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Senior Investment Upsets $100,000 Harrison Johnson
Arrifana Digs in to Capture $100,000 Nellie Morse
LAUREL, MD – Senior Investment, third in the 2017 Preakness Stakes (G1), slowed things down early before powering through the stretch for a front-running five-length upset triumph in Saturday’s $100,000 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial at Laurel Park.
The 34th running of the 1 1/8-mile Harrison Johnson for 4-year-olds and up and 37th renewal of the $100,000 Nellie Morse for fillies and mares 4 and older going one mile are among four stakes worth $400,000 in purses on an 11-race National Pi Day program.
Ridden by Emmanuel Esquivel for trainer Scott Lake, who claimed the 6-year-old son of Discreetly Mine for $50,000 last fall, Senior Investment ($19.80) covered the distance in 1:50.96 over a fast main track. Grade 3 winner Name Changer, racing for the first time since late November, rallied for a narrow second over Alwaysmining, who had his two-race win streak snapped.
It was the third straight victory for Senior Investment, a stretch that includes an optional claiming score Jan. 30 at Laurel, and second in stakes company. His other stakes win came in the 2017 Lexington (G3), one start prior to his Preakness run, for previous trainer Ken McPeek.
Multiple stakes winner Alwaysmining broke a step inwardly from Post 2, one spot outside of Senior Investment, who Esquivel kept along the rail as they took the field through splits of 25.58 and 50.96 seconds. Name Changer tracked in third along the inside with Someday Jones, winner of the 1 1/8-mile Native Dancer Dec. 28 at Laurel, in the clear in fourth.
Wait for It, fourth in last year’s Pimlico Special (G3) moved into a contending position on the far outside around the far turn as Alwaysmining took aim at Senior Investment heading to the top of the stretch. The top two hooked up briefly before Esquivel called on Senior Investment, who spurted away in the final eighth of a mile.
Someday Jones was fourth, trailed by Wait for It, Forewarned and Bonus Points.
“It worked out really good. He broke really sharp. [Alwaysmining] broke a step slow and I was able to walk the first part of the race, so that was good,” Esquivel said. “My plan was to sit behind [Alwaysmining] if he broke good, but it ended up working the other way. He’s a professional horse. He had a perfect trip and when I asked him he just went on like nothing.”
The Harrison Johnson is named for the trainer who died in a 1985 plane crash at the age of 45. A native of Adelphi, Md., Johnson began training in 1969 and conditioned 1973 Hopeful Stakes winner Gusty O’Shay, named that year’s Maryland-bred champion 2-year-old.
Arrifana Digs in to Capture $100,000 Nellie Morse
Gainesway Stable, LNJ Foxwoods and Millennium Farms’ Arrifana, making her first start since late November, became a stakes winner for the first time with a thrilling nose victory over stubborn shipper Horologist in the $100,000 Nellie Morse.
Arrifana ($3.20), a daughter of Hall of Famer Curlin favored at 3-5 over six fellow 4-year-old fillies, ran one mile in 1:35.95 to win for the fifth time in six career starts including a perfect 4-0 record at Laurel. The lone loss came when second in the Comely (G3) Nov. 29 at Aqueduct in her 2019 finale.
“She’s obviously run very well here and we thought this was a great opportunity for her to break back into the new year. Horologist was a fighter, though,” trainer Kelly Rubley said. “She was making me sweat a little. It’s her first start back after a little break so you’re always a little concerned if you’re ready, and she certainly showed up for us today.”
Arrifana settled well off the pace down the backstretch as 14-1 long shot Bye Bye Bertie, making her stakes debut, led through fractions of 23.90 and 47.31 seconds with Jennemily and Horologist giving closest pursuit. Arrifana moved up willingly between horses around the turn, split Horologist and multiple stakes winner Needs Supervision nearing the stretch and was set down for the stretch drive by Pimentel.
“The other horse didn’t want to give up,” Pimentel said. “[Arrifana] is very nice and she was going very easy. I had a great trip, and when I asked her she really took off.”
Winner of the Monmouth Oaks (G3) and third in the Cotillion (G1) last summer for California-based trainer Richard Baltas, Horologist was game on the inside of the Arrifana as the top pair went six furlongs in 1:11.84 and seven-eighths in 1:23.79, but Arrifana edged clear late. They were followed past the wire by Needs Supervision, Lady Banba, Victim of Love, Bye Bye Bertie and Jennemily.
“Certainly we’ll sit down and talk about [what’s next],” Rubley said. “We have many options and we’re just excited to see that she’s come this far. We’ll see how she comes back from it.”
Nellie Morse is one of five fillies to win the Preakness (G1), a feat she accomplished in 1924 just three days after winning the Pimlico Oaks – now run as the Black-Eyed Susan (G2). As a broodmare, her daughter Nellie Flag was the champion 2-year-old of 1934 and fourth as the favorite in the 1935 Kentucky Derby (G1). Other descendants include Hall of Famer Forego, 1976 Derby and Belmont (G1) winner Bold Forbes and 1943 champion handicap mare Mar-Kell.