LAUREL, Md. – Maryland Jockey Club presents their nine-race Christmastide Day program Sunday, Dec. 26 at Laurel Park. On the program are six stakes races totaling $650,000. For your holiday pleasure will be a Stakes Buffet, a Hot Chocolate Bar and Hot Cider Cocktails. Make your reservations today for the buffet at 301-725-0770. Gates are open at 11:00 a.m. with a first post of 12:25 p.m.
Cordmaker Can Honor Breeder in $100,000 Robert T. Manfuso
Cordmaker under Victor Carrasco won the Richard W. Small on Nov. 27, 2021 at Laurel Park. (Maryland Jockey Club)
Hillwood Stable’s multiple stakes winner Cordmaker, still going strong at the age of 6, looks to close out a solid campaign by stringing together back-to-back wins for the first time in more than two years in the $100,000 Robert T. Manfuso Dec. 26 at Laurel Park.
The inaugural Manfuso for 3-year-olds and up going about 1 1/16 miles and the return of the 1 1/8-mile Carousel for fillies and mares 3 and up, which carried Grade 3 status from 1988 through 1997 and was last run in 2002 at Laurel.
A gelded son of two-time Horse of the Year and 2014 Hall of Famer Curlin, Cordmaker has already clinched the MATCH Series older male long dirt division title. He leads 4-year-old filly Hello Beautiful – entered in the Willa On the Move – by nine points, 36-27, for the overall title.
Cordmaker was bred in Maryland by Manfuso and his life partner, trainer Katy Voss. A longtime owner and breeder and former owner of both Laurel and historic Pimlico Race Course who was instrumental in revitalizing Maryland racing, Manfuso passed away in March 2020.
“To win that would be really nice for the horse and the owner, Mrs. [Ellen] Charles,” trainer Rodney Jenkins said. “We’ve both seen quite a lot.”
Cordmaker has finished third or better 22 times in 33 career starts including 11 wins and $734,640 in purse earnings. He is 16-for-25 in the money at Laurel, his home track, picking up his eighth and most recent victory in the 1 1/8-mile Richard W. Small Nov. 27. He sat off the pace in third, took the lead at the top of the stretch and went on to a 1 ¾-length score.
The effort helped ease the sting of his prior start, when he finished second by a length to Captain Bombastic in the Sept. 18 Polynesian but was disqualified to sixth for interference after drifting out in the stretch. Before that, he won the 1 1/16-mile Victory Gallop Aug. 23 at Colonial Downs.
“I was happy with the last race. He ran well and he did what he had to do,” Jenkins said. “It was nice to see him come back and overcome the things that had happened to him. He had a rough go there for about a month. It didn’t discourage him, I don’t think.”
Cordmaker owns seven career stakes wins, five of them coming at Laurel. He has also placed in eight other stakes, running third in successive editions of the historic Pimlico Special (G3) in 2019 and 2020.
“He’s sound and doing good,” Jenkins said. “I feel real good about him. I think he’ll run good. He’s been doing well.”
Jenkins gave Cordmaker one breeze between the Small and Manfuso, a five-furlong move Dec. 18 at Laurel that went in 1:01.60, seventh-fastest of 36 horses. He will break from the rail in a field of nine under regular rider Victor Carrasco.
“We don’t do a lot with him. We gallop him if he needs it. If he gets too fresh we gallop him. I walk him some days, jog him some days. It just depends on what mood he’s in, and he’s stayed – knock on wood – real sound,” Jenkins said.
“I rest him when I see there’s a big period before a race that we really want to go in. I’ll just walk him and turn him out and stuff like that,” he added. “He’s not a horse that’s been really drilled through his career. He seems like he’s got a lot of racing left.”
The only horse to rival Cordmaker’s on-track success is Runnymoore Racing’s 5-year-old gelding Alwaysmining, a 10-time winner from 32 lifetime starts with seven stakes victories. Most of his success came at 2 and 3, though he did capture the Jennings and John B. Campbell to open 2020. He has gone 1-for-14 since, finishing sixth last time out in the Howard and Sondra Bender Memorial Nov. 26 at Laurel.
Mohan Stable, Inc.’s Bobby G, 7, has earned 14 of his 16 lifetime victories in 47 starts at Laurel, with most of his success coming in starter races. He has run in four career stakes, finishing second in the 2020 Claiming Crown Iron Horse at Gulfstream Park and third in the 2019 Small at Laurel.
