Brother Conway Puts Streak to the Test in $100,000 Fire Plug

Brother Conway Puts Streak to the Test in $100,000 Fire Plug

G3-Winning Stablemate Classier Also Entered in Saturday Sprint
Trainer Gaudet Carrying Momentum into $100,000 What a Summer

LAUREL, MD – Brother Conway, riding a four-race win streak, and Grade 3-winning stablemate Classier, each claimed last year by Kieron Magee, give the trainer a formidable hand against nine rivals in Saturday’s $100,00 Fire Plug at Laurel Park.

The 28th running of the 6 ½-furlong Fire Plug for 4-year-olds and up is the last of four stakes worth $350,000 in purses on a 10-race program that opens Maryland’s 2024 stakes schedule. First race post time is noon.

Super C Racing Inc.’s Classier won the 2021 Los Alamitos Derby (G3) in his fourth career start for previous trainer Bob Baffert before being moved east and claimed by Magee for $16,000 out of his first run, a 2 ¾-length victory last March at Laurel. The 6-year-old won his next two starts and four of nine since switching barns, including an off-the-turf Henry S. Clark last April.

A $775,000 yearling in September 2019, Classier will be racing for the first time since finishing third as the favorite after encountering some early trouble in an open six-furlong allowance Nov. 18 at Laurel.

“He’s a cool horse, just a really cool horse,” Magee said. “We’ve been very fortunate with him, but we haven’t had a race for him go so we’re going to run him in the stake. We’ll see how that goes. He’s ready to roll, let me tell you. He is ready to go.”

Sheffield Stable’s Brother Conway was claimed for $16,000 out of a win last June at Laurel and ran second in consecutive allowances at Laurel, Timonium and Pimlico before reeling off four straight wins by 12 ¾ combined lengths. The most recent was a front-running 2 ¼-length score Dec. 29 at Laurel over multiple stakes winner Threes Over Deuces.

“What a home run he’s been,” Magee said. “He deserves a shot. He went right through the conditions real quick, so this is the next stop for him. Hopefully he keeps moving on.”

Magee has marveled at the progression of Brother Conway, 5, who has gone 4-3-0 in seven starts for Magee after winning three of six starts with one third for his previous connections. The Fire Plug will mark his stakes debut.

“He just developed into nice horse,” Magee said. “I wish I knew the secret because I would definitely bag it up and sell it. Sometimes it just works out that way. He’s just all racehorse.”

Horacio Karamanos is named to ride Brother Conway from Post 2 while Carlos Lopez gets the call on Classier from Post 3 in a field of 11.

“[Brother Conway] doesn’t have to be on the lead. It depends what’s in the race, but he can win on the lead or he can come from off of it. He’s versatile,” Magee said. “The other horse can do the same thing, too. It’s kind of nice when you can do what you want.”

From the outside are a pair of strong contenders in Greeley and Ben and Super Chow. Daryl Abramowitz’s Greeley and Ben will be making his 10-year-old debut after finishing fifth in the Dec. 30 Gravesend at Aqueduct, just seven days after his dramatic half-length victory in Laurel’s six-furlong Dave’s Friend. Off for nearly a year following his victory in the 2022 Fall Highweight (G3), he ran four times over the final six weeks of 2023 with both his wins coming at Laurel.

Lea Farms’ Super Chow, cross-entered in an optional claiming allowance Saturday at Gulfstream Park, is a four-time stakes winner that ran second by a length to subsequent Pat Day Mile (G2) winner General Jim in last winter’s Swale (G3) at Gulfstream. The 4-year-old Super Chow has never raced at Laurel but has been to Pimlico twice, winning an optional claiming allowance in September 2022 and running fifth in last spring’s Chick Lang (G3).

Trainers Michael Jones Jr. and Ray Ginter Jr. each entered a pair of contenders. Jones is represented by Top Notch Racing’s Overly Critical, who cuts back after having a three-race win streak snapped when fourth in a 1 1/8-mile optional claimer Jan. 5 at Laurel, while Arlee Arkofa’s O’Conner Sunset was third or better in nine of 13 starts last year, two of them wins.

Ginter, meanwhile, will send out two familiar Built Right Stables runners. The 8-year-old Sir Alfred James won the Russell Road at Charles Town and was third in Laurel’s General George (G3) in 2022, most recently running ninth in the Dave’s Friend after a troubled start. The 6-year-old Cowan has placed six times in stakes including third in the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) and was fourth last out, beaten less than a length after taking a lead into the stretch of the Dave’s Friend.

Completing the field are Graham Grace Stable’s Frat Pack, never worse than third in five career starts racing first time for trainer Whit Beckman; Steve and Debbie Jackson’s Dontmesawithme, whose most recent win came in the 2022 Harrison Johnson Memorial at Laurel; and James Wolf’s Dollarization, winner of last fall’s Lite the Fuse at Pimlico that was second by a half-length in the Dave’s Friend.

Fire Plug was a stakes winner every year from age 3 to 7. The popular gelding won or placed in 49 of 54 career starts with half his 28 victories coming in stakes including the J. Edgar Hoover, Maryland Breeders’ Cup and Roman handicaps. Twice graded-stakes placed including the 1991 General George (G2), he was retired later that year at the age of 8 with $705,175 in purse earnings.

