Classy Last Leaf Seeks Return to Form in $100,000 Safely Kept
Wide-Open Field Set to Line Up for $100,000 City of Laurel
LAUREL, MD – Happy Go Lucky Stable, Inc.’s Ournationonparade, who debuted for new connections with a dominant victory in the Maryland Million Classic last month, returns to Laurel Park looking to extend his overall win streak to five races in Saturday’s $100,000 Richard W. Small.
The 22nd running of the 1 1/8-mile Richard Small for 3-year-olds and up is the third of three $100,000 stakes on a nine-race post-Thanksgiving Day program following the Safely Kept for 3-year-old fillies and City of Laurel for 3-year-olds, both sprinting seven furlongs.
First race post time is 12:15 p.m.
Bred in Maryland by John Williamson, Ournationonparade was claimed for $50,000 out of a sprint victory at Churchill Downs in late September and pointed to the Classic – contested over the same track and distance as the Small – by trainer Jamie Ness.
The 5-year-old Cal Nation gelding was kept in the clear by jockey Jaime Rodriguez on both turns, moved up from mid-pack to take a comfortable lead into the stretch and opened up through the lane to win by 5 ¾ lengths. It was the second win in three tries for Ournationonparade at Laurel, the other coming in the 2019 Maryland Million Nursery.
“It was definitely ‘Holy cow.’ He trained that good and he ran like he trained. The guy that had him before had him in good form and we just tried to keep him the same way, and we did. Now we’re looking to go and do it again,” Ness said. “He’s giving us all the same indications he did before the last race. It seems like we’re all ready to go.”
Ournationonparade was entered in the $175,000 Claiming Crown Jewel Nov. 12 at Churchill but a combination of the far outside Post 10 and a sloppy, sealed track was enough for Ness to scratch as one of the top contenders and await the Small.
“We were going to go [but] we drew a bad post and there was some really nasty weather coming in, so it wasn’t too hard to say, ‘Let’s just sit and wait for this race.’ I’m glad we did it, in hindsight,” Ness said. “He worked the other day and worked good. I like the distance for him, and he likes the track.”
Rodriguez gets the return call from Post 1 in a field of nine for the Small, which includes a pair of Grade 3 winners – Cordmaker and Ridin With Biden.
Hillwood Stable’s Maryland-bred fan favorite Cordmaker won last year’s Small to kick off a four-race win streak, all in stakes, capped by his first graded triumph in the Feb. 19 General George (G3). The 7-year-old gelding was given a well-earned break and didn’t return to the races until Nov. 4, finishing sixth in a one-mile optional claiming allowance.
Trainer Rodney Jenkins said over the weekend he planned to wait for an allowance race next month at Laurel for Cordmaker, who owns 14 career wins, 11 at Laurel and 10 in stakes, and remains less than $10,000 shy of $1 million in lifetime earnings.
Like Ournationonparade and Cordmaker, Cash is King and LC Racing’s Ridin With Biden has won going the Small distance at Laurel, notching a front-running 6 ¼-length triumph in the Deputed Testamony July 30. Two starts later he stretched out to 1 ½ miles to capture the Greenwood Cup (G3) over his home course at Parx, also in gate-to-wire fashion.
Ridin With Biden is cross-entered in Wednesday’s Turkey Trot Handicap going a mile and 70 yards at Parx.
“We’re going to take a look and try and pick our best spot,” trainer Robert E. ‘Butch’ Reid Jr. said. “What’s intriguing about the mile and an eighth race is, if there’s not a ton of pace where he can slow it down, he can certainly go a long way.
“I was really impressed with the way he ran the last time [at Laurel],” he added. “He doesn’t need the lead, but he just needs to be comfortable the first part of it. It was nice to ship there and we know he can handle the track well, so that’s a little bit of an advantage for us.”
Frankie Pennington is named to ride from Post 5.
Well-traveled multiple stakes winner Forewarned; American d’Oro, a winner of two straight at Laurel by 16 ¾ combined lengths; stakes winners Armando R and Treasure Trove, each cross-entered in a stakes-quality optional claiming allowance on Laurel’s Thanksgiving Day card; Thomas Shelby, second in the Feb. 12 Razorback (G3) at Oaklawn Park; and Wish for Peace are also entered.
