Maryland-breds earn the spotlight on Saturday

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Ted Black

August 22nd, 2016

Saturday afternoon was "Maryland Pride Day" at Laurel Park as the 11-race card was designed specifically for Maryland-bred/sired runners perhaps looking to get an early prep for the upcoming Maryland Million card over the same venue on October 22. But the best performances by Maryland-bred horses were not necessarily confined to runners at the Free State.

Approaching the midway point of the card, O Dionysus (Jevian Toledo) rallied from far off the pace to win a five-furlong maiden special weight event for MD-bred/sired two-year-old colts by three lengths in 58.88 in his career debut. The juvenile son of Bodemesiter out of the Flatter mare Safe Journey, was bred by Dark Hollow Farm but was eventually a $190,000 yearling purchase by Marathon Farms and is trained by Gary Capuano of Captain Bodgit fame.

In essence, Saturday was actually the second time O Dionysus was slated to go postward. Two weeks earlier O Dionysus was scheduled to make his career debut in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight affair on the Laurel main track and departed the paddock with Victor Carrasco in the irons. But shortly after making it to the main track, O Dionysus got a bit unruly, whirled and threw Carrasco and then stepped on his foot and sprinted down the Laurel stretch and through the far turn and was justifiably scratched.

Last Saturday afternoon O Dionysus left the paddock and walked up the ramp and got a bit squirrelly again with Toledo aboard, but he could not shake off the track's leading rider and darted through the stretch again for an unexpected last-minute gallop. O Dionysus broke a step slow after his pre-race antics, but he found his best stride on the far turn and swept by his rivals to a three-length score in his official career debut. He will likely improve as the races get longer, especially if Capuano can figure out a way to limit his pre-race antics.

Several races later on the card, Lovable Lady (Horacio Karamanos) benefited from an in ideal trip just behind a dueling trio of leaders on the far turn then overhauled favored Everything Lovely (Daniel Centeno) in the lane to score by a neck in 1:11.14 to capture the $75,000 Jameela Stakes for fillies and mares at six furlongs on the Laurel lawn. Lovable Lady has won three times in seven starts this year and owns a 5-2-5 slate and $230,000 bankroll from 13 career tries.

Everything Lovely may have delivered the best performance of the race in defeat. She was three-wide down the backside and through the far turn while vying for command outside of longshots Cowgirl Creed and Deliver Me, surged to command at the top of the lane, appeared to be a certain winner a furlong from home then was nailed late by Lovable Lady in the final yards. Everything Lovely has finished second once and third once in three starts this year for trainer Kathleen Demasi, but she owns a 4-4-3 slate and $175,000 bankroll from 14 starts overall and a 3-2-1 slate and $114,000 bankroll in eight turf tries. She has also been the runner-up in the Jameela in consecutive years, he only two outings over the Laurel turf course.

Two races later on the card, John Jones (Luis Garcia) posted the biggest upset of the day when he posted a 43-1 shocker in the $75,000 Mister Diz Stakes for older males on the Laurel grass. John Jones, claimed by Lacey Gaudet for owner Matthew Schera out of his last outing for $25,000, returned immediate dividends for his new connections by taking the Mister Diz, ending the six-year stranglehold on the race by 3-5 choice Ben's Cat (Trevor McCarthy) who settled for third with no excuse.

John Jones, a four-year-old gelded son of Smarty Jones, notched only his second win from eight starts this year and now owns a 4-1-0 slate and $150,000 bankroll from 15 career outings. But it was certainly the biggest win for Gaudet, daughter of former longtime Maryland conditioner Eddie Gaudet, who saddled six winners from 33 runners at the Laurel summer meet. Ben's Cat settled for third in a genuine nondescript effort, his third straight setback since opening the campaign with a pair of wins on the turf. He still boasts a 32-9-7 slate and earnings of $2.637 million from 58 career outings for owner-breeder-trainer and Hall of Famer King T. Leatherbury.

Out west at Del Mar Race Course near San Diego, California Chrome (Victor Espinosa) lived up to his role as the even-money favorite in the Grade I, $1 million Pacific Classic when he led throughout and then drew clear from defending champion Beholder to score by six lengths in 2:00.13 for the one-mile and one-quarter affair. While technically not Maryland-bred, California Chrome can trace his roots back to three mares that called Dane Forth Farm in Chestertown, Maryland home, including two bred by Dr. Tom Bowman and Chris Bowman at the farm.

California Chrome, the 2014 horse of the year, has now won all five of his starts and banked roughly $7 million this year and sports 14 wins and $13 million banked from 23 career outings. He appears headed for two more Eclipse Awards this year, champion older male and horse of the year - although Songbird followers might disagree - after another resounding Grade I score last weekend.

California Chrome is a five-year-old son of Lucky Pulpit out of the Not For Love mare, Love The Chase, who won only one race in her brief career. Her dam, Chase It Down, a daughter of Polish Numbers, was also bred by the Bowmans and she is out of Chase The Dream, a talented sort who won four of 17 races and banked over $200,000 for trainer D. Wayne Lukas and owner Eugene Klein before being retired and eventually purchased by the Bowmans for use as a broodmare. Fittingly, on "Maryland Pride Day", California Chrome would make his dam and grand dam even prouder.

But the success of Maryland-bred horses did not end there. That same evening at Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania, Devil Child (David Miller) brushed to command past the quarter, maintained honest fractions of 54.2 and 1:21.2 and then drew clear to a three-length score in 1:49.1 in a $50,000 F-M Invitational for her second straight score and fifth win in 13 starts on the season for trainer Chris Oakes. Devil Child, a four-year-old daughter of American Ideal bred by Winbak Farm, was last year's Maryland-bred harness horse of the year in voting conducted by members of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association.

That same evening at Yonkers Raceway in New York, Centurion ATM (Steve Smith) delivered a gritty, first over effort to capture the $45,000 Open Handicap by a length in 1:55.1. A four-year-old SJ's Caviar stallion trained by Ake Svanstedt of Sebastian K fame, Centurion ATM angled first over near the half and grinded his way to the front on the far turn to score by a length in 1:55.1. It was just his second win from eight starts this year, but the well-traveled, well-meant sort bred by Eli Solomon of Ocean City, Maryland, now owns a 6-5-2 slate and $530,000 bankroll from 25 career tries.