Trainer Gaudet Carrying Momentum into $100,000 What a Summer

With her barn in the midst of one of its most successful stretches yet, trainer Lacey Gaudet will look to keep that momentum going in Saturday’s $100,000 What a Summer for older fillies and mares.

The 38th running of the six-furlong What a Summer for females 4 and up is the third of four stakes worth $350,000 in purses on a 10-race program that begins with a special noon post time.

Gaudet entered both In My Opinion and Beneath the Stars, but was unsure if both would run since they are cross-entered in an optional claiming allowance going the same distance Friday at Laurel. Gaudet shares ownership of Beneath the Stars with David Bernsen and Susanna Wilson while In My Opinion is owned by A P Stable and Fox Tale Racing Stable.

“They’re pretty identical horses. Beneath the Stars has a little bit more weight behind her. She’s been super on-form lately, so she kind of fits a little bit better with the stakes company,” Gaudet said. “That being said, the other filly ran a huge improvement last time. It’s a different scenario for her. She won going the one-turn mile which I think is really conducive to her. Instead of going two turns we decided to cut her back and see if she could get lucky.”

Beneath the Stars has seven wins, six coming at Laurel, from 22 career starts and was stakes-placed at 2 and 3, running second in the 2021 Gin Talking and third in the 2022 Xtra Heat, the latter to subsequent Maryland champion Luna Belle. Gaudet claimed the 5-year-old Connect mare for $55,000 last March and she registered back-to-back wins at Laurel in the fall before finishing fifth as the favorite in a six-furlong allowance Dec. 17, her most recent start off a 16-day turnaround.

“Last race we just tried to get a little crafty and run her back kind of quick. I don’t think that it did her any favors, especially off two big races. I think it was a lot to ask of her. She came out of the race fin and we gave her a bit to recover from that,” Gaudet said. “She’s doing great. She’s just really turned around since we came back from having a string at Delaware in the summertime. She’s been really good going into the winter here.”

In My Opinion ran on the same Dec. 17 card, making a dramatic rally from far back to register a two-length upset at odds of 25-1 in a second-level optional claimer, her 34th race and first since being privately purchased and moved to Gaudet.

“The owners bought her with the hopes of making her a decent broodmare prospect. She, too, has some back class. She’s been a little off form, but she does have some big races in there She came to us and we just made a few adjustments and she really turned around. She was a different horse after training with us for a month. There weren’t too many places for her, so it was great that she was eligible for the two-other-than. I do think that she’s a stakes-caliber filly,” Gaudet said. “We just decided to use this [weekend] and hope for a good effort to set her up for something better later in the winter and coming into the spring.”

Jevian Toledo has the call on Beneath the Stars from Post 5 and Tais Lyapustina is named aboard In My Opinion from Post 4 in a field of 9.

Gaudet has won with four of eight starters so far in 2024, continuing a stretch where she has won with 14 of her last 23 starters (61 percent) dating back to Dec. 15. Gaudet went 13-for-25 (52 percent) in the month of December, registering a hat trick on New Year’s Eve.

“I think a big component is that we have dirt horses. We were really slow over the summer and into the fall when everybody tries to get their last turf horses in, and a lot of the races just didn’t fall into place,” Gaudet said. “Then when we got into November and December and there was no more turf, the distances came up right [and] the spacing came up right with a lot of them.

“They were just horses that were overly fit from training and waiting for the right races. I think that we got lucky,” she added. “We have a great crew right now. We’ve got some good riders. The track at Laurel is fantastic. I think that’s made a big difference with a lot of these horses, just staying fit and being able to get into a really good routine. We’re really lucky to have a great team. It’s just all been good timing.”

Thomas Brockley and Daryn Brockley’s New York-based Headland figures to garner plenty of attention in the What a Summer exiting a 1 ½-length triumph in the 6 ½-furlong Willa On the Move Dec. 23 at Laurel. It was the first stakes win for the 8-year-old mare that had placed twice before, including being demoted from second to third for interference in the 6 ½-furlong Gallant Bloom (G2) Oct. 1 at Aqueduct.

Ms. Bucchero, owned and trained by Diane Morici, capped her 3-year-old season by beating her elders in a six-furlong allowance Dec. 17 at Laurel. A winner of five of nine career starts, she will be making her third stakes appearance and first since running fifth as the favorite in the six-furlong Weather Vane Sept. 16 at Pimlico.

Ken Wheeler Jr.’s Kant Hurry Love won the Dancing Renee and was second in the Union Avenue last summer, both sprinting six furlongs against fellow New York-breds. Now 5, her last two starts of 2023 came against open company when she tired to fourth after setting the pace in the seven-furlong Pumpkin Pie then was beaten a neck when second in the six-furlong Garland of Roses Dec. 9 at Aqueduct.

HnR Nothhaft Horse Racing’s Prodigy Doll, eight-length winner of the 2021 Cheryl S. White Memorial at Mahoning Valley; Gold Square’s White Chocolate, second by a length in the same race last fall; McEntee Racing, Inc. and Resolute Racing Alliance’s Baytown Lovely and Hall Stables’ Vinegar Veggies round out the field.

The What a Summer honors the Maryland-bred mare that was named the Eclipse Award-winning sprinter and Maryland’s Horse of the Year in 1977. The Maryland-bred Hall of Famer won 18 of 31 career starts including the Fall Highweight Handicap (G2) and Silver Spoon Handicap twice, Maskette Handicap (G2) and Black-Eyed Susan (G2).