Formerly run as the Broad Brush, the multi-millionaire and four-time Grade 1 winner he trained, the Richard W. Small was renamed following the beloved horseman’s death from cancer in 2014. Baltimore-born ‘Dickie’ Small served two tours of duty during the Vietnam War as a Green Beret before becoming a trainer, also campaigning Broad Brush’s son, 1994 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner Concern. He won at least one stakes race in Maryland every year but one between 1974 and 2014 and is also known for helping launch the riding careers of female jockeys such as Andrea Seefeldt, Jerilyn Brown, Rosie Napravnik and Forest Boyce.
Classy Last Leaf Seeks Return to Form in $100,000 Safely Kept
Monarch Stables, Inc.’s Last Leaf, a multiple stakes winner on both turf and dirt exiting off-the-board finishes in successive graded-stakes, is entered to make her Maryland debut in Saturday’s 32nd running of the $100,000 Safely Kept.
Last Leaf spent her entire juvenile season and made her first seven sophomore starts at Gulfstream Park, winning the Hollywood Beach and Melody of Colors on grass as well as the Game Face and Azalea on dirt, where she also ran third in the Feb. 5 Forward Gal (G3).
By Not This Time, Last Leaf has made her last three starts in Kentucky winning the Aug. 14 Audubon Oaks at Ellis Park before finishing fourth to 2021 champion 2-year-old filly Echo Zulu in the Dogwood (G3) and fifth behind multiple graded-stakes winner Wicked Halo in the Raven Run (G2) Oct. 22.
Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Long Valley Stables’ Divine Huntress won the seven-furlong Miss Disco July 30 at Laurel against fellow Maryland-bred/sired horses and returns to action for the first time since finishing fourth in the Aug. 26 Charles Town Oaks (G2).
“We freshened her up a little bit, but I thought she got a little sick after the race at Charles Town. She had sort of a lung infection that we gave her some time to get cleared up. She’s had four breezes now since she came back, and I’m happy with her,” trainer Graham Motion said. “It’s the last opportunity to get to run against 3-year-old fillies. It’s too good an opportunity to pass up, I felt, if I could get her there in good shape which she seems to have done.”
Second to Matareya in the June 11 Acorn (G1) at Belmont Park after running fourth in the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) at historic Pimlico Race Course, Divine Huntress is 2-for-3 lifetime at seven furlongs.
“I think she’s been very consistent. She’s been a pleasure to have. We’ve obviously tried her in some tough spots, but when we run her locally she’s always very competitive in these races,” Motion said. “The other thing that was appealing is the seven furlongs. I think it’s a good distance for her.”
Team Hanley’s Vibrant Judy will be giving up some seasoning as she makes just her fourth career start and first in stakes in the Safely Kept. Trained by Laurel fall meet leader Brittany Russell, the daughter of champion Bernardini has two wins and a second thus far, graduating first time out going seven furlongs and getting up by a neck in a six-furlong optional claiming allowance Oct. 29 at Delaware Park.
“She’s awesome. We’ve liked this filly a lot since she came in the barn,” Russell said. “She broke her maiden going seven-eighths and she likes that distance. We had to cut her back in the a-other-than and it’s probably not what she really wants ultimately, but she got the job done.
“We were able to get that last run into her and she got another win on her resume and a little more experience, too,” she added. “She has plenty of natural speed and ability like that, but if something’s faster than her she’s smart enough she can sit off.”
Hope Jones’ Buy the Best went 4-for-6 as a 2-year-old including back-to-back stakes wins at Laurel but is winless in four starts this year. She is entered along with stablemates Liscolvin, a last-out allowance winner at Delaware Park; and Still My Babe, third in the Oct. 7 Honey Bee at The Meadowlands.
Completing the field are June 3 New Start winner Bazinga C; Oct. 14 Glen Cove winner Half Is Enough; two-time New York-bred stakes winner November Rein; Swayin to and Fro, who beat older Maryland-bred/sired horses to win Pimlico’s Shine Again Sept. 10; multiple stakes placed Click to Confirm, Moody Woman and Sweet Gracie; and Noble Bid.
