Among Three Stakes Worth $300,000 in Purses Saturday at Laurel
LAUREL, Md. – Before she heads off to the breeding shed at the end of the year, D Hatman Thoroughbreds’ Grade 1-placed Off Topic will continue her quest to become a stakes winner in Saturday’s $100,000 Thirty Eight Go Go at Laurel Park.
The 1 1/16-mile Thirty Eight Go Go for fillies and mares 3 and up, part of the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship (MATCH) Series, joins the $100,000 James F. Lewis III for 2-year-olds and $100,000 Smart Halo for 2-year-old fillies on the nine-race program. First race post time is 12:25 p.m.
Initially purchased for $160,00 as a yearling in 2017, Off Topic raced 13 times for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher with two wins, two seconds and three thirds, most notably finishing third in both the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) and Gazelle (G2) and fourth in the Alabama (G1) in 2019. In between, she ran fifth in the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) at historic Pimlico Race Course.
As part of the dispersal of late owner Paul Pompa Jr., who passed away last October, Off Topic was sold at Keeneland’s Horses of All Ages sale in January, where D Hatman’s Matt Dorman paid $575,000 for the 5-year-old daughter of Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Street Sense and sent him to trainer Phil Schoenthal..
“She was being sold as a racing or broodmare prospect. She had kind of gone off form last year and we felt like maybe there was some opportunities there if she got some time off,” Schoenthal said. “We bought her as a broodmare prospect, really. He’s trying to build a broodmare band and she’s a great big, huge, beautiful Street Sense filly who’s Grade 1 stakes placed. So, we were buying her with the end goal of putting her into the broodmare band.
“We discussed at that time just going ahead and retiring her and getting her bred, but he’d been on a buying spree of building his broodmare band and we had 20 mares in foal,” he added. “He said, ‘Look, we’ve got 20 mares about to have foals, let’s go ahead and take her back to the races and see if we can have some fun this year and go ahead and breed her next year.’ That was just fine with me, of course.”
Off Topic began working her way back at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md. in March and was under consideration for the Allaire du Pont (G3) on the eve of the Preakness Stakes (G1) in mid-May but missed time following a freak training mishap.
“We gave her the winter off and brought her back in the spring, and she was getting ready to run. We were kind of pointing for that race on Preakness weekend with her and were really excited about it,” Schoenthal said. “One day in training she was galloping along, and she’s a real strong horse, difficult to gallop, and the rein broke in half. It just snapped right in half while she was galloping. The rider came off and she got loose and ran around the racetrack.
“As luck would have it, she tried to make the gap and jumped the fence and scraped her knee all up real bad. It got into the joint, so we had to take her off to New Bolton and she had to have surgery and get that all cleaned up,” he added. “That kind of set her back a couple more months. That was really disappointing. It took us a little while to get her over that and get her back to the races.”
Off Topic launched her comeback in the one-mile Twixt Sept. 18 at Laurel, just 16 days shy of one year since her prior start, running seventh. She finished behind Artful Splatter (second), Josie (third), Miss Leslie (fourth) and Lookin Dynamic (sixth) and ahead of Villanelle (eighth) – all of whom return in the Thirty Eight Go Go.
“We were hoping to run her in a two-other than and we just couldn’t get one to go. I probably entered her four or five times looking for two-other-thans on the dirt all over the East Coast going long and just didn’t have much luck getting her in,” Schoenthal said. “Talking to the owner we decided she’s going to go be a broodmare. The goal with her is not to win a $50,000 two-other-than pot. We’re trying to enhance her resume a little bit and add some more black type or maybe make her a stakes winner. So we said lets go ahead and put her in these stakes and see if we get lucky.
“She’s a great big, huge filly who’s a long-striding, grind it out kind of filly. A mile and an eighth, a mile and a quarter is really what she wants, as evidenced by her grade 1 placing at Saratoga going long. We knew that the one-turn mile was not going to be in her favor,” he added. “She was closer to the pace than I expected and then at the quarter pole I think she just got tired and backed out of the fight. I didn’t think it was a bad race for the first one back in a long time. She’s come back since then and she’s breezed three or four times and is training really well. We’re really pleased with her and I’m expecting her to move forward and run a better race now.”
Off Topic drew Post 4 under jockey Victor Carrasco and is the longest shot on the morning line in a field of nine at 30-1. Pending the result, she may have one more start in the $100,000 Carousel Dec. 26 at Laurel, the finale in the MATCH Series fillies and mares 3 and up long dirt division.
“Obviously she’s a long way removed from her better form and there’s some question as to whether she still has it or if she even wants to do it,” Schoenthal said. “I am hopeful. She is one of the nicest horses I’ve ever been around. She’s just as classy as they come. Really more so for her sake, I hope she runs well just because I have such a high opinion of her that I want everybody else to see it, too.
“There’s that race in the series next month going a mile and an eighth so I’m hoping to use this race and then run her in that spot at a distance I know she’s going to relish,” he added. “After that, I’m sure she’ll be retired and off to the breeding shed. I think we have her penciled in to get bred to Charlatan this year. Let’s put her on the right track and give her a shot.”
Josie, trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, is the 9-5 program favorite. Winner of the Iowa Distaff July 3 at Prairie Meadows, she was beaten less than a length in the Twixt, her most recent start.
Multiple stakes winner Artful Splatter came up a head short of Dreamalildreamofyou after setting the pace in the Twixt, and is back on the dirt after running seventh in the Maryland Million Ladies Oct. 23.
Completing the field are fellow stakes winners Trolley Ride, third in the 2019 Thirty Eight Go Go for trainer Bernie Houghton, and Miss Leslie, along with Scatrattleandroll, Sosua and Villanelle.
The Thirty Eight Go Go honors the two-time Maryland-bred champion bred and trained by Hall of Famer King Leatherbury. Eight of her 10 career wins came in stakes including the Gardenia (G2), Tempted (G3) and Maryland Million Lassie in 1987 and three consecutive runnings of the Geisha (1988-90).
David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club
Photo: Off Topic gamely breaking her maiden at Gulfstream Park December 27, 2018, under John Velazquez. (Leslie Martin)