Eons narrowly captures the Prince George’s County July 15 at Laurel Park (Maryland Jockey Club)
David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club
LAUREL, Md.— Mark Grier’s Grade 3 winner Eons chases a sixth career stakes victory and third over the local course in his return to Laurel Park for Saturday’s $100,000 Japan Turf Cup.
The 60th running of the 1 ½-mile Japan Turf Cup for 3-year-olds and up is the second of four stakes worth $500,000 in purses on an 11-race program headlined by the $150,000 Laurel Futurity for 2-year-olds and $150,000 Selima for 2-year-old fillies, also scheduled for the grass.
Rounding out the stakes action on opening weekend of Laurel’s calendar year-ending fall meet is the $100,000 Twixt for fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles on the main track. First race post time is 12:25 p.m.
The 7-year-old Eons is the richest of 15 horses entered in the Japan Turf Cup with $683,485 in purse earnings from 29 starts, eight of them wins, the most recent a second straight triumph in Laurel’s 1 1/8-mile Prince George’s County. He’s also won stakes at Parx, Colonial Downs and Delaware Park, topped by the 2019 Kent (G3).
Following the July 15 Prince George’s County, trainer Arnaud Delacour sent Eons to Kentucky Downs for the $500,000 National Thoroughbred League Handicap, a one-mile race where the late-running gelding closed to be third, beaten four lengths as the third choice in a field of eight.
“He came back very well. I was happy. I was expecting a little cut in the ground at Kentucky Downs, which we usually have, and it didn’t happen,” Delacour said. “It was very firm, very speed-favoring and a mile for him on firm turf is a little too short. He was coming, but just too late. This time it will be just the opposite. It will be a mile and a half on soft turf. He’s been efficient going long on soft turf [before]. I’m not sure how the race is going to set up though. We’ll have to see.”
Eons has made two other starts at Laurel this year in back-to-back optional claiming allowances going one and 1 1/16 miles, respectively finishing second and third by 5 ¾ lengths combined, both times as the favorite.
“He’s proven on the track. It’s just going to be a question of pace for him,” Delacour said. “If there’s enough pace he can relax and I’m pretty sure he can go the mile and a half. If they really go slow and they walk the dog and he gets a little bit aggressive, that’ll be another story. But we’ll see.”
Delacour previously won the Japan Turf Cup with Canessar in 2017. Victor Carrasco rides from Post 12 at co-topweight of 124 pounds.
Trainer Graham Motion entered the pair of Serifos and Regal Kingdom. Wertheimer & Frere homebred Serifos enters the Japan Turf Cup off a 3 ¼-length victory in the Presious Passion Sept. 10 at Monmouth Park, which was rained off the turf and contested at 1 ½ miles on a sloppy main track. It was the first stakes win for the 4-year-old gelding who previously at Laurel was second in a maiden special weight on the dirt last March as well as a 1 1/8-mile optional claiming allowance on the grass June 18.
“I think the distance is really the key for him,” Motion said. “He did it very comfortably last time. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do with him is run these longer races. I think he handles the grass fine and it’s a great opportunity for him.”
Maryland native Nik Juarez, up in the Presious Passion, returns to ride from Post 2.
Jacques Dupuis Jr. and Luke Bourque’s 3-year-old Regal Kingdom also owns a win at the 1 ½-mile distance, beating his elders by three-quarters of a length in an Aug. 31 optional claiming allowance on the Delaware Park turf. By champion Animal Kingdom, who Motion trained to wins in the 2011 Kentucky Derby (G1) and 2013 Dubai World Cup (G1), he rebounded from running fifth over a soft Delaware course his previous start in the 1 3/8-mile Kent.
“He ran well to beat older horses last time. He didn’t handle the soft turf very well at Delaware the start before. That’s the only reason we were thinking he was so disappointing,” Motion said. “So, it does worry me a little bit, the condition of the turf, and obviously this is a big step up into wide open company against older horses. It’s really fun to have an Animal Kingdom, definitely. He came to me in the spring from Louisiana and certainly he has grown up over the summer.”
Kevin Gomez will ride for the second straight race, breaking from Post 5.
Like Motion, Monmouth-based trainer Greg Sacco has a pair of contenders in stakes winner Oceans Map and multiple graded-stakes placed It Can Be Done. Monmouth Stud’s 6-year-old Oceans Map ran fifth in the 2021 Japan Turf Cup off a victory in the 1 ½-mile Cape Henlopen, his most recent win. Scratched from the Presious Passion when it came off the turf, he has not raced since July 28.
“He’s a neat horse, Oceans Map. We’ve had him since he was a 2-year-old, bought him out of the Maryland sale. He’s like a house horse,” Sacco said. “He’s a cool horse, he always tries. He’s got a first and a second at the mile and a half, and not beaten too far in this race at Laurel when he ran. So the distance is up his alley, which is key to a race like this. You can either go a mile and a half or you can’t.”
Oceans Map will have Charlie Marquez aboard from Post 7.
Red Oak Stable homebred It Can Be Done ran third in the 2021 Hill Prince (G2) and Virginia Derby (G3) going 1 1/8 miles, the furthest he’s run. The 5-year-old gelding has raced twice this year, both at 1 1/16 miles, finishing second as the favorite in a July 21 allowance at Monmouth and third in an Aug. 23 optional claimer at Delaware. Like his stablemate, he was withdrawn from the Presious Passion.
“He’s never tried it [1 ½ miles] but we’ve been dying to do it for a long time. He’s run well going a mile and an eighth. He’s a little bit of a hard-luck horse. He tries hard. He puts up good numbers, very competitive races,” Sacco said. “We wanted to try stretching him out for a long time, so this is our shot with him. It seemed like the right time to try it. He’s coming into the race the right way. The spacing is great and the works have been fine.
“We’re really happy with both horses going in,” he added. “They’re two different horses. Ocean’s Map can come a little bit off the pace and [It Can Be Done] will be forwardly placed. They’re training well and doing everything right.”
It Can Be Done will break from Post 11 with Jevian Toledo.
Completing the field are Bear Oak, a winner of back-to-back starts 24 days apart this summer at Saratoga, one each on dirt and turf; Will E Sutton, fourth by 2 ½ lengths in the Lebanon Valley on Penn National turf Aug. 18; nine-time winner Yamato from trainer Mike Maker, who won the 2021 Japan Turf Cup with Tide of the Sea; The Happy Giant and Tiz a Giant.
Ajourneytofreedom, graded-stakes placed at both 1 ½ and two miles on the turf, and Derby Code are on the also-eligible list. Grade 3 winner Magic Michael, multiple stakes winner Tappin Cat and stablemate Zabracadabra are entered for main track only.