LAUREL PARK PICKS AND PONDERINGS: january 21, 2023
In which we pick the races from Laurel Park each day…
Post time: 12:25 p.m.
Carryovers: Rainbow Jackpot Pick 6 — $720 Super High 5 — $0 Late Pick 5 — $0
Check out our other handicapping here!
RACE 1: MAIDEN CLAIMING $45,000, 3-YEAR-OLDS, 1 MILE
We’ll start off Winter Carnival day with some maidens going a mile. #1 Vax a Nation (3-1) showed little in his debut going short, but improved stretching out to 1 1/16 miles last out. He finished second behind Circling the Drain, who was 1-5 in that spot and entered in the Jerome Stakes but scratched. This one will try to keep moving forward here and will pose a serious threat if he does. #7 Lamarvelous (7-2) sat near the pace and held on for fourth in what proved to be a salty maiden race on debut. He ran a respectable brisnet figure of 72 in that race and didn’t back up too much late. #9 Snack (5-2), a stablemate of Vax a Nation, has run in the 70s in both of his starts. He closed well for third on debut and will try to show that same late punch going longer.
RACE 2: CLAIMING $10,000 (N/W3L), 4-YEAR-OLDS AND UP, 6 FURLONGS
#1 Rahmer (5-2) made just his third start in the past nine months, and his first since mid-October, last out. He chased a loose leader who went on to victory, but outkicked the rest up the inside to get second with a career-best figure of 88. It doesn’t look like there’s anyone in here fast enough to sneak away to that kind of trip, so his task should be easier today. #9 What Say You (7-2) has run his two best figures in his last two starts and was third behind Rahmer in his most recent. He should enjoy a good trip rating near the pace on the outside. #6 Souper Emperor (10-1) flattened out going longer last out, but ran in the 70s in two prior races. He’s had two good workouts since that dull last race and can rebound here at a price.
- 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: XTRA HEAT STAKES, 3-YEAR-OLDS, FILLIES, 6 FURLONGS
The Xtra Heat Stakes kicks off the stakes action in Maryland in 2023, and I think it’ll begin with an upset. There’s lots of speed in this race; the top four morning line choices have all led at the first point of call in at least one of their recent lines. If there’s a hotly contested pace, #5 We’ll See (12-1) would take full advantage. She improved significantly second time out at her Penn National base when she rated off a hot tempo and drew off to win by almost six lengths, with a figure of 75. If the pace is right, she’ll be in prime position for an upset. If any of the front-runners sneak away, it’ll likely be #1 Chickieness (8-5), the winner of the Maryland Million Lassie. She dueled on the lead and drew off to defeat a first-level field last out, and raced well on hot paces in her prior to races. She rated off the pace when she won the Lassie, and it wouldn’t be a complete surprise to see her do that again. Of the two Brittany Russell trainees in here, I give the nod to #3 Grace and Charm (5-2), who broke her maiden on the lead last out and has improved sharply in her last two races.
RACE 4: JENNINGS STAKES, 4-YEAR-OLDS AND UP, MD-BRED/SIRED, 1 MILE
#1 Ain’t Da Beer Cold (5-2) made his first start off a two-month break in the Robert Manfuso Stakes last out, and it was a big performance. He raced three-wide on a contested pace, but continued strongly on the far turn and took charge entering the stretch. Although he couldn’t hold off late-charging Nimitz Class, he gave that rival a fight in the stretch and outkicked favored #8 Ournationonparade (8-5) in the lane. A one-turn mile might be a bit too short for him, but he should save a lot more ground here and will be tough if he moves forward off that race. #4 One Ten (8-1) stretched out around two turns last out, and he had a rough trip while racing wide. Take out that line, and he’s been in great form, including a runner-up finish in the Bender Stakes and two dominant wins at this distance. That last race could throw bettors off the scent, but this one must be respected. The aforementioned Ournationonparade was an impressive winner in the Maryland Million Classic a few starts back, but has burned up money in his last two starts without much of an excuse. This is a softer spot than what he’s seen lately, but I’m still a bit leery.
RACE 5: GEISHA STAKES, 4-YEAR-OLDS AND UP, FILLIES AND MARES, MD-BRED/SIRED, 1 MILE
Gary Capuano looks like he has them surrounded in here. #1 Malibu Beauty (7-5) managed to relax on the lead in the Carousel Stakes last out and cruised to an impressive gate-to-wire win, capping off a 2022 season where she won three stakes races. It doesn’t look like she’ll have much competition for the lead, so she should be able to get the trip she wants. This is a bit shorter than she’s accustomed to running, although she was second to FIlle d’Esprit in the Maryland Million Distaff. Her stablemate, #6 Intrepid Dream (2-1) makes her stakes debut here after two straight wins at the fall meet. She sat good trips and drew off both times with ascendant figures, including a 95 last out. Even if Malibu Beauty proves tough to catch, this one can outkick the others. #8 Sweet Surprise (12-1) ran a career-best race going a one-turn mile at Aqueduct last out, overcoming a wide trip to win a first-level race with a 91. She’s proven at a one turn mile and could shake up the exotics at a price.
