Laurel hosts a trio of Saturday stakes
This Saturday afternoon while National Football League fans are eagerly awaiting the start of the Divisional Round of the playoffs, thoroughbred racing fans could pass the time by watching a trio of stakes races from Laurel Park.
Saturday's nine-race card will offer three, six-furlong $75,000 stakes, two for newly-turned three-year-olds and the third for older sprinters perhaps prepping for the $250,000 General George here on February 15.
Saturday's fourth race at Laurel is the latest renewal of the $75,000 Marshua Stakes for three-year-old fillies. Nationally prominent trainer Todd Pletcher is sending a pair of sophomore fillies south for the occasion and one of them looms as the probable odds-on favorite.
Lost Raven, who has won twice in three starts and was most recently sixth in the Grade II Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct, made her Laurel debut two starts back and easily won the Gin Talking Stakes. She figures to be a short price in her return, but Lost Raven is hardly invincible in this spot.
Karen's Silk has won two of her three starts and bested allowance foes at Aqueduct in her most recent outing. West Virginia-bred Aye a Song merits respect here as well, having won five of six starts and banked over $165,000 for owner-breeder-trainer John McKee of Rachel's Turn fame. Her lone loss came against Bullets Fever, a horse McKee bred and the full-brother to the talented Hidden Canyon, another McKee product.
Then two races later on the card the sophomore colts will be on display in the $75,000 Frank Whitely Stakes.
In this group, Never Gone South certainly looms the one to beat, having won twice and been second twice in four career starts. Never Gone South finished second in both the James Lewis III and the Marylander, including a narrow setback to recent Gulfstream Park stakes winner Awesome Speed.
Looking to upend him are Marengo Road, most recently sixth in the Grade II Remsen, Moon Over A Beauty, a 14-1 upset winner against maiden special weight company at Aqueduct for trainer Richard Violette and Huntin'theholidays, who arrives with a 2-3-1 slate from nine starts.
Then two races later in the $75,000 Fire Plug Stakes for older horses, a trio of sprinters exit the prior local prep for the General George and another arrives off a good effort at the Big A.
Majestic Hussar, Beach Hut and Heaven's Runway, finished second, third and fourth, respectively, in the Dave's Friend Stakes here last month. Heaven's Runway was actually the beaten favorite in that event for trainer David Jacobson and could make amends here. Majestic Hussar has displayed the best for among the locals, having finished second in each of his last two stakes tries for trainer Bill Campbell.
But the best play in the Fire Plug appears to be Jake N Elwood. A respectable fourth most recently in the Gravesend at Aqueduct, Jake N Elwood looks to be the stronger half of the Ramon Preciado duo on hand for the Fire Plug.