1 3/16-Mile Stakes One of Two on Turf for 3-Year-Olds Saturday
LAUREL, MD – Robert LaPenta and Madaket Stables’ Tommy Bee, placed in all six of his starts this year including four stakes led by last month’s Kent (G3), stretches out in search of an elusive stakes victory in Saturday’s $100,000 Bald Eagle Derby at Laurel Park.
The fourth running of the Bald Eagle Derby for 3-year-olds, named for the two-time Washington D.C. International winner and the nation’s champion handicap horse of 1960, is the second of two stakes scheduled for the turf on a 10-race program following the $100,000 Searching for 3-year-old fillies.
First race post time is 12:40 p.m.
Contested at 1 ½ miles since its debut in 2018, the Bald Eagle Derby was shortened to 1 3/16 miles for 2022. It will be the longest race to date for Tommy Bee, who debuted at 1 1/16 miles last fall at Ellis Park and has yet to run shorter than one mile.
Tommy Bee has twice run as far as 1 1/8 miles, winning a third-level allowance over the Keeneland turf April 29 and rallying to be third last out in the July 2 Kent on the grass at Delaware, beaten 2 ¼ lengths by Main Event and was less than a length behind runner-up Elizar.
“We have thought the further the better for quite some time,” LaPenta’s racing manager John Panagot said. “His two nine-furlong races are probably his best. This seems like a good spot to try a tick further than that.”
Sixth in his unveiling last fall, Tommy Bee was dropped from maiden special to maiden claiming company and got up in the last jump to win by a head at Belmont Park. From there he joined trainer Brad Cox’s main winter string at Fair Grounds where he was second in an optional claiming allowance in December to end his juvenile season but returned to win a similar spot Jan. 29 in a race taken off the turf.
Tommy Bee finished second in the Black Gold March 5 at Fair Grounds in his stakes debut and the April 2 Rushaway over Turfway Park’s all-weather surface prior to his Keeneland allowance triumph. In between that and the Kent, he ran second in the May 18 Caesars in Indiana to Stitched, who came back to win the Mystic Lake at Canterbury Park.
Since returning from Fair Grounds Tommy Bee has trained in Kentucky, Indiana and New York, most recently with Cox’s string at Belmont, where he tuned up for the Bald Eagle Derby with a half-mile breeze in 48.80 seconds July 30.
“This horse has improved each month with training,” Panagot said. “He ran for $50,000 in his second start, but that kind of woke him up a bit. His form shows he has improved, too.”
Sheldon Russell is named to ride Tommy Bee from Post 3 in a field of seven.
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Speaking Scout was fourth in the Kent, 1 ¾ lengths behind Tommy Bee, and is also seeking his first stakes victory. His trainer, Graham Motion, won the 2019 Bald Eagle Derby with He’s No Lemon after Jais’s Solitude was disqualified from first to sixth for interference.
Speaking Scout got bottled up on the far turn but continued to persevere in the Kent under Laurel-based jockey Feargal Lynch, who gets the return call Saturday from Post 4.
“He had a really tough trip, just nothing worked out for him,” Motion said. “He kind of got stuck in behind a wall of horses and Feargal didn’t get to let him loose until the last sixteenth of a mile or so, at which point it was just too late. It was very frustrating.”
It was the third straight race where Speaking Scout, who does best running from off the pace, found trouble. Motion is hopeful a smaller field lends itself to a cleaner run this time.
“Coming from off of it on the grass you’re always dependent on trip, but I’m going to leave it to Feargal. Obviously, we don’t want to get into the same kind of trouble we had the other day,” Motion said.
“He really has been a consistent horse. There’s no doubt in my mind that this horse has improved. He’s a bigger, stronger horse than he was a year ago,” he added. “He really looks the part, and I think he’ll appreciate the distance.”
Speaking Scout was purchased privately by Eclipse’s Aron Wellman after the Mr Speaker gelding made a bold move to take a lead into the stretch before winding up second in a one-mile maiden special weight last July at Colonial Downs. Second by a length in an open, off-the-turf Keeneland allowance last October, he capped his juvenile season being beaten a head by Red Danger in the 7 ½-furlong Pulpit at Gulfstream Park.
This year, Speaking Scout ran sixth by three lengths in Gulfstream’s Kitten’s Joy (G3) and won a Keeneland turf allowance at the Bald Eagle Derby distance April 29 before a troubled eighth in the 1 1/8-mile Audubon June 4 at Churchill Downs.
“Aron picked this horse out at Colonial off the maiden race. Aron’s very clever at picking these horses out, these off-the-radar horses,” Motion said. “He’s really just matured. I think he’s got a stakes win in him, and I think he handles both surfaces, really. But, I think he’s probably better on the grass.”
Runnymoore Racing’s Undercover Kitty enters the Bald Eagle Derby off back-to-back dirt wins. The Kitten’s Joy gelding won an off-the-turf edition of the Crowd Pleaser against fellow Pennsylvania-breds June 27 at Parx going 1 1/16 miles, and captured a one-mile, 70-yard optional claiming allowance over Delaware’s main track July 23. His two turf tries have come in Maryland, finishing third in a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight in debut last October and fourth in an open 1 1/16-mile allowance against older horses May 20 at historic Pimlico Race Course.
Cloud Play, Majestic Frontier and Vance Scholars are all entered to make their turf debut. Owned by trainer Gerald Brooks and Carl Hess Jr., Cloud Play has yet to race beyond a mile and 40 yards but has a win and a third in last fall’s Fitz Dixon Jr. Memorial Juvenile sprinting 6 ½ furlongs over the all-weather surface at Presque Isle Downs.
Majestic Frontier and Vance Scholars are both based at Laurel. Gerald Grabcheski and Renate Jackson’s Majestic Frontier was second in Laurel’s 2021 Miracle Wood and is winless in five starts this year, while Steven T. Newby’s Vance Scholars will be making his sophomore debut more than eight months since winning a one-mile optional claiming allowance at Laurel.
Completing the field is Augustin Stable’s homebred gelding Timo, making his second start after finishing off the board in a July 14 maiden special weight at Saratoga for trainer Jonathan Thomas.