Horses and riders brave cold and wind

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Ted Black

February 14th, 2016

While many tracks along the East Coast cancelled daytime and nighttime cards on Saturday amid the frigid conditions made exponentially worse by the strong, biting gusting winds that prevailed, Laurel Park remained open to offer nine races including a trio of stakes.

Two-thirds of the way through the frigid Saturday card at Laurel where horses and riders braved 20-degree temperatures and wind chills below zero, the track hosted the 15th running of the $75,000 Maryland Racing Media Stakes for fillies and mares.

Much of the attention in the MRMA Stakes was focused on Mei Ling, a five-year-old Empire Maker mare trained by Todd Pletcher who was made the 2-5 favorite.

But despite getting an ideal trip just off the leader, Mei Ling had nothing to offer in the lane and was overhauled by 5-2 second choice Pangburn and 5-1 third choice Joint Return who settled the issue late in 1:47.38 for the one-mile and one-sixteenth.

A four-year-old daughter of Congrats trained by Tony Dutrow, Pangburn notched her fourth win in 13 career outings and pushed her lifetime earnings past $325,000. It was the first stakes victory for Pangburn whose previous tally came six months earlier amid polar opposite conditions at Saratoga Race Course last August.

One race later on the card. Kid Cruz rallied from just off the pace and three-wide on both turns and through the stretch to capture the $75,000 John B. Campbell as the even-money choice. A five-year-old stallion trained by Linda Rice, Kid Cruz covered the nine furlongs in 1:52.98 for his sixth win in 18 career outings, pushing his lifetime bankroll past $660,000.

Kid Cruz has always displayed a fondness for the Laurel surface, having won the $100,000 Private Terms Stakes two years earlier en route to earning a berth in the Preakness Stakes.

But one race later on the card on the featured Grade II, $300,000 Barbara Fritchie Stakes for fillies and mares Anothet Rice trainee was not as successful.

Hot City Girl was given considerable backing after a runner-up effort in the Grade I La Brea Stakes, as was defending Fritchie champion Lady Sabelia. But neither was in contention inside the sixteenth pole.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin sent two horses for the Fritchie and they occupied the top two spots at the wire.

Dancing House bided her time through the early going and launched her bid along with stalemate Clothes Fall Off turning for home then drew clear in the final 100 yards. A five-year-old Tapit mare trained by McLaughlin, Dancing House notched her fifth win from 11 career starts and pushed her lifetime bankroll to nearly $450,000 by covering the seven furlongs in 1:25.33.

In her seasonal debut one month earlier, Dancing House finished second to reigning Division champion La Verdad, another Rice trainee who has since been retired. Dancing House continued the hot start to the month for McLaughlin, whose Frosted and Confrontation were both sharp winners at Meydan nine days earlier.