McCarty Racing’s Doubleoseven will return to dirt in the Manfuso after finishing off the board in successive turf stakes, running fourth in the July 3 Kent (G3) at Delaware Park and eighth in the Aug. 31 Virginia Derby (G3) at Colonial, his most recent effort.
“It was just a planned break for him. He’s not a real tall horse but he’s kind of long and lean so we gave him a little time to let him grow. The owner is very good, very patient,” trainer Jerry O’Dwyer said. “I was hoping to run him in a two-other-than a couple of weeks ago as a prep and come back for the stake, but things didn’t work out that way. We’ve just been sitting on him.
“We gave him a couple tries on turf. He ran well in the Kent Stakes so we said we’d give him another go. There wasn’t a lot of options for him at the time for a 3-year-old stakes,” he added. “It didn’t go as planned but he’s equally effective on the dirt.”
Doubleoseven has had a steady string of works at Laurel since Oct. 31 for his comeback, which would mark just the second time the 3-year-old faced older horses. He won his only other try in a restricted 1 1/16-mile allowance May 29 over a sloppy Pimlico main track.
“He’s doing very well,” O’Dwyer said. “We just gave him an easy breeze here [the other day]; he went in 1:01 and change. I didn’t even breeze him the week before. I just left him alone because he’s fairly fit and tied on. He’s a light-framed horse so I don’t want to overcook the goose.”
Stakes winners Everett’s Song, who had a three-race win streak snapped when fifth as the favorite in the Nov. 27 City of Laurel, and Shackqueenking; Small runner-up Workin On a Dream; McElmore Avenue and Plot the Dots are also entered.
Belle of the North Goes for Two Straight in $100,000 Carousel
Belle of the North takes the Safely Kept with Horacio Karamanos up at Laurel Park on Nov. 27, 2021. (Maryland Jockey Club)
Stronach Stable, Inc.’s Belle of the North, a homebred daughter of Street Boss that became a stakes winner in her previous start, will attempt to make it two in a row in the $100,000 Carousel.
The Carousel will be just the seventh start for Belle of the North, trained by Jose Corrales. She drew Post 4 in a field of eight and, as the lone 3-year-old filly in the field, will carry low weight of 119 pounds including jockey Horacio Karamanos.
“The filly is doing very well. She’s doing very well,” Corrales said. “She’s training good after the race, and she’s a horse that has been an improving horse. I think we’re going in the right direction.”
Belle of the North was making her stakes debut when she made a last-to-first move to capture the seven-furlong Safely Kept by a half-length over Fraudulent Charge Nov. 27 at Laurel. Runner-up in four stakes, Fraudulent Charge came back a popular 5 ¾-length allowance winner Dec. 18.
“I think she was in the right spot last time. I don’t think I wouldn’t have wanted her any closer. I think she was perfect where she was,” Corrales said. “As a matter of fact, I think she was probably closer than where I expected her to be. But she broke better this time, because she’s slow out of the gate.”
Belle of the North has encountered early trouble in half of her races, part of the reason she didn’t graduate until a Sept. 24 maiden special weight triumph at Laurel after going unraced at 2.
“She’s improving every time. I think with this filly just the time will help her to mature, and she will be even better,” Corrales said. “Now we’re stretching her out going a mile and an eighth and I think that’s’ going to help her. I’ve been teaching her to go longer, to open up her air so that she has enough air to finish.”
Miss Leslie, Lookin Dynamic, Villanelle and Artful Splatter, the first four finishers from the Nov. 13 Thirty Eight Go Go at Laurel, will line up again in the Carousel along with Scatrattleandroll, who ran sixth. The top quartet was separated by only 2 ½ lengths, with favored Miss Leslie making a five-wide move to win by half a length, her second straight victory for fall meet-leading trainer Claudio Gonzalez.
Jeff Drown’s Smooth With a Kick is entered to make her first start since Jan. 17, when the 5-year-old Candy Ride mare ran last of six in the Ladies Handicap at Aqueduct. A $270,000 yearling that sold for $650,000 as a 2-year-old in training, she put together a 3-3-3 record with $221,005 in purse earnings from 14 starts for previous trainer Chad Brown.
