In which we pick just one horse from each race to watch. Not necessarily the most likely winner, we’re looking for longshots — horses that might help us craft big payouts one way or another, either by winning or by participating in the exotics.
IN RACE 1, the Lassie for two year-old fillies, the deserving chalk will be Mystic Love (even money) who decimated a field of maidens in her debut. winning off by four on the grass. She’ll be awfully tough if she can bring that form to the main track. But the value play might be Classy Coco (#1, 10-1), making the third start of her career. She’s been second in the first two, most recently beaten a neck in a solid upfront effort. The fourth place finisher that day returned to be fourth in a stake at Delaware, beaten just two for the money.
RACE 3 is the Ladies for older fillies and mares going nine furlongs on the turf. The in-form Daydreamin Gracie (2-1) and classy Baltimore Belle (5-2) are the chalk here. The latter is best here if she can return to form, while the former is running better than ever before. And then there’s our value play, Moral High Ground (#8, 10-1). There’s a reasonable chance she’s not good enough to get the money here, but this three year-old has four straight on the grass, retains the services of ace grass pilot Horacio Karamanos, and figures to benefit from the expected quick early pace. She’s been running against much lesser, but she could make a bit of noise here.
RACE 4 is the Distaff, for older fillies and mares going seven furlongs on the main track. Perhaps the strongest favorite of the day is Bold Affair (#5, 3-5), and she ought to win this one easily. Brushed by Love (#6, 6-1) is horse with some value to her. She won the Maryland Million Oaks a year ago, and then was second and third in the Winter Melody and the Twixt. She hasn’t been in quite the same form since, but one of those was on synthetic. Trainer Mike Trombetta has the services of his top rider, Julian Pimentel.
RACE 5 is the Oaks for three year-old fillies going one mile on the main track. This one looks strictly to be a two-horse affair, with Jazzy Idea — better on the grass but formidable here — facing off against Spring Dance, who’s won her two starts by nearly 18 combined lengths. The longshot play underneath might be Bluegrass Atatude (#9, 15-1). This one won the Lassie last year and later finished a good third in the Maryland Juvenile Fillies Championship. She hasn’t done much of note this year, but let’s see if she can earn a minor share this time.
RACE 6, the Turf Sprint, is the story of two millionaires: heavy favorite Ben’s Cat (#4, 3-5), among the best grass sprinters in the country, and Heros Reward (#8, 6-1) who, at 10, isn’t quite the horse he once was. Ben’s Cat looks best here — he’s coming off a grade 3 win, earlier this year set a course record at Parx, and is aiming for a three-peat in this race. There’s some buzz around Dr Disco, whose two grass tries are just OK, but who’s a better horse now than he was then. But I’m intrigued by AP Elvis (#9, 12-1), who’s finished second in four consecutive grass races and owns a grass record of 6-2-4-0. He’s made only 10 career starts, giving him the right to move forward. In his last, he broke like a shot to the lead, suddenly lost momentum and dropped almost to last, then rallied while wide to earn second — an almost unimaginable turnaround in a short race that might suggest he’s got more in the tank.
RACE 7 is the Nursery for two year-olds, and it’s probably the most wide-open affair of the day: 14 horses (plus one also-eligible) with a favorite, D C Dancer, who’s just 3-1. He, and several others here, look like they may turn into decent runners. Let’s take a look at Nice Going (#14, 12-1) for our double-digit flyer. This one dropped down to maiden claiming company to win in his second start (with the alluring comment line, “Drew off smartly”). From there he stepped up to tackle the Track Barron Stakes at Belmont (where Video Storm, another contender here, also ran). He was third, and though he was beaten 13, the horses he chased that day were on a different level from these; winner Shanghai Bobby returned to win the G2 Hopeful, while runner-up Handsome Jack earned the place in the G2 Sanford, both at Saratoga.
RACE 8, the Sprint, has drawn a varied field of nine, with defending champ Sloane Ranger the 5-2 fave, with Regal Solo (3-1) — second in this race a year ago and aiming for the third Maryland Million win (in three different races) of his career — and multiple stake winner Action Andy (7-2) close on his trail. Looking longer, Dr Disco (12-1) — also entered in the grass sprint but better placed here — intrigues me. He’s a horse with some talent, having won a couple of stakes. He hasn’t been in quite his best form since an ugly try in the G3 Toboggan, but he’s coming off a front-running score in the Reed Memorial at Finger Lakes. He’s won six of 11 tries — with three seconds — at this distance, and trainer Bruce Brown generally doesn’t ship horses to Laurel without a good reason; his horses have won four of nine visits to the track in the last five years.
RACE 9, the Turf at nine furlongs on the green stuff, has drawn a sizable field of 12 (though Eighttofasttocatch is a likely scratch). Roadhog (5-2), seventh here a year ago, is the a.m. favorite. Target Sighted (6-1), who won it two years ago, is also back, as is Ham and Ernie (15-1), a horse of limited talents that trainer Ham Smith nevertheless manages to get cranked up for this race. He’s been third (at 16-1) and second (at 20-1) the last two years. Let’s fish here with Capital Fellow (10-1), whose last, a fifth in a second-level allowance was perhaps better than it looked. He chased loose-on-the-lead Elkhorn Creek for a long way, stayed on while that one ran out of steam, but didn’t have enough. Still, he was beaten just two for the money, and two from that race have returned to win. He may be loose on the lead here, and if so, he’ll have a shot to go a long way.
Finally, RACE 10 is the Classic, and it’s attracted a field of just six. Defending champ Eighttofasttocatch (9-5) is the slight favorite over Not Abroad (2-1). Let’s grab Tujoes (#6, 6-1) as our preferred longer shot. He’s coming off a clear score in the Roanoke for PA-breds at Parx, and he seems to have found his stride since being transferred to trainer Steve Klesaris and stretched out to a route of ground. Eighttofasttocatch figures to control this race from the front, and look for Tujoes to settle in perhaps second or third and try to run on late.