Susan Cooney-owned and -trained gelding Made Bail took the lead after a half-mile and held off late bids from four horses in the stretch, including 26-time stakes winner Ben’s Cat in his 11-year-old debut, to capture Sunday’s featured seventh race allowance at Laurel Park.
Ben’s Cat, racing for the first time since finishing last of six in the Maryland Million Sprint Handicap Oct. 22, was unable to find running room until the final furlong, when he surged along the inside under regular rider and meet-leading jockey Trevor McCarthy.
The four-time Maryland-bred Horse of the Year, multiple Grade 3 winner and earner of more than $2.6 million in lifetime purses was beaten just three-quarters of a length in his 61st career start. He is bred, owned and trained by Hall of Fame horseman King Leatherbury, who hopes to use the race as a springboard to the Jim McKay Turf Sprint May 19 at historic Pimlico Race Course, a race he has won four straight years and five of the last six.
“He broke really sharp for me today and I expected that, just because he’s been so sharp and coming off that layoff. He had a good trip, it’s just a shame out of the one-hole it’s kind of a disadvantage sometimes on grass,” McCarthy said. “We just didn’t get through until late but I thought it definitely was a good performance by him. It will set him up really good for the Jim McKay.
“It’s a shame he didn’t get out a little sooner because I really think he would have gotten the money today. He didn’t get beat very far,” he added. “He definitely had good run in the final furlong, and that was the most important thing. I just wanted to see him run a good race today, even if he got beat or didn’t get through until late. I’m really happy with his performance. I just can’t wait until the Jim McKay because I think he’ll run very good in that spot.”
Made Bail ($49.80), the longest shot in a field of seven at 23-1 for his first race since late November, ran 5 ½ furlongs over a firm Kelso Turf Course in 1:02.70 to finish a nose in front of filly Elusive Joni.
Grandiflora was third by another head and it was a half-length back to narrow favorite winner Sonny Inspired, whose belated rally on the far outside got him to the wire a head in front of Ben’s Cat in fifth. Triple Burner and Grand Old Game completed the field.
“I couldn’t tell. I was just praying – he’s got that big ol’ jughead – that that would be enough. He’s got a Standardbred head on him almost,” Cooney said. “He likes this track and he’s always good off the layoff. He ran a really good race last fall before we put him away for the winter.
“He’s fresh and he’s been training great, and I liked him in there,” she added. “They were all nice horses, but I knew he could run with them. He’s better than his record looks. He’s drawn a lot of bad post positions and he’s had a lot of bad racing luck. He should have more wins than he does.”
Ben’s Cat broke sharply from his rail post and settled on the inside as Triple Burner spend through an opening quarter-mile in 22.77 seconds with Made Bail to his outside and Grand Old Game and Elusive Joni tracking in behind.
Jockey Alex Cintron took Made Bail to the lead following a half in 45.31 and turned for home in front as Elusive Joni and Grandiflora mounted a challenge down the center of the stretch. Sonny Inspired, who hopped at the start and was last at the head of the lane, closed steadily on the far outside.
“It was a great trip. My horse broke really sharp and turning for home I felt like I had a ton of horse,” Cintron said. “My horse hung a little bit before the first wire and I thought maybe he was getting tired a little bit from the first race off the layoff, but when he felt the horses coming to him he kind of wake up again and gave me a second gear. He really surprised me the way he did that and won the race.”
Fellowship Ends Laki’s Win Streak at Four Straight
Jacks or Better Farm’s stakes-winning homebred Fellowship, racing for the first time since an eighth-place finish in the Preakness (G1) last May, swept to the lead on the far outside and powered down the stretch to win Sunday’s co-featured eighth race.
Fellowship ($17.80), making his first start for trainer Ken Decker, ran seven furlongs in 1:22.30 over a fast main track in the $45,000 second-level optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds and up.
Laki, the 2-5 favorite off four consecutive wins including the Not For Love Stakes March 18 at Laurel, stalked Dixie Runner through a quarter-mile in 23.35 seconds before rolling to the lead after a half in 46.36 while pursued by West Hills Giant to his outside. The two dueled down the stretch with Laki taking a short lead before Fellowship flew past both front-runners to win by 2 ½ lengths.
It was the first win in nine starts for Fellowship since taking the Florida Sire In Reality Stakes in October 2015 for trainer Stanley Gold. In 2016 he finished third in the Holy Bull (G2), Fountain of Youth (G2) and Florida Derby (G1) before being transferred to trainer Mark Casse, for whom he ran fourth in the Pat Day Mile (G3) prior to the Preakness.
Rainbow 6 Solved For $21,385 Payoff, Dual Carryovers for Friday
The 20-cent Rainbow 6 was solved by one lucky bettor for a $21,385.90 jackpot payoff to cap the Easter Sunday program.
Six horses were live to take down the jackpot heading into the ninth-race finale, won by Thomas L. Teal’s Sister Says ($10.60) in 1:03.39 over the Fort Marcy Turf Course.
The Rainbow 6 carryover jackpot is only paid out when there is a single unique ticket sold with all six winners. On days when there is no unique ticket, 60 percent of that day’s pool goes back to those bettors holding tickets with the most winners while 40 percent is carried over to the jackpot pool.
When live racing returns to Laurel Friday there will be carryovers of $8,511.36 in the 50-cent Late Pick 5 and $7,925.54 in the $1 Super Hi-5. Tickets with four of five winners in Sunday’s Late Pick 5, which offers an industry-low 12 percent takeout, were worth $1,418.55.
Notes: Jockey Steve Hamilton swept the late daily double aboard Fellowship ($17.80) in the eighth race and Sister Says ($10.60) in the ninth. Jockey Alex Cintron also had a pair of winners with Oak Bluffs ($12.40) in the fifth and Made Bail ($49.80) in the seventh.
Source: Maryland Jockey Club