“This probably isn’t the ideal starting point. She’s a nice mare. She’s done some good racing. The goal is to get her on the board in a stake but the mile and an eighth [is tough]. I wish I could have had her ready sooner,” trainer Brittany Russell said. “I would have liked to have gotten a run into her, per se, but it just hasn’t worked out. She’s training great, though. I think she’s honest and I think she’ll run well.”
Smooth With a Kick made her stakes debut at Laurel in the 2020 Twixt, finishing third as the favorite to Wicked Awesome, beaten 7 ½ lengths, after being bumped at the break. She followed that effort by winning an optional claiming allowance at Keeneland, then was fifth in the Falls City (G2) prior to her latest start.
“She was training down in Florida. Niall Brennan had her. I think they were planning on breeding her and she ended up getting some time off and they thought, ‘Well, there’s nothing wrong with her, let’s put her back in training,’” Russell said. “It just took them probably a little bit longer to get her to the racetrack than they wanted. She’s been in training for quite some time even though she’s only been with me for eight weeks. She has plenty of works under her belt coming in. It’s just the nature of the distance and the caliber of horse she’ll be running against.”
Smooth With a Kick had the first timed breeze of her comeback Sept. 4 at Brennan’s Ocala, Fla. farm, and has had eight works since Oct. 24 for Russell, six at Laurel and two at historic Pimlico Race Course.
“She’s very classy. She does exactly what you ask in the morning,” Russell said. “Her work tab might not be flashy, looking at the times, but she’s put up some good works beside some horses in the morning and she keeps going. She has really nice gallop-outs. She seems like there’s quality to her and she’s very straightforward. I’m hoping that kind of translates to the afternoon.”
Jevian Toledo has the call on Smooth With a Kick from the rail.
Rounding out the field is Three Diamonds Farm’s Kiss the Girl, the Mike Trombetta-trained stablemate of Lookin Dynamic and Villanelle. Kiss the Girl was second in the 2019 Schuylerville (G3) at Saratoga, won the March 13 Conniver at Laurel and Aug. 21 All Brandy at Pimlico, and most recently scored a 4 ¾-length optional claiming allowance triumph Nov. 7 at the same course and distance.
Run to Daylight, Amidships in town for $100,000 Heft
Run To Daylight winning the Henry R. Mercer at Charles Town September 18, 2021. (Coady)
Two-time stakes winner Run to Daylight and West Virginia-based stablemate Amidships, off the board in their last stakes trip to Maryland, are entered for a chance at redemption in the $100,000 Heft.
The 20th running of the seven-furlong Heft for 2-year-olds and 14th renewal of the six-furlong Gin Talking for 2-year-old fillies.
David Raim’s Run to Daylight suffered his first loss in four career starts in the six-furlong James F. Lewis III Nov. 13 at Laurel, following a maiden triumph and stakes wins in the Henry Mercer Memorial and Vincent Moscarelli Memorial Breeders’ Classic at Charles Town.
The gelded bay son of sprint champion Runhappy will have a change of equipment for the Heft, where he drew the far outside post in a field of seven with Arnaldo Bocachica named to ride. Sent off the narrow favorite in the Lewis, he wound up seventh after racing between horses, also from Post 7.
“We’re going to probably try blinkers on Run to Daylight for the first time. He’s breezed well with them so we’re going to get him ready to go and see if the blinkers don’t make a big difference for him,” trainer Jeff Runco said.
“We’re hoping the blinkers will keep him a little bit closer maybe and a little bit more focused,” he added. “He was in between horses pretty good the other day and I don’t know how well he liked being in tight like that, so we’re going to try the blinkers.”
Coleswood Farm, Inc.’s Amidships ran second to his stablemate in the Moscarelli and was fifth after leading the Lewis for a quarter-mile, fading after being stuck down on the rail. He rebounded for a front-running 1 ¾-length allowance score against state-breds Dec. 10 at Charles Town.
Amidships, by Midshipman, drew the rail post in the Heft with Bocachica named. Jaime Rodriguez rode Amidships in the Lewis.
“He was kind of jammed up inside the last time. You’ve got to get a good trip when you get the one hole,” Runco said. “He came back and ran well and won nicely. I’m not wild about the inside post but we’ll see how he trains this week and make a decision.”
