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Laurel Offers Two Holiday Stakes on Monday

Holiday race fans will be treated to two competitive stakes on Monday afternoon, the $125,000 Fire Plug and the $125,000 Native Dancer, scheduled to go as the sixth and eighth races on the nine race program.

 

Nine older runners are entered in the 1-1/16th mile Native Dancer. The race is sponsored by Sagamore Racing, which was the home of Native Dancer. During his Hall of Fame career, the Grey Ghost went 21 for 22, winning both the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in 1953. Upon his retirement from racing, Native Dancer entered stud at Sagamore Farm, where he sired 45 stakes winners. He passed away in 1967 and is buried at Sagamore.

 

Sagamore will be represented by Tiger Walk (6-1). The son of Tale of the Cat finished fourth in last year’s Wood Memorial (G1) and also competed in the Preakness Stakes (G1). Tiger Walk comes into the Native Dancer off a third place finish in an allowance race here December 29. The horses who beat him that day (Service for Ten and Keg) both won allowance races at Laurel Thursday afternoon. Jeremy Rose gets his first chance on the Ignacio Correas trainee.

 

“I was pretty happy to see both of those horses winning yesterday,” Correas said. “He came out of that race in really good shape and should improve seeing this is his second start back off a four-month layoff. It is great we have a runner in this race and one with a legitimate chance. It is exciting.”

 

Eighttofasttocatch (5-2) won the Jennings Handicap and finished second in the Broad Brush to end the 2012 campaign. The son of Not For Love is a six-time stakes winner at Laurel Park. Eighttofasttocatch carries Abel Castellano for trainer Tim Keefe.

 

Keefe will also start Hughes Next (12-1), who tried stakes company for the first time on December 31, finishing third in the Broad Brush behind Eighttofasttocatch.

 

Norman Asbjornson (3-1), who started in the 2011 Preakness, will make his Laurel Park debut. After an extended layoff the Chris Grove trainee finished second in November’s Swatara Stakes at Penn National. Julian Pimentel has the mount.

 

“He always gives an honest effort,” Grove said. “He had a shot turning for home but the winner (graded stakes winner San Pablo) had another gear. I don’t know if he has ever trained as good as he has been since the layoff. He’s really good right now.”

 

Grove also entered Pretension (30-1), but indicated the son of Bluegrass Cat who ran in the 2012 Preakness, only has a “50-50” chance of competing Monday.

 

Adirondack King (5-1), Private Tale (6-1), Javerre (8-1) and Layers (20-1) complete the Native Dancer lineup.

 

Six older runners will go in the six-furlong Fire Plug for older horses.

 

Immortal Eyes has been made the 9-5 morning line favorite by Maryland Jockey Club handicapper Frank Carulli. Damon Dilodovico trains the son of Greatness who has eight stakes victories and twenty-three 1-2 finishes on his resume. He finished the year on a strong note, running third in the De Francis Memorial Dash, second in the Fabulous Strike at Penn National and second in Laurel’s Dave’s Friend. Sheldon Russell is his rider.

 

“He has run really well in his last five races,” Dilodovico said. “We may have had more talented runners but none as mentally tough. He is a really cool horse who comes to run every time out.”

 

Sportswriter (5-2) picked up a lot of black type against fellow New York-breds last year, winning restricted stakes at Saratoga and Aqueduct. Away since his last victory on November 14, the grey gelding will carry Horacio Karamanos for trainer Rudy Rodriguez.

 

Wolfcamp (7-2) finished third behind Immortal Eyes in the Dave’s Friend. Hugh McMahon trains the El Prado offspring, who won seven of thirteen starts last year.

 

Harbor Kid (7-2), Broad Rule (12-1) and Flattering Andy (20-1) round out the field.

 

 

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