Potential Derby Contenders Face Off on Stakes-Packed Day at Laurel Park

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

December 27th, 2018

The last weekend of racing in 2018 offers somewhat slim pickings in terms of graded stakes races, but if you find non-graded stakes races appealing—and if they have large fields, who doesn’t?—there will be plenty of action to keep you entertained. The Saturday card at Laurel Park alone features six such races offering combined purse money of $550,000. Even better, they’re all scheduled to be run on the main track, so there’s no need to worry about wet weather causing grass races to be taken off the turf.

All told, there are ten races on the card, which kicks off at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. The first stakes of the day gets underway an hour later at 1:00 p.m., so you’ll want to tune in early to catch all the action.

Let’s take a quick look at the main contenders in each of the six stakes races….

Race 3: Heft Stakes

Three entrants—#2 Win Win Win, #4 Be Lal, and #6 Press Virginia—have all recorded back-to-back maiden and allowance victories at various tracks on the Mid-Atlantic circuit, setting up an intriguing showdown in this seven-furlong sprint for juveniles. But #5 Order and Law and #1 Alwaysmining have actually gone one better with stakes victories at Laurel, so this competitive race is unquestionably worth watching if you’re looking for future Kentucky Derby contenders.

Race 5: Jennings Stakes

#2 John Jones won this race last year, but he’s gone 0-for-7 since then while missing the board on five occasions. Still, he might not need his absolute best form to beat this aging field of veterans, which includes #7 Sonny Inspired (who beat John Jones by a neck in the Find Stakes over this track and distance in September) and the two-time Maryland Million Turf Stakes winner #5 Talk Show Man, who has been much better on turf than dirt as of late.

Race 6: Gin Talking Stakes

The fillies’ equivalent of the Heft Stakes attracted ten starters led by the exciting #9 Please Flatter Me, who has won her first two starts at Penn National (including the Blue Mountain Juvenile Fillies Stakes) by a combined 12 ½ lengths. Her main competition could come from #8 Kaylasaurus, an eye-catching 12 ¼-length debut winner at Penn National, or perhaps #1 Our Super Freak, runner-up in the Smart Halo Stakes at Laurel last month.

Race 7: Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes

In what is arguably the day’s best betting race, fourteen fillies and mares will contest this one-mile main track test, including such established stakes stars as #11 Lake Ponchatrain (winner of the Pink Ribbon Stakes at Charles Town in September), #6 Forever Liesl (runner-up in the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm Handicap at Aqueduct last month), and #4 Sower (third in the Grade 3 Victory Ride Stakes at Belmont this summer). But these veterans could be challenged by such up-and-comers as #2 Lady Vicki (winner of four straight races, including three allowance events at Laurel) and #12 Timeless Curls (a daughter of Curlin who has won four of her last five starts for trainer Dale Capuano).

Race 8: Dave’s Friend Stakes

Only seven horses will face the starter in this six-furlong sprint, but five of them are stakes winners, led by local star #5 Laki, runner-up in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (gr. III) over this track and distance in September. Laki has seven wins and three seconds from ten starts at Laurel—a phenomenal record—though victory isn’t a guarantee against this competitive field. #2 Altissimo has fired off triple-digit BRIS speed figures in five of his last seven starts (a streak that includes six victories), while #3 Cautious Giant won the Trinniberg Stakes at Gulfstream Park and #4 Midtowncharlybrown couldn’t have been a much more decisive winner of the Fabulous Strike Stakes at Penn National one month ago.

Race 9: Politely Stakes

#3 Crabcakes has been nothing less than a winning machine at Laurel Park with seven wins and two seconds from nine starts, including a hard-fought victory over #9 My Magician and #6 Anna’s Bandit in the Maryland Million Distaff Handicap last month. Those three figure to dominate the Politely Stakes, with Crabcakes being the filly to beat, though a case can also be made for She’s Achance Too, a very capable sprinter with four wins from her last five starts against allowance company on the Mid-Atlantic circuit.

Enjoy the races!