Photo: Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club
Laurel Park has not exactly been a hotbed for prospects moving forward to the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks. Judging from what happened today at the Maryland oval, dreams of Louisville may be in the air, though, for a pair of impressive sophomores that rolled to easy victories the Wide Country and Miracle Wood Stakes respectively.
Ladies first, and Taris has the potential to be quite the lady, indeed. Pounded down to 1-5 favoritism on the strength of an 11-3/4 length runaway in her career debut at Aqueduct five weeks ago, the bay daughter of Flatter went right to the lead under rider, Clinton Potts. Briefly challenged by the clear second choice, Jonesin for Jerry, Taris responded to the early threat and began to pull away while still on the back stretch.
Owned by Commonwealth New Era Racing and trained by Todd Beattie, Taris continued to effortlessly wider her advantage to the point of a seven length lead in the stretch. Coasting to the wire, she was 5 ½ lengths the best while stopping the timer in 1:24.71 for the seven panels of the $100,000 Wide Country. Both rider and trainer came away impressed.
“It was a pretty simple race today,” Potts said. “I had some pressure early in the race and I was a little concerned because the track was deep but this horse handles everything right. Todd deserves great credit for getting this horse ready because she does everything just like an older horse. Her career is definitely going to go far.”
“She just continues to impress me,” Beattie said. “I’m going to go south with her and try to avoid this cold weather, freshen her up a little bit at my sister Holly’s farm in Ocala. The logical spot to run her back would be the one turn mile here on March 8 (Caesar’s Wish Stakes) but we’ll have to see how the weather and all plays out. I love to run in this region. I’m stabled at Penn year round and I like the way I get treated when I come down here but I have the option in Florida to stay there and run in the Honeybee on the same day.”
Whatever her connections decide is next for Taris, it will take something good to get the best of her. Her first two races give every indication that she can compete with the top fillies in the land, and while both were sprints, it should be noted that she is bred to to stretch out just fine. In fact, as a granddaughter of both A.P. Indy and Theatrical, she should run all day. The sky would seem to be the limit for this one.
Two races later, it was Extrasexyhippzster’s turn to show what he had. Unlike Taris, the son of Stroll is not undefeated. This fact gave bettors the chance to get the dark bay colt at 3.2-1, which meant he was the third choice in the field of six. The lack of confidence turned out to be a big mistake. Also coming off a big win at Aqueduct last time, a five-length romp in the six furlong Don Rickles Stakes, Extrasexyhippzster proved much the best today in winning the $100,000 Miracle Wood Stakes.
Stuck down on the rail and behind traffic for the opening three-quarters of a mile, the Mike Trombetta trainee knifed through an opening as the field came out of the turn, and decisively put away his competition. Impressively striding to the wire under Julian Pimentel, Extrasexyhippzster completed the flat mile in an excellent 1:36.75 while winning by nearly four lengths over the race favorite, Joint Custody.
“This was huge today,” Trombetta said. “I’m extremely pleased with this performance. You hope that everything turns out perfect the way a race develops but rarely does it. This was so impressive the way he rated behind all that speed. He was kind to Julian the whole way. When he found that spot at the top of the lane I was very impressed with the way he went forward. This time of the year you start trying them a little further to see if they’re going to be able to get the longer distances and for me today he passed the test. I don’t know where I’ll run him back but the obvious is to continue to add distance and two turns.”
Of the two, I think Taris might have even greater potential, but it is hard to ignore the last two races run by Extrasexyhippzster. His breeding does not have the stamina of the filly, but Trombetta has been there before, having taken Sweetnorthernsaint to the big show back in 2006, as the betting favorite in the Derby and finished second to Bernardini in the Preakness.
Photos courtesy of Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club