Even if you are not a daily player of Maryland racing, you should be paying attention to Laurel this Saturday for the track’s loaded De Francis Dash card, which contains eight stakes races worth a total of $1.3 million in purses.
Saturday’s two Grade 3s on the card include the De Francis Dash (G3) and the Baltimore/Washington International Turf Cup (G3), which are the two anchor legs of an All-Stakes Pick 4 that begins in Race 5. This sequence of races, that also includes the $200,000 Laurel Futurity and $150,000 Bald Eagle Derby, is well worth betting, both as a Pick 4 sequence and in the individual races with good exotics possibilities throughout the card in exactas and trifectas.
Here’s a closer look at the best of the stakes races on the card this Saturday at Laurel.
Race 5 – Laurel Futurity
This two-year-old turf route at 1 1/16 miles drew a field of nine with several contenders, the best of whom appears to be Field Pass (#4) (2-1), who ships in for trainer Mike Maker after finishing second by a length last time in Saratoga’s tough With Anticipation Stakes (G3). Field Pass had graduated at this distance at Saratoga the race before over next-out winner Decorated Invader with a BRIS Speed figure superior to what any horse has shown in a turf route race so far.
A possible upsetter in the field is Mischevious Alex (#9) (6-1), who is making his career turf debut here in his fourth lifetime start, but is well-bred for the grass and should be respected because he just missed when third in his stakes debut last time out in Monmouth’s one-mile Sapling on the dirt. He’ll be dangerous if he’s even better on the turf than on the dirt, which is possible based on the breeding.
Finally, one x-factor in the race is Jack the Ripper (#5) (10-1), who invades from France and lands in the barn of Michael Stidham after a bush-league maiden win last time out. Could be any kind.
Bet Field Pass (#4) and Mischevious Alex (#9) in the exacta boxes, and throw in Jack the Ripper (#5) to fill out trifectas. Start an All-Stakes Pick 4 sequence with both Field Pass (#4) and Mischevious Alex (#9).
Race 6 – Bald Eagle Derby
This 1 1/2-mile grass race worth $150k has drawn a loaded 10-horse field for an opportunity to run at the stakes level in a turf marathon in a race restricted to three-year-olds. The two morning-line favorites in the race both look good, with Jais’s Solitude (#4) (5-2) exiting a late-running second in the 1 1/8-mile Virginia Derby (G3) and He’s No Lemon (#7) (2-1) exiting a 1 3/8-mile allowance optional claiming win at Saratoga last time out for trainer Graham Motion.
Neither of that pair are a slam dunk, however, so the door is open for an upset by the likes of Channel Island (#6) (6-1), who ran 1 1/2 lengths behind He’s No Lemon at Saratoga but will love the added ground today, and Another Mystery (#10) (15-1), who invades all the way from Arlington for trainer Chris Block specifically for the purpose of stretching this horse out to the 1 1/2-mile distance on the grass.
Use all four of those horses –Jais’s Solitude (#4), Channel Island (#6), He’s No Lemon (#7) and Another Mystery (#10) – in your Pick 4s, and box the quartet in the trifectas.
Race 7 – Baltimore/Washington International Turf Cup (G3)
The $200,000 BWI Turf Cup (G3) at one-mile on the grass offers perhaps the best betting opportunity on the card Saturday at Laurel, because the morning-line 3-1 odds favorite, Glorious Empire (#8) (3-1), looks very beatable and can be played against in the exactas, trifectas, and in the Pick 4. Glorious Empire is returning from a nine-month layoff, and seems to be prepping in this spot at one-mile, which seems way shorter than his best distance, which ranges from 1 1/8 miles to 1 1/2 miles. The last time he ran one-mile on the grass was off a layoff last year here at Laurel, and he ran sixth in a similar spot before going on to come out of that race to reel off three straight wins. Expect something similar this time around, as well.
Therefore, try to beat that favorite with a trio of sharp alternatives, starting with Caribou Club (#7) (4-1), who stretches out in this spot but beat the aforementioned Glorious Empire at one-mile at Laurel in the Henry Clark stakes last year. Also use one-mile turf specialist Macagone (#5) (5-1), who owns seven career wins at this trip and exits a wire-to-wire win at Saratoga, and Frontier Market (#6) (6-1), who has been no worse than second in eight straight starts for all-world turf trainer Chad Brown with victories in three of his last four races.
Play the trio of Macagone (#5), Frontier Market (#6), Caribou Club (#7) in your Pick 4 combinations, and box the three of them in exactas and trifectas.
Race 8 – Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3)
The featured $250,000 Frank J. De Francis Dash (G3) at six furlongs on the main track is another great betting race with an excellent opportunity to knock off not only the favorite, but all of the favorites on the morning line. Each of New York Central (#7) (5-2), He Hate Me (#6) (3-1) and Killybegs Captain (#2) (9-2) have a big chance to go down in flames in this race, setting the scene for a set of mid-priced challengers to swoop in and score the upset. This kind of scenario would set up a very profitable situation in the exactas and trifectas if you can come up with the right longshots.
The best of the bunch should come from amongst Altissimo (#3) (6-1), Bon Raison (#4) (5-1) and Sparticle (#5) (12-1). Altissimo is a blazingly fast Ohio-based runner who can shake loose from a speed duel and doesn’t need a clear lead to win. His BRIS Speed figures are high and he’s already shipped from his Thistledown base for stakes win or places at Delware, Belterra, Mahoning Valley, and even right here at Laurel where he was second by a head in the $100,000 Dave’s Friend Stakes last December. Bon Raison has been in great form and turned the tables on He Hate Me three starts ago when he beat him to win the Tale of the Cat Stakes at Saratoga. Finished second behind Engage in the Bensalem at Parx last time out, and will be flying late and hoping for a pace meltdown to help set-up his late run. Sparticle has a chance in this spot despite his 12-1 morning line odds after destroying fields for two big wins at Parx and Penn in his last three races and also finishing third in-between in a stakes at Mountaineer.
Play Altissimo (#3), Bon Raison (#4) and Sparticle (#5) in the exacta and trifecta boxes, and use all three in the anchor leg of your Pick 4 plays to hopefully bring home a big winning ticket.
Enjoy a loaded Saturday card of racing and wagering at Laurel! Best of luck, and I hope you win big.
PHOTO: Altissimo (c) Coady Photography/Belterra Park