanket finish in the Fall Highweight Handicap last out. He’s done some of his best running on this track, with a 6-for-10 record here at Laurel.
RACE 9: CAROUSEL STAKES, 3-YEAR-OLDS AND UP, FILLIES AND MARES, 1 1/8 MILES
#9 Go Big Blue Nation (8-1) has only one recent dirt race in her lines, but it was a solid effort. She ran a 100 when second in an allowance optional claiming race at Aqueduct two starts back, overcoming a wide trip to narrowly miss behind a loose leader. That race makes her intriguing in this spot and should go off at a decent price. Many of these exit the Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes here on November 12, a race won by #8 Hybrid Eclipse (3-1). forced to come from further off the pace than usual, she kicked it into gear late and pulled clear. It was her second stakes win on this track this year, having previously won the Caesar’s Wish Stakes in July. #2 Malibu Beauty (5-1) was fourth that day, but was headstrong early on and could not be settled. As such, she set faster fractions than she might’ve liked and backed up in the stretch. This Maryland-bred daughter of Buffum is a two-time stakes winner on the year when she’s more relaxed on the lead, so she should be tough if she can work out the trip.
RACE 10: ROBERT T. MANFUSO STAKES, 3-YEAR-OLDS AND UP, 1 1/16 MILES
The final stakes race of the day is named in tribute to the longtime Maryland owner and breeder who bred, among others, Cathryn Sophia and Aloha West. #5 Armando R (6-1) has won back-to-back stakes races on this track, both times coming from off fast paces to get up and win. If he gets another pace to close into, he should get up for his third straight. One of the horses he beat last out was #6 Cordmaker (6-1), last year’s winner of this race and the latest Maryland-bred millionaire. Bred by Manfuso, he improved sharply second off the layoff last out in the Richard Small Stakes, holding on for third after rating off the pace. He improved his figure in that race to a 99, a dramatic step up after falling flat first off the bench. He should once again rate the trip and a little more improvement likely wins this. #3 Ridin With Biden (3-1), who was cross-entered at Parx earlier this week, lasted in a pace battle and drew off to win the Turkey Trot Stakes at Parx last out. He went gate-to-wire to win on this track in July, and will try to work out a similar front-running trip here.
RACE 11: MAIDEN CLAIMING $45,000, 3, 4, AND 5-YEAR-OLDS, 5 1/2 FURLONGS
#4 Luigi’s Spirit (5-1) made her first start in more than a year last out. He overcame a wide trip that day and lost by less than a length, running a career-best 79 second time out. He’s taking a step up in class here but should improve second off the bench. #5 Here and Nofurther (5-2) has a similar profile, having earned a 72 second time out in his first start off a year-plus vacation. He went off as the favorite in his debut at Indianapolis last September as a 2-year-old, so there’s some promise in him somewhere. #3 Brilliant Ice (5-1) has run at least a 78 in his last three starts but needs to show more of a closing punch to contend here, especially if the aforementioned two improve.