Stone Farm and Madaket Stables’ Ascend, jumping into stakes company for the first time in his 5-year-old debut off six months between races, made a last-to-first move under jockey Feargal Lynch to capture the $75,000 Henry S. Clark presented presented by Fidelity First and James Blackwell Real Estate Saturday at Laurel Park.
The 17th running of the Clark for 3-year-olds and up and the 15th running of the $75,000 Dahlia for fillies and mares 3 and older, both at one mile over the Dahlia Turf Course layout, were two of five stakes worth $475,000 in purses on the 11-race program.
Highlighting Saturday’s card were the $125,000 Federico Tesio for 3-year-olds and $125,000 Weber City Miss for 3-year-old fillies, ‘Win and You’re In’ races for the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes (G1) May 20 and $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2) May 19, respectively, at historic Pimlico Race Course.
Also on the program was the $75,000 Primonetta for fillies and mares going six furlongs on the main track.
The Clark was the third stakes win of the day for jockey Feargal Lynch, who also scored aboard Twisted Tom in the Tesio and Lights of Medina in the Weber City Miss. It also completed a turf stakes sweep for trainer Graham Motion, who won the Dahlia with Danilovna.
Ascend ($14.20) ran one mile in 136.30 over a yielding turf course. Synchrony edged Ghost Hunter for second, with Motion-trained Irish Strait fourth. Rose Brier, the defending champion and 2-1 favorite, held a narrow lead in mid-stretch but faded to seventh in his first start since Jan. 14.
“He’s useful horse, this horse. He’s on the improve,” Motion said. “Feargal came and worked him and Irish Strait the other day and I think he’s going to be a fun horse this year.”
Breaking from Post 7 in a field of 12 older turf horses, Ascend was unhurried in the early going as 45-1 long shot Heiko set fractions of 24.73 seconds for a quarter-mile, 49.20 for the half and 1:13.13 for six furlongs with Rose Brier, unbeaten in four previous tries at Laurel, all in stakes, and Silent Waters in closest pursuit.
Rose Brier had forged a short lead after straightening for home as Lynch swung Ascend to the far outside where they steadily powered down the stretch to catch Synchrony and Ghost Hunter approaching the wire and edge past to win by a half-length.
“I just had so much horse when I turned into the stretch and I wanted to give him a clear run, and the horse just ran them down at the end,” Lynch said. “He’s a nice horse. We knew we’d be off the pace and we just hoped we didn’t get too far out of our ground and saved as much as we could and come with that big run.”
Motion said the $250,000 Longines Dixie (G2) at 1 1/16 miles May 20 at Pimlico would be among the considerations for Ascend, who now owns five wins and four seconds from 13 career starts with $269,280 in purse earnings.
“It’s possible he could come back in a race like the Dixie, but we’ll wait and see. I think he’s got a lot of options,” he said. “I think he can go further and he’s actually won on the dirt, so we have a lot of options.”
Danilovna Divine in $75,000 Dahlia
Bjorn Nielsen’s Graham Motion-trained Danilovna ($8.40) took over at the top of the stretch during an eventful 16th running of $75,000 Dahlia Stakes presented by The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and drove home a professional one-length winner under Trevor McCarthy. The victory was a third on the day for McCarthy and first of two stakes for Motion.
After fellow Motion trainee Catcha Rising Star set fractions of 24.46 and 49.07 seconds, she bolted to the outside rail under Feargal Lynch approaching the quarter-pole — getting three-quarters of a mile in 1:13.21 — effectively giving a stalking Danilovna clear sailing for the stretch drive. Coming home a determined winner, the daughter of Dansili stopped the clock in 1:36.80 for the mile event over the Dahlia Turf Course. Longshot Northern Smile finished a neck clear of 6-5 favorite Cambodia in second.
Earning her third victory from seven lifetime starts, the homebred collected $45,000 to increase her career bankroll to $117,147. The effort was her fourth stateside run after three starts in England for David Lanigan.
“We had a nice trip. She was really on the muscle today and really sharp,” McCarthy said. “It was her first race back off the layoff. She was kind of worked up in the post parade, so it was important that I got her to relax a bit and she jumped out of the gate really sharp. Last year I rode her at Aqueduct in her last start and it just seemed like last year she was back a bit further and still making a great run. Today, to see her up on the pace, I knew she would be there with how sharp she was. Graham said not to worry. If she wanted to be handy, go on with her and let her sit in a nice pocket spot, which is where we sat.
“It ended up working out well where the other horse was kind of getting out,” he continued. “It just seemed like the whole way he never was really down on the fence and was trying to get away from it so I just kind of sat and waited patiently. I didn’t think that horse would bolt but I thought he’d lean out a bit where I’d have some room on the rail. When that time came, me and Cornelio kind of raced for the same spot and I got through first. It worked out well.”
Pink Elephant, Sky My Sky, All in Fun, Seeking Treasure, Love Came to Town, Tela, Singmealovesong and Catcha Rising Star completed the order of finish.
“This filly could be very decent,” Motion said. “She’s improved over the winter. She’s filled out and grown up and we’re excited about her. I’d love to look at the Gallorette on Preakness Day as a possibility.”
The $150,000 Gallorette (G3) for fillies and mares 3 and older at 1 1/16 miles on the turf is run May 20 at Pimlico.
Tesio Day Handle Up 59 Percent
Total handle on Laurel’s Tesio Day card – which included ‘Win & You’re In’ races for the Preakness (G1) and Black-Eyed Susan (G1), was $3.9 million, up from last year’s total handle of $2.4 million despite rainy conditions.
In-state handle was up 6.6 percent and export was up 63.8 percent.
Source: Maryland Jockey Club