G3 Winner Ghost Hunter Captures 9-Year-Old Season Opener

G3 Winner Ghost Hunter Captures 9-Year-Old Season Opener

Special 12:15 P.M. First Post for 12-Race Program Saturday
Spring Meet Finale Sunday Features Mandatory Payouts

LAUREL, MD – Triple K Stables and Jagger, Inc.’s Grade 3 winner Ghost Hunter came with a determined run up the rail and emerged from a four-way photo finish in front to capture his 9-year-old debut in Friday’s featured fifth race at Laurel Park.

Racing for the first time since finishing fifth in an Oct. 19 claiming event at Belmont Park, where he ran for the same $50,000 tag as Friday, Ghost Hunter ($21.80) went 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.53 over a Fort Marcy Turf Course rated firm for a half-length triumph in the $47,000 third-level optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds and up.

Grade 1-winning millionaire Force the Pass, also racing for the first time since last fall, was second, a head in front of stubborn multiple stakes-winning pacesetter John Jones. It was another neck back to 9-5 favorite Surprise Twist in fourth. Ghost Hunter’s stablemate Twenty Four Seven, Super Dude and Bronx Sandman completed the order of finish.

“It kind of surprised me today. I didn’t think he was ready. I’ve been breezing him with [Twenty Four Seven] every time and [Twenty Four Seven] has been beating him. He’s 9 years old, so he doesn’t have to work hard in the mornings, I guess,” winning trainer Jamie Ness said. “But, class shows. Class shows, and he knows how to win.”

It was the 20th win from 60 career starts for Ghost Hunter, a gelded son of Hall of Famer Ghostzapper whose previous victory came in an optional claiming allowance last May over the all-weather surface at Presque Isle Downs. Claimed for $25,000 in June 2014, the 2017 Arlington Handicap (G3) winner pushed his career bankroll to $802,313.

“The key is I give him the winter off every year and that keeps him going, keeps him young,” Ness said. “I kind of threw him to the wolves today just to try to get a race in him, and he got the best trip. It looked like any of the five horses could have won that race. He got the best trip.”

John Jones was eager for the lead and held it through a quarter-mile in 23.67 seconds under pressure from Super Dude, but began to gain separation after a half in 47.21. Jockey Angel Suarez rated Ghost Hunter in fourth and kept his mount on an inside path, where they began to make up ground once straightened for home as John Jones dug in between horses and Force the Pass and Surprise Twist rallied wide.

Ghost Hunter has made 14 starts since his graded triumph, five of them in stakes, finishing second in the Presque Isle Mile in 2017 and 2018. He began last year running fifth in the Henry S. Clark Stakes at Laurel.

“He’s 9. I’m going to do everything right by him. He likes to win, so I don’t need to be 20-1 again or anything like that,” Ness said. “We’ll find something. The good thing is he can run on the synthetic, so there’s some options out there.”

Special 12:15 P.M. First Post for 12-Race Program Saturday

In addition to being able to watch and wager on the Kentucky Derby (G1) from Churchill Downs, featuring Maryland-based contender Win Win Win, fans will be treated to a live 12-race program Saturday at Laurel Park.

Laurel will open its at 10 a.m. with a special first-race post time of 12:15 p.m. Post time for the Derby, Race 12 of 14 at Churchill, is 6:50 p.m.

Live music, food and drink specials and family fun activities will be part of Laurel’s Kentucky Derby Party from noon to 7 p.m.

Laurel opens Saturday’s live program with a $40,000 maiden special weight for 2-year-olds going 4 ½ furlongs on the main track, and the remainder of the card includes six events scheduled for the world-class turf course.

Mandatory Payouts for Spring Meet Finale Sunday, May 5

Laurel Park will close its 19-day spring meet with a nine-race card Sunday, May 5 featuring mandatory payouts in the 20-cent Rainbow 6, 50-cent Late Pick 5 and $1 Super Hi-5 wagers.

Live racing shifts to legendary Pimlico Race Course for the 12-day Preakness Meet at Pimlico starting Thursday, May 9.

Jockey Trevor McCarthy is on course for his third consecutive meet title while Mike Trombetta, trainer of Win Win Win, has a slight edge over Maryland’s 2017 and 2018 overall champion Claudio Gonzalez.