Picks and Plays for Saturday Stakes at Laurel Park

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

January 10th, 2019

The fields might be a bit on the small side, but four interesting stakes races are among the highlights of an action-packed day of racing scheduled for January 12th at Laurel Park.

The card kicks off at 12:30 p.m. Eastern, with the first stakes race following an hour later. I’ve handicapped the four main attractions, and while finding value in small fields is challenging, I’m optimistic that we can make some nice wagering scores. Let’s dig in!

Race 3 (1:30 p.m. Eastern): What a Summer Stakes

#2 Late Night Pow Wow has won nine of her ten career starts, with her lone defeat coming by just a half-length, which is a remarkable record no matter how you slice it. Last September, this West Virginia-bred sensation demonstrated her class against open company by winning the Charles Town Oaks (gr. III) at her home track, and in November she proved she can win away from Charles Town by traveling to Laurel and prevailing by five lengths in the Willa On the Move Stakes, earning a 96 BRIS speed figure, A bullet five-furlong breeze in :58 3/5 on January 3rd at Laurel suggests she’s ready to roll and will be very tough to beat in this six-furlong sprint.

Of course, Late Night Pow Wow figures to start as the clear favorite, so to boost the potential payoff I’ll play her on top in the exotics while using a few horses underneath, including the consistent 13-for-23 veteran #5 Moonlit Song and the recent Laurel Park allowance winner #3 She’s Stunning:

$9 exacta: 2 with 3,5 ($18) $3 trifecta: 2 with 3,5 with 3,4,5 ($12)

Race 5 (2:30 p.m.): Native Dancer Stakes

#6 Stan the Man wasn’t disgraced when finishing sixth by 5 ¼ lengths in the Cigar Mile Handicap (gr. I) at Aqueduct last time out, the only time this son of Broken Vow has finished out of the trifecta in his last ten starts.  His consistency and solid BRIS speed figures (he posted a 103 in the Cigar Mile) stamp him among the main contenders in this 8.5-furlong event.

His stiffest competition could come from the Todd Pletcher-trained #5 Bonus Points, who hasn’t missed the exacta in six starts at Laurel Park, including an eye-catching allowance victory in November in which Bonus Points rallied from 20 lengths off the pace to win by a length. The eight-year-old #7 Rich Daddy, narrow runner-up with a 102 BRIS speed figure in the Claiming Crown Jewel Stakes at Gulfstream Park last month, boasts improving form despite his advanced age and can be in the mix too if he brings his A-game.

I’ll bet Stan the Man to win and key him in the exacta with Bonus Points and Rich Daddy:

$10 to win on #6 Stan the Man $5 exacta: 6 with 5,7 ($10) $5 exacta: 5,7 with 6 ($10)

Race 7 (3:30 p.m.): Fire Plug Stakes

Another very competitive race offering plenty of options. #1 Shane’s Jewel could potentially shake loose on an easy lead, but he’s drawn the rail, and inside speed generally isn’t as dominant as you might expect at Laurel Park, a track that often presents a dead rail bias.

A better choice might be #5 Cautious Giant, who has decent tactical speed and an outside draw. He might be eight years old, but the son of Giant’s Causeway has been a capable stakes-caliber sprinter at Gulfstream Park (where he posted three triple-digit BRIS speed figures this year) and was only beaten 1 ½ lengths against a good field in the Dave’s Friend Stakes going six furlongs at Laurel two weeks ago.

But truth be told, Cautious Giant doesn’t appear to hold any significant advantage over #3 Do Share (runner-up in the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap last winter) or even #6 Sheikh of Sheikhs (a speedy allowance winner over this track and distance in November). In other words, you can pretty much throw darts here and come up with a logical contender.

My advice is to spread a bit and box the latter three in the exacta and trifecta while hoping that the rail draw keeps Shane’s Jewel out of the money:

$3 exacta: 3,5,6 with 3,5,6 ($18) $2 trifecta: 3,5,6 with 3,5,6 with 3,5,6 ($12)

Race 8 (4:00 p.m.): Nellie Morse Stakes

#6 Face It, a Godolphin homebred trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, was tons the best in her last two starts going a mile at Aqueduct, breaking her maiden by ten lengths before claiming a gate-to-wire allowance victory by 2 ½ lengths. A lightly-raced daughter of Tapit, Face It appears to have a bright future and has drawn well in this 8.5-furlong race, though securing victory will mean getting the better of #4 Timeless Curls, who has won her last three starts at Laurel Park with sharp BRIS speed figures—actually slightly faster figures than Face It has posted.

Since they’re the two favorites in a small field, I’ll favor Timeless Curls on top, figuring that she’ll offer slightly better odds:

$20 exacta: 4 with 6 $5 trifecta: 4,6 with 4,6 with 1 ($10)

Good luck!