Laurel: Small barns come up big in Md-bred stakes

Small barns made a big impact Saturday at Laurel.

Entering the day’s stakes action, Parx Racing-based trainer Marya Montoya and Laurel-based Robin Graham had combined to win a total of eight races this year, five for Montoya and three for Graham. But they were both feeling pretty good after sweeping the two Maryland-bred or -sired stakes on the card.

Graham’s Super Accelerate, a three-year-old Accelerate colt she trains for Steven Walfish, didn’t show a ton at the start of his career, taking a half-dozen cracks to break his maiden. But his half-length triumph in Saturday’s $75,000 Star de Naskra marked his third consecutive.

“I told Stephen after we worked him, ‘I think he’s one of the nicest horses I’ve ever had,’” Graham said. “He was hard on himself. At first he wouldn’t balance himself. He wouldn’t sit back. He was on the front end. And he hit the ground hard, and so he had shins and just little stuff.”

Indeed, Graham told co-breeder Tom Bowman that he might be the best horse she’s conditioned.

That’s saying something, too: though business is perhaps more sluggish than it once was – Saturday’s stakes win was her first since 2016 – Graham’s sent out plenty of talented runners, among them Grade 2 winners Mr. O’Brien and Lady Sabelia.


As for Super Accelerate, he finally broke through to break his maiden at Laurel in June and followed that up with a $55 upset in an allowance contest. 

“He learned to balance himself and carry himself more evenly,” Graham said. “I think that made a huge difference.”

Super Accelerate
Super Accelerate won the Star de Naskra. Photo by Jerry Dzierwinski.

In the Star de Naskra, jockey Horacio Karamanos, aboard for every start of the horse’s career, had Super Accelerate in ideal position, inside and just off the early speed of Easy Action. Rounding the turn, multiple stakes winner Coffeewithchris made a bold bid and for a moment looked like a winner. 

But that runner flattened out, and Super Accelerate came between horses to prevail late in 1:22.54 for seven furlongs on a fast main track. Easy Action held second, and Coffeewithchris finished third.

Super Accelerate, off – surprisingly – as the favorite paid $6.60 to win, and the exacta returned $18.30 for a one-dollar wager.

It was a day friendly to front-end speed at Laurel, and while horses didn’t need to be on the lead to win, it didn’t hurt. One who took great advantage of that was Montoya’s Talk to the Judge, who went straight to the lead and resolutely repelled all challengers under pilot Victor Carrasco.

“She had beat Foggy Night both times, who won the Delaware Oaks,” Montoya said. “That day, we thought there was speed in the race, and she made the lead. Today I said, ‘Don’t expect her not to make the lead, but if she doesn’t, it’s fine also.’”

She did, and in a long battle with the Linda Albert-trained Liquidator, she managed to hold her advantage by a head at the wire. Talk to the Judge, also bred by Bowman, paid $28.40 after going off at 13-1. The exacta returned $52.70 for a buck. 

The post time favorite, Malibu Moonshine, made her first start since February. But after lagging well off the early pace, she could mount only a mild middle move before tiring to finish last.

Montoya trains Talk to the Judge for Waldorf Racing Stables LLC, a combination that in 2018 produced Maryland Million Nursery winner Follow the Dog. 

“”It’s a team effort. My husband gallops her, and she’s a very hard horse to gallop,” Montoya said. “This groom does a phenomenal job. He spends like an hour-and-a-half a day on her. The owner took faith in me, and they kept her at Parx. Because she’s a Maryland-bred, she should have been in Maryland. But he likes how we do the TLC.”