Maryland-breds Shine on Turf, Dirt and Stonedust

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Ted Black

June 25th, 2017

Saturday afternoon at Laurel Park a trio of Maryland-bred runners delivered solid efforts in one-turn sprints, two of them in stakes on the grass, then that evening at Pocono Downs a pair of Maryland-bred pacers prevailed in their respective eliminations for the same stakes final.

In the first of two stakes for Maryland-bred older runners on the grass at Laurel, Daylight Ahead (Katie Davis) displayed plenty of early speed and some late grit as well to edge Lovable Lady and 3-5 choice Everything Lovely to capture the $75,000 Jameela Stakes by getting the six furlongs in 1:09.13 for her second win in four starts this year and her fourth victory in 10 career outings for trainer Hugh McMahon and owner-breeder Winners Circle Partners VIII.

Then in the very next race on the card, Expedited Vision broke alertly to sit just off favored Therman Murman down the backside and through the far turn then surged to command at the top of the lane and drew clear to a five-length score in 1:10.42 in a six-furlong event on the main track. A sophomore son of Hansen trained by Phil Schoenthal and bred in Maryland by Charles & Cynthia McGinnes, Expedited Vision remained perfect in two starts to begin his career and now looks poised to tackle state-bred stakes foes in the very near future.

Then several races later on the card, Phlash Phelps, a proven commodity on the grass and the defending champion of the Maryland Million Turf, rallied from well off the pace to capture the $75,000 Mister Diz Stakes for state-bred older males going six furlongs. Trained by Rodney Jenkins for owner Hillwood Stables, Phlash Phelps prevailed in his seasonal debut by getting the six panels in 1:08.40 and looks poised to enjoy another solid campaign in state-bred events on the Laurel lawn.

Saturday's opener at Pocono Downs was the first of three eliminations for the $300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial final for three-year-old filly pacers and much of the focus was on the two sophomore fillies leaving from inside posts - Tequila Monday (Brian Sears) and Idyllic Beach. Tequila Monday, a Maryland-bred daughter of American Ideal trained by Chris Oakes, was made the 1-5 favorite.

Soon after the gate folded in that initial Lynch elim, Tequila Monday left alertly to force all of her foes to find seats and the Maryland-bred filly led through honest splits of 26.3, 55.3 and 1:22.3 with Idyllic Beach sitting right on her helmet. The two were well clear of their foes on the far turn and then staged an epic stretch battle, barely won by Tequila Monday in 1:50.4. It was her fourth win in seven starts this year and her eighth victory in 12 career outings and she looms one of the favorites for the $300,000 Lynch final next Saturday night.

Much later on the Saturday evening card at Pocono Downs, Agent Q (David Miller) lived up to her role as the 3-5 choice in the third Lynch elim when she led through modest fractions to notch her third win in six starts this year and she now sports a 6-9-0 slate and $585,000 bankroll from 16 career tries. Trained by Aaron Lambert, Agent Q was bred by Kenny Wood of Denton, Maryland, Steve Iaquinta and William Dittmar, the same connections of J L Cruze fame. Bettor's Up and Agent Q, the one-two finishers in the $320,000 Fan Hanover Stakes final at Mohawk Raceway one week earlier, reversed roles for the Lynch elim but both are headed to the final next Saturday.

Further north at Yonkers Raceway in New York, durable Maryland-bred aged pacer Eighteen nearly overcame post seven and solid early fractions to win the opener. Away rapidly to gain command through the first turn, Eighteen led the way through honest early splits but was eventually overhauled late by the pocket-sitting Real Illusion (Jordan Stratton) in 1:52.1. Eighteen has always displayed ample early speed and plenty of class, but Saturday night he was simply overtaken late by a horse with a better post a perfect trip.

In the first of three eliminations for the $500,000 Earl Beal, Jr. Memorial final for three-year-old trotting colts, Long Tom (Tim Tetrick) served notice that he is going to be a force in the final when he brushed to command past the opener and led throughout and drew clear late to a four-length score in 1:52.3. The sophomore son of Muscle Hill trained by Marcus Melander has won all three of his starts this year and six of 10 career outings. Sortie (Andrew McCarthy) rebounded from a gallop at 1-9 against Pennsylvania Sire Stakes foes one week earlier to finish second.

Several races later the second Beal elim was supposed the showcase the emergence of Maryland-bred sophomore trotting colt Devious Man, recent hero of the $250,000 Empire Breeders Classic final at Vernon Downs. But Devious Man (Andy Miller) failed to live up to his role as the 2-5 favorite but he offered some grit when he brushed to command before three-quarters and led until deep stretch only to be overtaken late by pylon-skimming Perfect Spirit in 1:54.1.

Those who waited for the finale were certainly rewarded for their patience when Ariana G (Yannick Gingras) easily lived up to her role as the 1-9 favorite in the third Beal elimination and led throughout to remain perfect on the season in her first try against male rivals. A daughter of Muscle Hill trained by Jimmy Takter, Ariana G won with complete authority for her third straight score of the campaign and her 12th win in 14 career tries and will be one of the favorites for the final.

In the first and weakest of three eliminations for the $500,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial for three-year-old pacing colts, Santafe's Coach (Anthony Napolitano) benefited from a second over journey to forge a 21-1 upset over Ozone Blue Chip and Boogie Shuffle in 1:51.1. It was the fourth win in eight starts this year for the Bettor's Delight colt trained by Leo Iordan. Favorites Blood Line and Every Way Out both went off stride early and never reached contention.

On the back half of the card the second and third Hempt elims had plenty of contrast. In the second elim, Miso Fast (Matt Kakaley) brushed to command down the backside and then held safe odds-on choice and recent North America Cup hero Fear The Dragon. A Roll With Joe colt trained by Ron Burke, Miso Fast posted a 12-1 upset for his second victory in seven starts this year while handing Fear The Dragon his first setback in seven outings this year.

Then two races later on the card, Downbytheseaside (Brian Sears) overcame a first over bid and held safe Donttellmeagain (Tetrick) for his fifth win in six starts this year by getting the mile in 1:49.2. Hero of the $300,000 Art Rooney final last month and third in the North America Cup final, Downbytheseaside looks poised to make some noise in the Hempt final and along with Fear The Dragon will give trainer Brian Brown a solid one-two punch in that lucrative event.

All three elims for the $500,000 Ben Franklin final for free-for-all pacers produced sub-1:50 clockings, but two of the winners were clearly better than the first.

In the first Ben Franklin elim, Dealt A Winner (David Miller) overcame a long, first over bid to score in 1:49.1 in the weakest of the three divisions. But several races later, Keystone Velocity, hero of the $530,000 George Morton Levy series final at Yonkers, continued the solid start to his campaign when he recorded his fifth win in 10 starts this year by overhauling All Bets Off and Mach It So in the lane to score in 1:48.3.

But the third Ben Franklin elim produced the most impressive winner of the trio. Mel Mara (Corey Callahan) lived up to his role as the 1-2 favorite when he got away fourth, brushed to command before the half in 53 flat, rolled by three-quarters in 1:21.2 and drew clear in the lane to score in 1:48.4. An eight-year-old Lis Mara stallion trained by Dylan Davis, Mel Mara stamped himself as the favorite for next Saturday's $500,000 Ben Franklin final with his second straight emphatic score.