Severe Weather Forces Early Cancellation Thursday at Laurel

Severe Weather Forces Early Cancellation Thursday at Laurel

Graded Winners Force the Pass, Ghost Hunter Tangle in Friday Feature
LAUREL, MD – A severe thunderstorm bringing heavy rain and lightning through the area forced Laurel Park to cancel the remaining five races on Thursday’s 10-race card.

The storm moved in as horses were being saddled for the sixth race. After waiting several minutes in the paddock for the weather to pass, the decision was made to cancel.

“The safety of our patrons as well as our horses and horsemen is our main priority,” Maryland Jockey Club President and General Manager Sal Sinatra said. “With the lightning, thunderstorms and heavy rain in the area, we felt it was in everyone’s best interests to cancel the remainder of the card.”

Live racing returns to Laurel with a 10-race program Friday, May 3. First race post time is 1:10 p.m.

Graded Winners Force the Pass, Ghost Hunter Tangle in Friday Feature

Graded-stakes winners Force the Pass and Ghost Hunter, each unraced since last fall, are set to make their seasonal debuts in a stakes-quality optional claiming allowance on the world-class turf course in Friday’s featured fifth race.

The $47,000 third-level optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds and up, scheduled for 1 1/16 miles over the Fort Marcy Turf Course layout, drew a field of seven including multiple stakes winner John Jones.

Colts Neck Stables’ homebred millionaire Force the Pass, a 7-year-old son of champion sprinter Speightstown, has not raced since finishing fifth in the Red Bank (G3) Sept. 1 at Monmouth Park. After missing the entire 2017 season, he won the Cliff Hanger Stakes last May in his first start in 20 months, going 1-for-4 on the year.

Unraced at 2, Force the Pass had his best season at 3 winning four of eight 2015 starts including the Belmont Derby Invitational (G1), Penn Mile (G3) and Cutler Bay Stakes, while also finishing third in the Secretariat (G1) and Commonwealth Derby (G2). He was also third in the 2016 Commonwealth Turf Cup (G3).

“He’s doing great. He’s an old man,” Nick Galati, assistant to trainer Jorge Duarte Jr., said between races Thursday. “He’s a little older now and they picked a nice spot for him. The race should be fine for him. It should set up good; that’s his distance, and he likes the grass. He still loves what he’s doing. He’s a trouper. It’s amazing. He’s Jorge’s favorite horse, so he’ll be here for it. He goes to all his races.”

Program favorite at 3-1, Force the Pass will be ridden by Jevian Toledo from Post 2.

Triple K Stables and Jagger, Inc.’s Ghost Hunter is a gelded 9-year-old son of Hall of Famer Ghostzapper that has finished in the top three in 43 of 59 career starts, including 19 wins. Upset winner of the 2017 Arlington Handicap (G3), he was last seen running fifth in an Oct. 19 claiming event at Belmont Park.

Ghost Hunter was nominated to the Henry S. Clark Stakes April 20 at Laurel, a race where he opened his previous two seasons, finishing third in 2017, but trainer Jamie Ness opted to wait. Angel Suarez rides from Post 6.

“He [wasn’t] quite ready,” Ness said. “He’s coming off a long layoff. I [didn’t] feel like throwing him to the wolves right away off the layoff is doing right by him, so [we found] another spot. I’ve had him a long time. I’ve had him since he was 3 and he just keeps on rolling. He’s held his form for years. He’s getting a little long in the tooth but, hopefully, this year he can hang with them again. We’ll see. He had a good year last year.”

Matt Schera’s John Jones is a three-time Maryland-bred stakes winner including the 2016 Mister Diz over the Laurel turf. A 10-time career winner, he opened 2019 with an optional claiming allowance victory Jan. 26 and most recently was fourth in the Harrison E. Johnson Memorial March 16.

Surprise Twist, Super Dude, Ghost Hunter’s Ness-trained stablemate Twenty Four Seven, and Bronx Sandman complete the field.