Star de Naskra draws 24 nominations

Stakes winners Catahoula Moon and Circle P, undefeated Haileysfirstnotion and Quint’s Brew and Play Harder, riding a two-race win streak, top a list of 24 Maryland-bred/sired 3-year-olds nominated to the $75,000 Star de Naskra Saturday, June 29 at Laurel Park.

The 31st running of the seven-furlong Star de Naskra, named in honor of the 1979 champion sprinter bred in Maryland by owner Carlyle Lancaster, is the second of 16 stakes worth $1.5 million in purses during Laurel’s 33-day summer meet.

Super C Racing, Inc.’s Catahoula Moon won the 2023 Maryland Million Nursery in his second career start for trainer Jerry Robb. Second in the Maryland Juvenile, he has one win from five starts this year and has run fourth in each of his last two, beaten 1 ½ lengths in the May 18 Chick Lang (G3) May 18 at historic Pimlico Race Course and less than a length facing older horses in a June 7 optional claiming allowance at Laurel, both going six furlongs.

DeSales 85’s Circle P sprung an 8-1 upset in the Maryland Juvenile then missed some time before coming back to be third by two lengths in Laurel’s Feb. 24 Miracle Wood. Off the board in three subsequent stakes starts, each around two turns, he cut back to one mile and was fourth by two lengths in an open allowance June 9 at Laurel.

Daniel C. Crowley and Non Stop Stable’s homebred Haileysfirstnotion went unraced at 2 and graduated by 3 ¼ lengths first time out in a six-furlong maiden special weight April 27 at Laurel. The Great Notion gelding returned to beat winners by 3 ¾ lengths going 5 ½ furlongs May 18 in the mud at Delaware Park.

Paul Berube, Karen Linnell and Heather Hunter’s Quint’s Brew similarly did not race as a juvenile and has been a front-running winner of both his starts this year at Laurel – a six-furlong maiden special weight March 2 and one-mile optional claiming allowance April 5 – by a combined 6 ¼ lengths.

Rising Sun Racing Stables, Inc.’s Play Harder, trained by five-time Maryland champion Claudio Gonzalez, has raced exclusively at Laurel with four wins from five starts, beating his elders in a 5 ½-furlong restricted allowance April 28 and fellow 3-year-olds going one mile June 1. His only loss came when he was fractious in the gate and hopped at the start April 7 and ran third by less than a length to Catahoula Moon.

Also among the nominees are Triple Crown-nominated Celtic Contender, a 4 ¼-length optional claiming allowance winner June 8 at Laurel; fellow last-out winners Blue Kingdom and Intrepid’s Legacy; and stakes-placed Had to Have Him and Prado Road.

Entries will be taken and post positions drawn for the Star de Naskra Sunday, June 23.

Star de Naskra had a record of 15-10-4 and purse earnings of more than $587,000 in 36 starts from 1977-79. Eight of his wins came in stakes including the Whitney (G2), Cornhusker (G2) and Carter (G2) during his championship season. He also placed in six other graded-stakes led by the 1977 Laurel Futurity (G1).

Laurel Park’s summer meet resumes with a nine-race program Friday starting at 12:25 p.m. Trainer Graham Motion has won five times with just eight starters (63 percent) including the first of 16 scheduled stakes, the $100,000 Stormy Blues, with 3-year-old filly Toupie.