Photo: Chelsea Durand/NYRA
Winning Move Stable’s Turco Bravo, unraced since his victory in the Birdstone Stakes last summer at Saratoga, is set to kick off his 8-year-old campaign in Saturday’s $75,000 John B. Campbell at Laurel Park.
The 63rd running of the John Campbell for 4-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles and its sister race, the $75,000 Maryland Racing Media for females 4 and up at about 1 1/16 miles are two of six stakes worth $850,000 in purses on the 10-race Winter Carnival program.
Highlighting Saturday’s card are the $300,000 Barbara Fritchie (G2) for older females and $250,000 General George (G3) for older sprinters. They are joined by a pair of 3-year-old stakes, the $75,000 Miracle Wood and the $75,000 Wide Country, the latter for fillies.
Trained by Gary Contessa, who purchased the Group 1-placed gelding in Chile in 2014 and imported him to the U.S., Turco Bravo is making his third career start at Laurel. He ran fifth in the 2014 Richard W. Small and second in the 2015 Native Dancer in previous local stakes attempts.
The multiple stakes-winning distance specialist, given time off after developing stiffness and cramping in behind following the Birdstone, ran third in the 1 ¼-mile Excelsior (G3) and second in the 1 ½-mile Brooklyn (G2) last year in addition to winning the 1 1/8-mile Stymie for a second straight year as well as the Flat Out at 1 3/8 miles.
“He’s coming back for another year. I wanted to get another race into him before the Stymie, and the timing is perfect,” Contessa said. “I’ve pretty much had uninterrupted training with him. If you want to train in the winter you have to watch the weather and we managed to duck all the major snowstorms and get all the work we needed into him.
“I don’t think he needs a race,” he added. “I think he’s ready to run and the timing, the distance and the race, everything is perfect for him. It’s the perfect storm, having this race on Saturday.”
Adam Staple and Jalin Stable’s Page McKenney won the Campbell in 2015 and is cross-entered in the seven-furlong General George, a race he won last year. The claimer-turned-millionaire has four wins, all of them in stakes, three seconds and two thirds in nine career tries at the Campbell distance.
Page McKenney ended a nine-month break between races with a popular and decisive 1 ¾-length victory in the Native Dancer Jan. 21 at Laurel. He had his 2016 season ended prematurely when a minor hip injury evolved into swelling in a tendon that wasn’t discovered until the morning of the Pimlico Special (G3) last May.
“I know so many horses would never have made it back off a tendon injury or they just aren't the same horse when they return,” Staple said. “I can't tell you how lucky I feel to have another chance to see this special horse back to his old self.”
Also coming off the bench in the Campbell is Live Oak Plantation’s Grade 3-placed Souper Lucky, racing for the first time since being nosed to second as the favorite in a one-mile Parx allowance last March. The 6-year-old gelding ran only twice last year, finishing second by a half-length to Kid Cruz in the 2016 Campbell.
Souper Lucky has earned six of his seven lifetime wins from 11 lifetime races at Laurel, with one second and two thirds. The Campbell will be his 26th career start.
“He was heading in the right direction and doing good and then he had some setbacks that required some time, which we gave him. It’s time to get him started again,” trainer Mike Trombetta said. “I don’t know what it is about Laurel but his record has been pretty darn good there so it’s a place where I want to run him, for sure. He’s run with some nice horses. If he’s doing well, he certainly should make a decent showing.”
Bodhisattva, a late-running second to Page McKenney in the Native Dancer; Charles Town stakes winner Charitable Annuity; Native Dancer show finisher Cosmic Destiny; Page McKenney’s Mary Eppler-trained stablemate Double Whammy, a winner of two of his last three races; Snuggley Bear and Grade 3-placed Warrioroftheroses complete the field.
Six Rivals Try to Cool Off Winter in $75,000 Maryland Racing Media
Matthew Schera’s Winter, impressive winner of back-to-back races at Laurel 20 days apart last month, goes after her second straight stakes victory in the $75,000 Maryland Racing Media.
Both the 4-year-old Awesome Again filly’s victories came over the same track at the same distance as Saturday’s race, most recently a 2 ¾-length score in the Nellie Morse Jan. 21. Addibel Lightning and Moon River, who ran 2-3 in that race, are entered to try the winner again.
Winter joined trainer Cal Lynch’s barn following a second-place finish last fall in a Delaware Park allowance. Since then she won a Penn National allowance, was second in an optional claiming allowance there behind New York shipper Flick of an Eye and won a similar spot at Laurel to open her 2017 season on New Year’s Day.
“She’s been doing really well and we’ve been delighted with her progress the last couple of starts. We’re three-for-four with her and she just keeps getting better so we’re optimistic she’ll run as good a race again,” Lynch said. “It’ll take her to run as good a race to win again on Saturday but she’s doing everything right. We’re optimistic.
“Mentally she’s just gotten so much confidence from her first race when she won at Penn National for us,” he added. “She came back and ran into that tough filly at Penn National, but the last race here was dynamite. We expect her to keep progressing. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of her yet.”
Also looking to cool off Winter is Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables and The Elkstone Group’s Wait Your Turn, a 4-year-old Warrior’s Reward filly that has won three of four lifetime starts for trainer Rudy Rodriguez and is making her Laurel and stakes debut.
Wait Your Turn ran twice at 2, posting a 14-1 shocker in her unveiling and coming within a half-length of next-out winner Karen’s Silk her first time facing winners. She didn’t race again for 10 months, returning to beat older horses in back-to-back starts in New York by 10 ¼ combined lengths, both in front-running fashion.
“She looks like she’s a very nice filly. She’s had a lot of issues, but she always tries hard,” Rodriguez said. “She looks like she’s coming along good. She’s never run a bad race. The last race she was really, really impressive. She just drew away, and the fractions were pretty solid, too. We’re going to take a chance in there and hopefully she shows she’s a good horse.”
Rounding out the field are Bawlmer Hon, fifth as the favorite in the Nellie Morse; stakes-placed Cayman Croc, most recently fifth in the Thirty Eight Go Go Dec. 31 at Laurel; and Love Came to Town, fifth in the Thirty Eight Go Go and eighth in the Nellie Morse.
Source: Maryland Jockey Club