Price plays for Ben's Cat Day at Laurel and the Red Smith
There are Grade 3 events at Aqueduct, Churchill Downs, and Del Mar on Saturday, but those who need a bigger stakes fix would do well to take a peak at Laurel's 11-race program, which also includes a commemoration of the beloved Maryland-bred gelding Ben's Cat. There are six, $100,000 stakes spread across the card, five of them open. Two fillies look like appealing price plays at the Maryland track, and there's a horse of interest in the Big A feature as well.
Laurel Race 5 ($100,000 Smart Halo) -- 2:00 p.m. (EST) -- Trainer Graham Motion has a promising juvenile filly in #13 ALMOND ROCA (12-1). A rough-trip fourth in her debut in July, she rebounded in late September to break her maiden on the grass by more than four lengths. She's bred to be a good one, too. By Speightstown, she's out of a full sister to 2005 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Giacomo and thus a half to multiple Grade 1 winner Tiago and Grade 3 vixen Stanwyck. Almond Roca is herself a full sister to the Grade 3-placed Calistoga. Obviously, post 13 is not ideal in a six-furlong race. Here's hoping a scratch or two can give her some relief in that department.
Laurel Race 7 ($100,000 Safely Kept -- 3:00 p.m. (EST) -- Before hitting the sidelines following a fifth-place effort as the favorite in the February 4 Forward Gal (G2), #10 MS LOCUST POINT (8-1) had shown plenty of promise for trainer John Servis, including two open-lengths wins in a Parx maiden and in the $100,000 Gin Talking at Laurel over seven furlongs on New Year's Eve against a next-out stakes winner. She returns in a tough spot that's deep in quantity and quality, but it wouldn't surprise to see this filly out-break the rest and try and take them as far as she can. Alternatively, she showed the ability to stalk and pounce in the Gin Talking, an option given her outside draw.
Aqueduct Race 8 ($200,000 Red Smith [G3] -- 3:47 p.m. (EST) -- #10 CALL PROVISION (5-1) hasn't spent much time of late in graded stakes company, but looks ready to take another crack at it off his positive recent form. A specialist at the 1 3/8-mile distance as well as Aqueduct's (now) inner turf, he showed great promise early in his career when third by a neck to Camelot Kitten in the Pennine Ridge (G3) in only his second start following a New York-bred maiden win. Graded veterans Money Multiplier (a stablemate) and Oscar Nominated, as well as Get Jets, who beat Call Provision at the shorter nine-furlong trip in the $100,000 Ashley T. Cole, should all get play, ensuring this guy's fans of perhaps his largest price since the 2016 Belmont Derby (G1).
(Ms Locust Point photo: Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club)