Sparkle Sprinkle Looks to Shine in $100,000 Maryland Million Lassie
LAUREL, MD – Bonuccelli Racing’s Cynergy’s Star, a stakes winner in his most recent start nearly eight weeks ago, goes after his third consecutive victory and second in stakes company in Saturday’s $100,000 Maryland Million Nursery at Laurel Park.
The Nursery for 2-year-olds and Lassie for 2-year-old fillies, each contested at six furlongs, are among eight stakes and four starter stakes on the 36th Jim McKay Maryland Million program, ‘Maryland’s Day at the Races’ celebrating the progeny of stallions standing in the state.
Highlighted by the $150,000 Classic for 3-year-olds and up, first race post time is 11:30 a.m.
Cynergy’s Star, a $25,000 yearling purchase last fall at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, began his career on the grass in the five-furlong Hickory Tree Aug. 2 at Colonial Downs, finishing seventh after getting stuck down inside. He graduated in a front-running three-quarter-length triumph Aug. 14 going 5 ½ furlongs over the main track at Pimlico Race Course.
Trainer Kenny Cox wheeled Cynergy’s Star back just 15 days later in the 6 ½-furlong Timonium Juvenile, where the bay Great Notion gelding forged a short lead after a half-mile and went on to win by two lengths. Great Notion ranks third all-time among Maryland Million stallions with 16 wins, three coming last year.
“There was a race at one point that I could have ran him in as a prep. It was a little earlier than I wanted to run him and I said, ‘You know what? I’m sticking to what my plan was, to have him ready for this,’” Cox said. “He’s as good as I can ask him, and I think he’s gotten a lot better since his last race. This will be the first time he’ll be able to run out of his own stall and not ship somewhere to make a start.”
Cynergy’s Star has worked four times since mid-September at Laurel for his return, and will have Timonium Juvenile rider Jevian Toledo back aboard from Post 12 in a field of 16 that includes also-eligibles Al Loves Josie and We B Shackin.
“I wouldn’t say he’s matured, but he’s definitely better than he was. His last few works were exactly how we asked him,” Cox said. “I know the last one Saturday went in 50 [seconds], but I told Jevian to go in 49 or 50 because he’s pretty fit, just as a tightener and to keep him from being too sharp. The two works before that, he finished up really impressive. We had him relax early and when we let him out a notch he just kept going. In one of the works he galloped out in [1:13] that day. He’s coming into the race good and I’m really happy with the way he’s training right now.”
The narrow 9-2 program favorite in a wide-open Nursery is Mr. Mox, owned by Morris Kernan and trainer Jamie Ness. A gelded son of Grade 3 winner Divining Rod, who ran third behind Triple Crown champion American Pharoah in the 2015 Preakness (G1), Mr. Mox debuted with a neck maiden special weight triumph July 11 at Pimlico in gate-to-wire fashion.
Purchased for $5,500 out of the same sale as Cynergy’s Star, Mr. Mox went five furlongs again in an optional claimer July 21 at Delaware Park, where he was second by a neck before stepping up into stakes company in the 5 ½-furlong Rosies on the Colonial turf, running fourth. Back on the dirt and stretched out to a mile, he led from start to finish to romp by 10 ¾ lengths Sept. 20 at Delaware.
“We’ve been really high on this horse since we first got him. He was kind of a cheap horse and right away we could tell he was OK,” Ness said. “We got him stretched out to a mile at Delaware and he loved it. We’re cutting back to six furlongs, but I think that’s OK. His best races are going long but hopefully he’s good enough to get it done short.
“I think he was just the best horse those days [he won]. I think there’s going to be a little bit more speed in this race, which is fine,” he added. “He doesn’t have to go to the lead. Maybe he will, we don’t know.”
The fastest turnaround in the Nursery comes from Steven Newby’s Vance Scholars, entered to run just six days after an impressive 5 ¾-length maiden claiming score going one mile at Laurel. The gelded son of Holy Boss had run at Delaware in his first two starts, running second by a head to fellow Nursery entrant Under the Radar in debut Sept. 9 and fifth in the First State Dash Sept. 25.
“He won so easily, and he went into that race real good. Six days, sometimes it’s quick for some of them and sometimes they relish it. He seems the type that wouldn’t mind it. He seems to feel good, so we’ll play it by ear,” trainer Dale Capuano said. “We’ve always liked him. I knew he needed to go further. The stake was 5 ½ and it was too short for him. Three-quarters is a little bit better, but I think his best races should be at a distance of ground.”
Hickory Tree winner Local Motive; Under the Radar, third in Aug. 26 Dover; Buff Hello, Gallant Gold, Shady Munni, Coastal Mission, All for Love, Good Idea, Witty, Bet On Bitz and Free Sailin complete the field.
Sparkle Sprinkle Looks to Shine in $100,000 Maryland Million Lassie
Five of trainer John ‘Jerry’ Robb’s eight career Maryland Million wins have come with 2-year-olds, and he will look to add to his record of success with Eric Rizer’s homebred filly Sparkle Sprinkle in the $100,000 Lassie.
Robb has won the Lassie for 2-year-old fillies previously with Ameri Allen (1990), Carniraibow (1992) and Jonesin for Jerry (2013). He also won the Nursery for 2-year-olds with Run Alden (1993) and Glib (2011).
Sparkle Sprinkle, a bay daughter of Holy Boss, debuted with a 3 ½-length maiden claiming victory sprinting four furlongs Aug. 28 during the Maryand State Fair meet at Timonium. She went all the way on the lead for a 6 ¼-length open allowance triumph going six furlongs Sept. 18 at Laurel.
Most recently, Sparkle Sprinkle got bumped at the start and was challenged on the lead before fading to be last of six in a six-furlong optional claimer Oct. 3 at Laurel behind Click to Confirm, one of four also-eligibles in the Lassie.
“The last race she had a little bit of a problem so, hopefully, we got that fixed,” Robb said. “She was very impressive when she won that starter allowance race here. She just ran very, very fast. But, she kind of had everything her own way that day, too, and that makes a difference. The last time she got hooked and pressured and had a few problems. Hopefully we see a little better race.”
Regular rider Xavier Perez climbs back aboard Sparkle Sprinkle (6-1) from Post 3.
Clark Brewster’s Waterworks, trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, is the narrow 3-1 program favorite in the Lassie. The Mosler filly has raced twice, both at Monmouth Park, and exits a 9 ¼-length victory in a one-mile maiden special weight Sept. 10 that was originally carded for the turf.
Bird Mobberley’s Buff My Boots (7-2) figures to be prominent early for trainer John Salzman Jr. By Buffum, she and Sparkle Sprinkle are the lone two-time winners in the Lassie. She has stakes experience, having run fifth in the Aug. 2 Keswick on the turf at Colonial Downs, and was third to Click to Confirm in the Oct. 3 race at Laurel.
Rounding out the main body of the race are Dowser, Luna Belle, My Thoughts, Sweet Gracie, Derby Julep and Moon Boss. The also-eligible list also includes Jester Calls Nojoy, exiting the Frizette (G1) for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, She’s Mo Better and No More Mask.