The Safely Kept honors the champion sprinter of 1989 and member of the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame Class of 2011. The daughter of longtime Maryland sire Horatius was the first sprinter to top $2 million in earnings, the first Maryland-bred to win a Breeders’ Cup race in the 1990 Sprint (G1), a four-time Maryland-bred champion including Horse of the Year twice (1989,1990) and is one of only seven horses to win three Maryland Million races. She won 24 races, 22 in stakes, from 31 lifetime starts.
Wide-Open Field Set to Line Up for $100,000 City of Laurel
A quintet stakes winners along with Coastal Mission, chasing an elusive stakes triumph after placing four times in as many tries including three over the local track, help comprise a wide-open baker’s dozen entered for the 12th edition of the $100,000 City of Laurel.
Based at Charles Town with trainer Jeff Runco, a winner of more than 4,600 career races, Coleswood Farm, Inc’s Coastal Mission ran second in the Maryland Million Nursery and third in the Maryland Juvenile last fall at Laurel, where he began this year finishing second to Witty in the Jan. 29 Spectacular Bid.
The Great Notion gelding has not raced since closing to be second as the favorite by less than a length to next out winner Math Man Marco in the 4 ½-furlong Coin Collector May 14 at Charles Town.
Bird Mobberley’s Local Motive won the Hickory Tree on turf and James F. Lewis III at 2 and the Feb. 19 Miracle Wood, the latter two at Laurel, also finishing 2 ¼ lengths behind Coastal Mission when third in the Spectacular Bid. He has faced older horses in each of his three starts since coming back from a freshening following the May 21 James Murphy on grass at Pimlico, most recently running fourth in a one-mile optional claiming allowance Nov. 4 at Laurel.
Thomas Coulter’s Nimitz Class strung together three straight wins capped by the six-furlong Danzig against Pennsylvania-breds June 3 before having his streak snapped running second by a length following a troubled trip in Laurel’s July 2 Concern. Bonuccelli Racing’s Cynergy’s Star won the Timonium Distaff last summer and returns to the dirt after running fourth in the Maryland Million Turf Sprint.
Runnymoore Racing’s Undercover Kitty was a six-length, front-running winner of an off-the-turf Crowd Pleaser going 1 1/16 miles June 27 at Parx, and has raced at a mile or longer in nine starts since running third in his October 2021 unveiling at Laurel sprinting 5 ½ furlongs on the grass. He is joined by two stablemates – Nick Sanna Stables’ Defend, winless in five straight races since winning three of his first four; and Isabelle Haskell de Tomaso homebred Irish Boolum, a last out allowance winner at Delaware Park.
Kasey K Racing Stable, Michael Day and Final Turn Racing Stable’s Twisted Ride won two of his first three starts this year after going unraced at 2, including the City of Brotherly Love at Parx in his stakes debut. He is cross-entered in Wednesday’s Let’s Give Thanks at Parx and Friday’s $75,000 Howard and Sondra Bender Memorial for Maryland-bred/sired 3-year-olds and up at Laurel.
Built Wright Stables’ Steinbeck, owned and trained by Norman ‘Lynn’ Cash, is entered to make his 12th start this year, all since being claimed for $30,000 out of a maiden win last December at Turfway Park. Purchased by WinStar Farm for $650,000 as a 2-year-old in training, the Frosted colt was originally trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher.
An open allowance winner against his elders sprinting six furlongs Oct. 8 at Aqueduct, Steinbeck set the pace before fading to sixth three weeks later in the Bold Ruler (G3), where his stablemate, Laurel stakes winner Eastern Bay, ran second by a nose. Steinbeck was off the board in a 6 ½-furlong allowance Nov. 12 over a sloppy Churchill surface.
“The track was nothing but slop, so I’m just drawing a line through that race. He’s a better horse than what he showed there,” Cash said. “On paper it seemed like a good spot, but he didn’t run well on the track and the race was incredibly tough, also.
“He’s a nice horse, and it seems like he’s just coming into his own, too. He ran second in an allowance at Laurel [March 11] and then we had to give him about three months off,” he added. “Now he’s come back and it seems like he’s just now getting in game shape. That allowance win at Aqueduct, he kept a 2-5 favorite on his hip the entire race. He was strong.”
Al Loves Josie, third in the July 30 Star de Naskra at Laurel; Little Vic, off the board in three prior stakes attempts, all in graded company; and Radical Right, first or second in each of his last three dirt attempts dating back to last November, are also entered.