Laurel Park Hosts Turf Festival on Saturday

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Ted Black

September 9th, 2016

Friday afternoon may have marked the beginning of the Laurel Park fall-winter meet, but the highlight of the weekend will take place on Saturday when the historic oval hosts a quintet of stakes, five of which will be contested over the turf course.

Nearing the midway point of the card, Laurel will present one of its more famous events, the $75,000 Laurel Futurity, a race that once was a major stop for the top two-year-old colts who would have Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown aspirations at age three. The list of winners includes Triple Crown winners Count Fleet, Citation, Secretariat and Affirmed and other legends such as Riva Ridge, Spectacular Bid and Devil's Bag, although their triumphs came when the race was run on the main dirt track.

The Laurel Futurity has lost a considerable amount of its luster over the last two decades and on occasion was not even held, but this year's 5 1/2-furlong dash on the grass offers some interesting juveniles with star potential.

Greatbullsoffire won his career debut on the Laurel lawn in mid-July then won a minor stakes on the main track at Delaware Park for trainer Hamilton Smith. Caribou Club, beaten just a neck by Greatbullsoffire in their respective debuts here, then finished third in a maiden special weight event on the grass at Saratoga as the 2-1 favorite for trainer Thomas Proctor. Hembree did one better, however, winning his debut on the lawn at Saratoga and heads south for trainer Joe Sharp.

Perhaps the other local entrant with a chance to garner success in the Laurel Futurity is Undulated,
Horse Racing 2015: Commonwealth Graded Stakes Day SEP 19a game and gritty winner of his career debut here on August 7. Away a step slow, Undulated got squeezed by two rivals at the break and then clipped heels with one of them. He hesitatingly launched his bid on the far turn with little room and proceeded to rally in the lane while weaving through traffic and eventually overhauled Sleepless and Bronx Sandman in the final 100 yards. A $625,000 yearling purchase, Undulated can begin returning serious dividends with a win in the Laurel Futurity.

One race later in the accompanying Selima Stakes for two-year-old fillies and 5 1/2-furlongs on the lawn, local debut winners Fly, Happy Mesa and Brassy Lassie will look to defend their home course against a solid group of invaders that includes Balayage and Zero Zee, a 19-1 debut winner against maiden special weight rivals at Saratoga last month.

One race later in the $150,000 Lady Baltimore Stakes for fillies and mares on the grass, local distaffers Monster Sleeping, Vielsalm and Ginger N Rye will look to maintain their course preference over talented invader Onus, a four-year-old daughter of Blame trained by Shug McGaughey, III, for owner-breeder Stuart Janney, III. Onus was recently fourth in the Grade II, $400,000 Balston Spa on the Travers Stakes undercard and was sixth in the Grade I Diana at the Spa one race earlier and should find this spot much more conducive for success.

Then several races later in the $100,000 Laurel Dash at six furlongs on the Laurel lawn, local celebrity Ben's Cat will seek redemption when he defends his title in this event for owner-breeder-trainer and Hall of Fame conditioner King T. Leatherbury. Ben's Cat was recently third as the 3-5 choice in the Mister Diz Stakes for Maryland-breds over the course, but could get slightly overlooked here due to the presence of invaders Mister Brightside, Mosier, Sallal and Spring to the Sky.