Photo: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Saturday is the Winter Racing Carnival at Laurel Park, but the weather and action will be anything but winter-like! With highs close to 70 here in Maryland, we can expect plenty of hotshots on the track as well. I look forward to enjoying a six pack myself, and I'm not just talking about the beer. Laurel has 6 (yes 6!) stakes on tap tomorrow including 2 graded stakes. In honor of the day, I will limit my wagering to $6 per race and hope to get the most bang for my buck.
Before I get started, I wanted to share this week's "SuperFACTa" since it could come in hand when looking at the action tomorrow. If you are not familiar with Laurel, they have a 2 finish line system. Races one mile and under are usually run to the 2nd line, while races over a mile are usually run to the 1st line. The average track has a stretch between 950-1150 feet long, but at Laurel the 2nd line finish creates a stretch run of over 1400 feet, which can make a big impact on the race!
Now without further ado, let's crack open the six-pack...
Stakes 1: Maryland Racing Media Stakes
Many of these runners come out of the Nellie Morse Stake run at Laurel last month. Winter came away victorious that day, but has to contend with Wait Your Turn who looks to “crank up the heat.” I believe the added speed in this race will create the opening for my Laurel Longshot of the day, Addibel Lightning. This lady is a consistent runner and should really enjoy the added pace to run into. If stays clear of traffic, look for a nice price to open up the stakes portion of the card.
My Pick(s): $4 Win 2 & $1 Exacta 2 w/ 4,6
Stakes 2: Wide Country Stakes
First of all, let me give a shout out to the namesake of this race Wide Country. She was a phenomenal Maryland mare who went 20 of 26 during her career! Now this race would make her proud, as several talented fillies are entered in this event. How can you not love Crabcakes in a Maryland stakes race? Very rarely do I pass up crab cakes when they on the menu, so why change a good thing! Instead, I will look for some compliments to this dish. While I believe a lot of money will go towards Lucky In Malibu, she has the tendency to hang in the stretch. Meanwhile, Follow the Petals is a horse that improving nicely and could be flying late. I sure would love if those M/L odds of 15/1 hold to post time!
My Pick: $3 Exacta Box 2,8
Stakes 3: Miracle Wood
This is a rematch of the top three finishers from the Frank Whiteley, Jr. Stakes last month. I am expecting the same result on Saturday. O Dionysus will take a lot of money here and rightfully so; however, I will be looking for value over a horse that just can’t seem to get that nose in front. Fittingly, I just watched the classic The Office episode “Casino Night”, so I feel like rolling the dice this week to take High Roller to win this race. Butch Walker should enjoy the added distance and only continue to improve off last month’s race.
My Pick: $4 Win on 7 & $1 Exacta Box 5,7
Stakes 4: John B. Campbell
Where, oh where will Page McKenney run? The mid-Atlantic superstar is cross-entered in this race and the General George. I have a feeling his connections will choose the later, but that decision will greatly impact my selection in this race. If Page goes, count me in! If Page passes, I am all about Turco Bravo who will be making career start #54! Turco Bravo is coming off a break, but has looked sharp at Belmont. I’ve always like Belmont trained horses over the Laurel dirt, so this 8-year-old is my easy pick if Page scratches.
My Pick: $6 Win on 6
Stakes 5: Barbara Fritchie Handicap (GII)
Race is wide open, with a ton of experience and talent headed to the starting gate! Horacio Karamanos will be looking for his second Fritchie win in 3 years when he climbs aboard High Ridge Road but will have to contend with Shadwell Farm’s Takrees who has been training nicely at Belmont. Oh, and don’t forget By The Moon who seems to love Laurel. When all is said and done, I think Takrees enjoys the added stretch run and squeaks out a victory.
My Pick: $3 Exacta 6 w/ 1,3
Stakes 6: General George (GIII)
My top three have run a collective total of 136 times! Heaven’s Runway looks like a rookie with only 42 career starts under his belt. While I am not positive this is where Page McKenney will end up, he did win this race last year. How can you not love a horse that took 13 times to break his maiden in claiming company and is now a consistent finish in graded stakes action?! With career earnings nearing $1.5 million, I sure hope to see him in the winner’s circle again on Saturday.
My Pick: $3 Exacta 6,9