After the lengthy summer interregnum (now, there’s a word!), and following a rain-splattered Timonium meeting, racing returns to Maryland’s mile tracks this afternoon with the opening of the Laurel fall meet. A fairly robust stakes schedule is on tap this meeting, and it begins today with the $100,000 Jameela for state-bred fillies and mares going three-quarters of a mile on the lawn. All of which raises a few questions:
- Who was Jameela? Jameela was a Maryland-bred star of the late 1970s and early 1980s, when she won 15 races and more than a million bucks (back when a million was still, you know, a million). She won multiple grade one events, and she won races at 10 different tracks, including all three of the major Maryland tracks then in operation (Laurel, Pimlico, and Bowie). According to www.pedigreequery.com, she was struck by lightning and killed after producing just two foals — but one of those was Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner and $3 million earner Gulch.
- What’s the future for Maryland racing? This is a meet approached with equal parts excitement — the slots money is flowing, and purses are up — and nervousness. How will slots at Arundel Mills, just a few miles down the road, impact wagering on Laurel’s live product? It’s certainly hard to imagine a positive impact, and it’s not hard to imagine slots taking a big chunk of racing’s business; that’s the bad news. The good news? More than 80 cents of every dollar wagered on Laurel’s live product is wagered off-site, so gains — if there are any — in the simulcast end of the business could easily offset losses in the live handle. On the other hand, you’d hope to avoid the one-step-foward-one-step-back dance.
- Which great local rider is set to enter the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame? Mario Pino, now 11th all-time in wins by a jockey and closing in on 6500 trips to the winners’ circle. Congrats on a well-deserved honor!
- Who’s going to win the Race o’ the Day? The Jameela, with a full field of 11 plus one on the also-eligible list, is our Race o’ the Day. Jazzy Ideais the 2-1 favorite, and why not? She’s won four of six grass tries, including two stakes, and
she’s coming off two respectable tries in grade one company (in the Test and the Prioress, both at Saratoga). The sophomore’s lone stakes try against her elders resulted in a second-place finish in the Very One. Bold Affair, off since June, is 5-2; she’s an awfully good horse who’s won seven of 12 starts and nearly $400,000 — but in my mind those odds are too short for a horse that’s never tried the grass; her dam, Hunka Hunka Lori Z, was a very good horse but never tried the lawn, and her two half-siblings to race have not won in three tries over the green. I’m leaning towards Colony Club to get the money. She’s coming off a win in the Klassy Briefcase at Monmouth, and the three who finished behind her all returned to win, with second-place finisher Inspired winning the Turf Amazon. This one was well beaten by Jazzy Idea in the Very One back in May, but that was her seasonal debut and she’s stepped forward since. Looking for longshots? Thisdanseistaken (15-1) and Queen Chatanika (10-1) have a lean and hungry look. The former has won four straight overall, three on the lawn; in her last, a first-level allowance at Colonial, she benefited from an ideal trip but was the easiest kind of winner imaginable that day and looks to be heading in the right direction. The latter, meanwhile, has turned in two straight good tries on the grass, winning a first-level allowance and just missing in a second, a race in which she edged multiple grass stake winner Softly Lit for the place.