E V Racing Stable’s Life Is Great is entered to make his stakes debut in the Heft off a dominating 6 ¾-length maiden special weight triumph sprinting seven furlongs Nov. 20 at Aqueduct. His prior two starts came in maiden special weights at Belmont Park, where he was beaten a head while second sprinting 6 ½ furlongs Sept. 17 and third going 1 1/16 miles Oct. 21 behind Mo Donegal, who came back to win Aqueduct’s Remsen (G2) Dec. 4.
Rounding out the field are Uncle Buddy, second to Witty in the Pennsylvania Nursery Dec. 7 at Parx; Dontcrossfuzzy, Last Romance and Shame Em Loose.
Beneath the Stars Gets Chance to Shine in $100,000 Gin Talking
Beneath the Stars winning an AOC at Laurel Park Love. 4, 2021 under jockey J. D. Acosta. (MJC Photo)
Leonard Mattingly’s Beneath the Stars, already a three-time winner including two in a row, will make the step up into stakes company in an effort to extend her streak in the $100,000 Gin Talking..
Based at Laurel with trainer Anthony Farrior, Beneath the Stars is a 2-year-old daughter of millionaire Connect, who earned four of his six career wins in stakes, three graded, led by the Cigar Mile (G1) as a 3-year-old in 2016. Her grandsire Wild Again was a multiple graded-stakes winner of more than $2 million, including the 1984 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
“You’d think she’s an older horse the way she acts,” Farrior said. “Around the barn she’s great to be around and when she goes to the track, it’s all business. She bows her neck, and she wants to train. It’s something they’ve got to be born with.”
Purchased by Farrior’s friend Chris Melton for just $1,500 as a yearling last fall in Kentucky and later sold privately, Beneath the Stars registered a 2 ½-length debut victory July 29 sprinting 4 ½ furlongs at Charles Town. She followed up by running fourth in an optional claiming allowance at Timonium and fifth after stumbling out of the gate in a Laurel allowance Sept. 18.
Farrior stretched her out to seven furlongs for her next start Oct. 16 at Laurel, where she took the lead after a half-mile and went on to win by 1 ¾ lengths. She proved even better in her most recent effort, a front-running 2 ¼-length optional claiming allowance triumph Nov. 4, also over her home track.
“When we ran her at Charles Town first time out she ran good, but we weren’t real high on her. When she won the allowance race, the number didn’t come back real big but she won,” Farrior said. “Then she won the allowance race again, and put up a pretty good number there, so we were like, ‘Wow.’ She’s just getting better and better. It’s been a gradual process every week.
“It seems like she kind of woke up when she won her allowance race here,” he added. “The first time she ran in the allowance race she stumbled real bad. It seems like the horse is getting better every day. I worked her the other day and she worked really good, so there’s no reason not to try her in the stake.”
Beneath the Stars worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 Dec. 15 over Laurel’s newly reconditioned main track. She drew Post 2 in a field of six and will have regular rider J.D. Acosta aboard.
“She got a little bit tired her last work here, but she galloped out good. We’ve been galloping a little harder since they added so much sand. The track’s a little deeper, so I think she’s got an advantage by being here, training over the track,” Farrior said.
“I think she’s top three in the race,” he added. “I don’t run just to run; I like to have a shot to win. If she goes forward again, I think she’ll be right there.”
Beneath the Stars will have to contend with Hope Jones’ Buy the Best, who enters the Gin Talking on a three-race win streak. The bay daughter of Tapiture broke her maiden Sept. 28 and defeated winners at first asking Oct. 28, both by open lengths at Delaware Park, before overcoming a slow start to post a 3 ¼-length victory in the six-furlong Smart Halo Nov. 13 at Laurel. The runner-up, Luna Belle, came back to win the Maryland Juvenile Fillies by 2 ¾ lengths Dec. 18.
Also entered are My Thoughts, runner-up in the Oct. 23 Maryland Million Lassie in her most recent start; Moody Woman, coming off a Nov. 20 victory at Laurel in her first race since being claimed from Farrior in mid-October; Sommer Velvet, unraced since a waiver maiden triumph June 4 at historic Pimlico Race Course; and Click to Confirm, sixth in the Maryland Juvenile Fillies.
Happy Holidays from Maryland Jockey Club!