Five-Furlong Sprint Among Four $100,000 Stakes Saturday
BALTIMORE – William Branch’s Carotari returns to Maryland seeking to rediscover his multiple stakes-winning form at the site of his most recent victory in Saturday’s $100,000 Laurel Dash at historic Pimlico Race Course.
The 24th running of the Laurel Dash, scheduled for five furlongs on the grass, is among four stakes worth $400,000 in purses on an 11-race program that marks the final Saturday of Pimlico’s nine-day fall meet.
First race post time is 12:40 p.m.
Trained by Bryan Lynch, Carotari was a popular 1 ½-length winner at the course and distance in the May 21 Jim McKay Turf Sprint on the undercard of the 147th Preakness Stakes (G1). He finished off the board in a pair of subsequent 5 ½-furlong turf sprints at Monmouth Park and Saratoga, respectively.
“He ran big the last time he was there [at Pimlico],” Lynch said. “Hopefully we can put a pencil through his last couple. I feel like he’s got a couple of excuses. It looked like he liked the track there the last time, so let’s hope he brings one of them sort of races.”
Last time out in the Aug. 5 Troy (G3) at Saratoga, the gelded 6-year-old son of 2005 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) winner Artie Schiller was in his customary position near the lead under jockey Luis Saez but found traffic trouble at the five-eighths pole and finished a fading seventh behind millionaire Golden Pal, sensational winner of the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1).
“It looked like he was sitting right there in the hunt of it and then Luis said when they straightened for the run down the lane, he bobbled and sort of backed himself right out of it,” Lynch said. “They’d gone so fast early and it was a bit of a bumpy trip and then that happened. He’s a bit of a cunning old horse. If it doesn’t go his way, he takes care of himself. If the right scenario sets up, I think he’s still very game.”
Kendrick Carmouche comes in from New York to ride Carotari, who was beaten a half-length when second in the 2021 Troy. His Jim McKay victory marked his seasonal debut after ending last year with wins in a Keeneland allowance and the five-furlong Janus Dec. 31 at Gulfstream Park.
Overall, Carotari owns nine wins, five in stakes, six seconds and three thirds with purse earnings of $623,363 from 27 starts. He will break from Post 5 of eight at co-topweight of 124 pounds.
“He’s been a model of consistency, honestly, and if he does run a bad one there’s usually an excuse for it. He’s just one of those lovely old geldings that you’re thrilled to have in your barn,” Lynch said. “He’s 6 now, but I think this could be his best year. His last couple of starts just haven’t panned out, but I think there’s still plenty of big races left in him.”
Steven Newby’s Justwaveandsmile had a stretch of six consecutive wins sprinting on the turf before running a troubled fifth in the 5 ½-furlong Da Hoss Sept. 6 at Colonial Downs. He as ultimately placed fourth following the disqualification of fourth-place finisher Matta for interference.
Justwaveandsmile, a 5-year-old Secret Circle gelding, became a stakes winner during his streak in the 5 ½-furlong Ben’s Cat July 30 at Laurel Park, getting up at the wire to edge Grateful Bred by a neck. He is 1-for-4 lifetime on the Pimlico turf, finishing third in a five-furlong claiming event last August in his most recent try.
“I’m not so sure he liked that turf course at Colonial. It’s different. He didn’t seem to get over it like he did at Laurel and Pimlico. I think he can run better. He just didn’t run as well as he had been. He had a little bit of a rough trip, so hopefully he’ll get back into the swing of things at Pimlico,” trainer Dale Capuano said. “He seems to be fine and happy, so we’ll see what happens on Saturday.”
Justwaveandsmile drew the rail with jockey Jean Alvelo, aboard for the fifth straight race.
Gordon Keys’ Maryland homebred Grateful Bred was a favored, front-running winner of the 5 ½-furlong Maryland Million Sprint to cap his 5-year-old season, and has yet to find the winner’s circle this year. Including the Ben’s Cat, the Great Notion gelding has raced five times with four seconds, beaten a length or less in each of his runner-up efforts.
“The poor guy, he just runs his eyeballs out. He just runs too well to get beat, but we’ve had our big days, too, and hopefully there’s more to come,” trainer Madison Meyers said. “Honestly, just for the horse’s sake I feel bad for him. He needs to get it done. Just as hard as he runs, every single time he shows up, he deserves one.”
Grateful Bred ran fifth in last year’s Laurel Dash, beaten a length by Xy Speed. He came up a length short of defending his 2021 Meadow Stable victory, finishing second Sept. 7 at Colonial Downs, and lost a head bob at the wire to Front Run the Fed in Colonial’s Van Clief July 18.
“I could try to come up with excuses here or there but I think he’s run his race every single time. We’ve just knocked heads with some really tough horses this year,” Meyers said. “I was talking to Mr. Keys the other day and I was like, ‘There’s no easy spots now. There’s no hiding places. These are the kinds of horses you’re up against.’”
Grateful Bred has done well at Pimlico, winning twice in three tries. He was fourth, beaten less than four lengths by Carotari, in the Jim McKay Turf Sprint, also his last time going five furlongs.
“He does seem to like Pimlico and I think he’s still got the speed to go five, so we’ll take a swing. This will be another tough spot but we might as well try. Turf season’s only so long and he does seem to love Pimlico, so it’s kind of cool to get another opportunity to run there this year,” Meyers said. “We had considered just training him from the Meadow Stable to the Maryland Million and he was just doing so well coming out of that race that we just decided to take a swing at the Dash again.”
Sheldon Russell gets the riding assignment from Post 2.
David Berley’s Comedy Town, a 4-year-old son of champion sprinter Speighstown, will be making his first start since being claimed for $62,500 out of a nose loss Aug. 27 at Saratoga by trainer Michael Miceli. He was a three-quarter-length optional claiming allowance winner sprinting five furlongs on the Pimlico turf May 20 for previous trainer Michael Trombetta.
Angel Cruz rides from outermost Post 8.
Trombetta will be represented in the Dash by Matta, owned in partnership by R. Larry Johnson, R.D.M. Racing Stable and the trainer. Matta ran fourth by three-quarters of a length in last year’s Dash, was 2 ½ lengths behind Grateful Bred when third in the Van Clief and crossed the wire second in the Da Hoss before being disqualified to fifth.
Matta drew Post 4 with Feargal Lynch.
Nick Sanna Stables’ Defend is entered to make his turf debut after winning three of six starts on the main track sprinting from 5 ½ to seven furlongs. His only three losses have come in stakes, finishing 10th in the Hopeful (G1) last summer at Saratoga, fourth in the July 2 Concern at Laurel and seventh last out in the Jersey Shore Aug. 6 at Monmouth.
Jorge Ruiz, who won last year’s Dash on Xy Speed, has the call from Post 6.
Completing the field is Brian Dugan’s Spycraft, a 5-year-old Discreet Cat gelding bred by Godolphin and claimed for $40,000 out of a win last summer at Ellis Park. Four of his seven career wins have come on the grass, including the Dark Star Turf Sprint June 22 at Canterbury Downs.
Spycraft will have Horacio Karamanos aboard from Post 3.
The Laurel Dash had been contested exclusively at Laurel Park since its debut in 1988, when it was won by Steinlen, a multiple Grade 1 winner of more than $3 million in purses trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas. Other notable winners include multiple graded-stakes winner Texas Glitter and Ben’s Cat, a 26-time stakes winner and Maryland’s four-time Horse of the Year who passed away in 2017.