Racing fans will have ample action day and night

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Ted Black

September 22nd, 2018

Thoroughbred and harness racing fans will have plenty of stakes action to watch throughout the day and evening on Saturday as Laurel Park, Charles Town, Mohawk Park and Yonkers Raceway all offer stakes-filled cards that should keep onlookers captivated from noon to midnight.

Laurel Park will offer more than a handful of stakes during the day and Charles Town will offer an equal amount in the evening, while Mohawk hosts both the Eternal Camnation and Metro Stakes finals for two-year-old pacers and Yonkers offers eight New York Sire Stakes finals for two- and three-year-olds of both gaits and genders.

Laurel's first stakes is the latest renewal of the $100,000 Laurel Futurity, now contested at six furlongs on the turf. For decades the Laurel Futurity was the last stop for two-year-olds with genuine Kentucky Derby aspirations, being won by such luminaries as Secretariat, Affired, Spectacular Bid and Devil's Bag when it was run at one-mile and one-sixteenth on the main track. As a turf sprint, it has lost its luster and graded stakes status.

Two races later on the card, Laurel will host the $150,000 All Along Stakes at one-mile and one-sixteenth on the grass, a fitting filly-mare route named in honor of a previous heroine of the Washington D.C. International who went on to edge Devil's Bag for horse of the year honors in 1983. Other turf stakes include the $100,000 Laurel Dash for older males, the $100,000 Laurel Turf Cup, the $100,000 Sensible Lady Turf Dash and the $100,000 Selima Stakes for two-year-old fillies.

But Saturday's feature is clearly the Grade III, $250,000 Frank De Francis Memorial Dash, a race that once held Grade I status when captured by Northern Wolf, Housebuster, Kelly Kip, Yes Its True and Smoke Glacken. The present edition may not offer the same prestige, but it came up competitive nevertheless.

Switzerland drew the rail and has been installed as the 5-2 morning favorite for trainer Steve Asmussen as he seeks to rebound from a fifth-place effort in the Grade I Alfred G Vanderbilt at Saratoga. Always Sunshine arrives off a sharp score in the restricted Tale Of The Cat at Saratoga for trainer Ned Allard, having also won the Hockessin Stakes at Delaware Park prior to that. Mr. Crow, beaten favorite in the Hockessin after running fourth in the Vanderbilt, also looks tough among the invaders.

Local sprinters Laki and Lewisfield come into the DeFrancis having been well acquainted. Lewisfield won the $100,000 Polynesian Stakes over the strip as the 3-5 choice for trainer Jeff Runco, only to be disqualified and placed second behind Laki for a minor brush. Lewisfield was also soundly bumped while fourth in the Grade II Belmont Sprint Stakes and returns to a track where he has crossed the wire first five times in six tries at the distance and looms the value play.

Saturday night's card at Charles Town will also feature a Grade III event as the aptly named $300,000 Charles Town Oaks for three-year-old fillies going seven furlongs will take center stage as the penultimate race on the program that also includes six $50,000 stakes. While the race did not attract the best three-year-old fillies in training, it did attract some of the most notable jockeys and trainers in the game.

Trainer Chad Brown will send out Alter Moon (Javier Castellano), the lukewarm 7-2 morning line choice off her fourth place effort in the Grade I Test Stakes at Saratoga, Todd Pletcher will send out Alberobollo (John Velazquez), Kiaran McLaughlin will saddle Take Charge Paula (Jose Lezcano) and Linda Rice will send out Sower (Irad Ortiz, Jr.). Bronx Beauty (Joel Rosario) and Sense of Bravery (Luis Saez) both arrive in good form and drew the two outside spots, while local star Late Night Pow Wow (Fredy Peltrouche) seeks to defend the home track honor while riding a four-race win streak for owner-trainer Javier Contreras.

Four of the other six stakes races on the card are designed as preps for the upcoming West Virginia Breeders Classics Night card here on October 13. The $50,000 Rachel's Turn Stakes honors one of the best local state-bred distaffers and features sharp debut winners Parisian Diva, Amelia Bedelia and Battleground Star. The $50,000 Frank Gall includes Runnin'toluvya, a juvenile stakes winner two years ago riding a four-race win streak for trainer Tim Grams and the finale, the $50,000 Sadie Hawkins Stakes for fillies and mares, features defending champion Moonlit Song who is prepping for her title defense in the $150,000 Cavada here next month for Grams.

Saturday night's Mohawk Park card is highlighted by the $900,000 Metro Pace for two-year-old colt pacers and features the unbeaten Captain Ahab against the equally talented Stag Party, while the Saturday night card at Yonkers is highlighted by eight, $225,000 New York Sire Stakes finals for two- and three-year-olds of both gaits and genders. Of course, the colt that would have gained top billing, Maryland-bred Courtly Choice, won the $450,000 Little Brown Jug final on Thursday evening at the Delaware, Ohio Fairgrounds.