News, notes, and Race o’ for Saturday:
- Field size continued to be a strong point of Laurel’s racing yesterday. Seven of 10 races had double-digit fields, with several 13-horse groups among them.
- On the wagering front, the Pick 5 carryover crossed the $50,000 threshold, while the big fields led to numerous generous payouts: three supers paid at least $5400, with the super in the third over $7900.
- Speaking of generous payouts, the super in the seventh, our Race o’, was more than $7300. That’s the good news. The bad news: we didn’t get a sniff of it. Our horses ran fifth, sixth, seventh, and 10th, with favored Annawon finishing 10th. The pace upfront was zippy, including a sub-23 second second quarter mile, and that led to a feast for late runners. Outside of winner Strong Resolve, who was third after the opening quarter, every other horse who finished in the top half of the field was in the bottom half after the opening quarter.
For today’s Race o’, let’s turn to the seventh. It’s a second-level allowance/optional claiming event — and it’s the best field for a race at this level that I’ve seen in a long time around these parts. The horses will go 1 1/16 miles on the lawn. The strong favorite is Ever So Lucky (#9, 9-5), an Augustin Stable horse trained by Hall of Famer Jonathan Sheppard. This three year-old son of Indian Charlie was a $600,000 auction purchase, and while he hasn’t quite justified that price to date, he’s still done a lot right. An early buzz horse on the Derby trail, he’s placed in three stakes and most recently was seventh — beaten just 3 1/2 lengths — in the G1 King’s Bishop. He’s won easily in his two non-stakes tries. That said, this will be his maiden try on the lawn, a surface on which his sibs have made no impact. At a short price, I’m inclined to take my chances and look elsewhere. Another getting a lot of morning line love — but not so much from me — is Pulpitarian (#11, 3-1). He’s another who could win but whose odds feel too short. He’s been making a tour of the mid-Atlantic region trying to win a second-level allowance — he’s lost it at Pimlico, Monmouth, Delaware, and Parx so far. Plus, while he’s chased good horses in his last two — Slip and Drive, from his last, returned to win in better allowance company, while See Tobe, the winner two back, has since been first and second in stakes company — he’s been no match for them. A horse who’s been chasing even better competition (admittedly without much success) is Syros (#4, 15-1), who I think will give an improved accounting of himself today in his second try off a six-month layoff. He’s made four tries at the second allowance win, all in races which had a higher optional claiming tag than today’s $25,000; in two of those races, including the last (an optional $50k claimer at Saratoga), the winner was in for the higher tag, and in the other two, the winner subsequently became a graded stakes winner. He has only nine races under his belt, and he possesses the tactical speed to be in contention throughout. Another with the right to improve today is Mr. Handsome (#1, 8-1). Though winless in four grass tries, all of them have been in stakes company. He missed by just a neck at long odds in the Jimmy Murphy at Pimlico on Preakness day. He hasn’t done much running in his last two — the G2 Virginia Derby and the Capital City at Penn National — but one was on soft turf and one was on yielding. He’s a three year-old with some talent, and the return to firm turf, coupled with a drop into allowance company, may be what the doctor ordered. And why not take a look at Powder Mountain (#12, 5-1), most recently third as the favorite at this level. He ran second to Dannhauser — most recently third in the Japan Racing Association — twice, including in the Van Clief at Colonial. He’s been in the money five of six times at this distance and six of seven on the Laurel turf, and if he finds himself in striking range after three-quarters of a mile, his big finishing kick may get him home.