Laurel Park Set to Launch 2024 with Heritage Meet

Laurel Park Set to Launch 2024 with Heritage Meet

Nine-Race Program Opens 38-Day Winter Stand Friday
Schedule Includes 17 Stakes Worth $1.8 Million in Purses
G3 General George, G3 Barbara Fritchie Feb. 17

LAUREL, MD – A 5 ½-furlong sprint for Maryland-bred/sired 4-year-olds and up serves to highlight a nine-race program as the Maryland Jockey Club lifts the curtain on 2024 with Friday’s opening of the Heritage Meet at Laurel Park.

The 38-day winter stand is scheduled to run Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Saturday, March 30, with a 12:25 p.m. post time. There will be no live racing on Easter Sunday, March 31.

Mens Grille Racing’s 4-year-old Noah Chance, unraced since finishing second in a turf allowance against his elders last May, is the 9-5 program favorite in his comeback, running for the first time as a gelding and drawing outside all but one of his six rivals. Contending from the rail is 57 Strong’s Take a Hint, third or better in all eight of his 2023 starts, two of them Delaware Park wins. He has been second in each of three tries at Laurel.

Brittany Russell, who made history in 2023 as the first female to lead Maryland’s annual trainer standings in wins at Laurel and historic Pimlico Race Course, has two horses entered Friday. Bode’s Maker will make his 9-year-old debut in his first race off a $40,000 claim in Race 2, an optional claimer for 4-year-olds and up going 1 1/8 miles. In Race 6, she’ll send out 4-year-old Hurrying Home, a $300,000 yearling that is winless in three previous tries on turf and one on the all-weather at Turfway Park.

Jockey Jaime Rodriguez won three individual meet titles and led all riders in wins in his first full year in Maryland and is named in seven races Friday, six of nine races Saturday and four of nine races Sunday.

Saturday’s co-features are 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowances in Race 5 for 4-year-olds and up and Race 7 for fillies and mares 4 and older. Russell entered 4-year-old colt Mindtap, a $725,000 yearling that graduated by 7 ½ lengths in a Dec. 5 maiden special weight at Parx in his first start since coming over from Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, while maiden winner Balantyne will be racing first time since last April and first for trainer Jonathan Thomas.

Russell also has a main contender in Race 7 in Northern Glow, bred and owned by Sycamore Hall Thoroughbreds that exits an allowance win over her elders going 1 1/16 miles Dec. 8 at Laurel. Among her rivals are Gold Digging Broad, promoted winner of the All Brandy on turf last summer; Abidale, an eight-time winner including two straight, and Jamie Ness-trained stablemate Bossyness.

A one-mile optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds and up highlights Sunday’s card, led by Ness stablemates Speedyness, third as the favorite in the Maryland Juvenile Dec. 2 at Laurel, and Brysons Option, who adds Lasix for the first time and runs for a $62,5000 tag off a waiver maiden claiming victory Dec. 16. New York-based trainer Carlos Martin sends in Dune Road, a 2 ½-length maiden claiming winner Dec. 8 at Aqueduct in his lone start.

Highlighted by a Winter Carnival program featuring the Barbara Fritchie (G3) and General George (G3) for older sprinters, as well as the start of Maryland’s series for 3-year-olds leading up to the 149th Preakness Stakes (G1), Laurel Park will offer 17 stakes worth $1.8 million in purses during the Heritage Meet.

Stakes action begins Saturday, Jan. 20 with the $100,000 Fire Plug for 4-year-olds and up going 6 ½ furlongs and $100,000 What a Summer for fillies and mares 4 and older at six furlongs. Also on the program are a pair of $75,000 events restricted to Maryland-bred/sired horses, the Jennings for 4-year-olds and up and Geisha for females 4 and older, both at one mile.

The $100,000 Spectacular Bid sprinting seven furlongs Saturday, Jan. 27 kicks off Maryland’s series of stakes for 3-year-olds on the road to the Preakness, Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, at historic Pimlico Race Course. It is joined by the $100,000 Xtra Heat at six furlongs, the first local prep for 3-year-old fillies en route to the 100th Black-Eyed Susan (G2) on Preakness eve.

Winter Carnival is set for Saturday, Feb. 17 led by the 70th running of the $200,000 Barbara Fritchie for fillies and mares 4 and up and 49th edition of the $200,000 General George for 4-year-olds and up, both sprinting seven furlongs. Older horses will go 1 1/8 miles in the $100,000 John B. Campbell and 1 1/16 miles in the $100,000 Nellie Morse, the latter for females.

Maryland’s second series of races for sophomores comes Saturday, Feb. 24 with the $100,000 Miracle Wood going one mile and $100,000 Wide Country for fillies sprinting seven furlongs.

Saturday, March 16 offers the $100,000 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial for 4-year-olds and up at one mile, and a pair of $75,000 sprints restricted to Maryland-bred/sired horses – the six-furlong Not For Love for 4-year-olds and up and seven-furlong Conniver for fillies and mares 4 and older.

The winter meet stakes schedule wraps up Saturday, March 23 with the $100,000 Private Terms for 3-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles and the $100,000 Beyond the Wire for 3-year-old fillies.