RACE 6: FIRE PLUG STAKES, 4-YEAR-OLDS AND UP, 6 1/2 FURLONGS
I’m counting on a repeat of the trifecta from the Dave’s Friend Stakes, just in a slightly different order. #5 Factor It In (5-2) looks like the class of this race. He’s won two stakes races in his last two starts on this track, with two graded stakes placings at Aqueduct sandwiched in between. In the Dave’s Friend last out, he showed a new dimension, setting the early pace and kicking away, in contrast to his usual style of rating near the early leaders. With lots of speed signed on in here, he might be better off once again rating off the pace. If the pace proves fast, #1 Savoy (20-1) could take advantage at a price. He came from the clouds in an eye-catching second-level allowance optional claiming win two back, then rallied for third in the Dave’s Friend for his first stakes placing. Even if he can’t catch Factor It In, he has the late speed to contend for a slice. #9 Beren (2-1), also a two-time stakes winner last year, couldn’t get to Factor It In in the Dave’s Friend and ended up second at the 1-10 choice. Usually, he’s sent to the front, but Paco Lopez, picking up the mount from usual rider Frankie Pennington, elected to rate him. Pennington’s back aboard here, so look for him to be more aggressive early on.
- 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: WHAT A SUMMER STAKES, 4-YEAR-OLDS AND UP, FILLIES AND MARES, 6 FURLONGS
#4 Swayin to and Fro (8-5) has already put herself among the all-time South Carolina-bred greats, and a successful season this year could establish herself as the Palmetto State GOAT. A $16,000 claim in May by Mario Serey Jr, she won eight races last year and capped off her campaign with back-to-back stakes wins. Last out, she was pressed on the lead in the Willa On the Move Stakes, but drew off tow in by 6 1/2 lengths. A lot of her rivals that day are back in here, and she should once again prove tough to beat. This would be her fourth career stakes win; the all-time South Carolina-bred record holder, Big Rut, won seven. #6 Fille d’Esprit (5-2) is the question mark of this field. She capped an otherwise excellent 2022 season on a down note in the Willa On the Move, as she finished an empty fourth without much of an excuse. She’s had a good workout since then and will likely once again sit a good trip near the leaders, but it’s hard not to be a bit wary after that performance. It doesn’t take anything away from the rest of her season, though, which saw her win five stakes races and place in five others. #5 Fouette (9-2) chased the pace and held third in the Willa On the Move; in the start prior, she ran a game race on the lead to win at Aqueduct.
RACE 8: SPECTACULAR BID STAKES, 3-YEAR-OLDS, 7 FURLONGS
The question of this race: how much do you believe in #6 Coffeewithchris’s (2-1) last race? He showed speed on the outside and shook off the challenge of odds-on choice #2 Prince of Jericho (7-5) for a breakthrough victory in the Heft Stakes. He ran a 95 that day, a career-best figure by five points. He had been in tough stakes company in his last few starts, facing the likes of Recruiter, Post Time, and Johnyz From Albany. Fortunately, for him, none of those rivals are in action here, so he should be able to beat these if he keeps moving forward. Prince of Jericho had been impressive at the fall meet, winning two races in a row by a combined 16 1/4 lengths, and held off the rest of the field for a solid second in the Heft. He’s the only one in the field to have run in the 90s in each of his last two starts. He must be respected but will likely be overbet. #1 Heldish (7-2) sold for $160,000 at the Fasig-Tipton December Sale and makes his first start for the Mike Maker barn. He was stakes-placed three times last year, but couldn’t get the job done at low odds each time out. He might slide through the cracks in the betting compared to the aforementioned two, so if you still believe you’ll get a good price.
RACE 9: MAIDEN CLAIMING $20,000, 3-YEAR-OLDS, FILLIES, 6 FURLONGS
#2 Icestorming (4-1) has run at least a 59 in each of her last two starts, the only one in the field who has done so. #3 Mystic Seaport (3-1) debuts for Brittany Russell and is out of the Stormy Atlantic mare Sketch Book, who has produced three winners from as many starters, including six-figure earner Hip Hop. #4 Willful Desire (5-2) goes first off the claim by Damon Dilodovico and will try to sustain her early speed.