Switzerland Steps Up in Maryland Sprint Stakes
Although the highlight of Pimlico’s stakes-packed Saturday card is undoubtedly the Preakness Stakes, handicappers can look forward to top-notch racing throughout the day, with the $150,000 Maryland Sprint Stakes (gr. III) being one of the more intriguing events.The six-furlong sprint has attracted nine starters, including an up-and-comer named Switzerland. The son of Speightstown developed a reputation among handicappers as something of a “money burner” while losing the first seven starts of his career, five of them as the favorite, but Switzerland has turned things around dramatically in 2018, winning three straight races at Aqueduct and Oaklawn while posting eye-catching BRIS and Beyer speed figures that stamp him as the horse to beat on Saturday.
Speed is certainly Switzerland’s forte, as he was much the best while posting a gate-to-wire win in an Oaklawn allowance race on April 14th. Throw in the fact that Switzerland is already proven over off tracks, like the one expected on Saturday at Pimlico, and it’s easy to make a case for Switzerland to prevail in his graded stakes debut. Ricardo Santana, Jr. has the mount for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Also seeking his first graded stakes victory is Fellowship, though his record is quite a contrast to that of Switzerland. With 28 starts under his belt, Fellowship is an experienced runner in his fourth year of competition, but while he’s run well at the graded stakes level—he even finished third in the 2016 Florida Derby (gr. I)—he’s never broken through against this level of competition and will be looking to rebound from a seventh-place finish in the Carter Handicap (gr. I) at Aqueduct last month.
Sonny Inspired, a stakes-winning veteran of the Maryland circuit, will be seeking to end a ten-race losing streak dating back to last April. He’ll be joined in the Maryland Sprint Stakes by fellow locals Lewisfield, who has won five of his last six starts (including two stakes races) in impressive fashion; Irish Colonel, runner-up in an allowance race at Laurel Park last time out; and Laki, decisive winner of a 5 ½-furlong allowance race at Laurel on April 13th. Lewisfield in particular figures to be a major contender based on his excellent win in the Not for Love Stakes on March 17th, for which he received a 101 BRIS speed figure.
Rounding out the field are Heartwood, a 68-1 winner of the Steel Valley Sprint Stakes at Mahoning Valley in November; Red Dragon Tattoo, a five-time winner who finished ninth in the Carter after dueling for the early lead; and Long Haul Bay, winner of the Bay Shore Stakes (gr. III) last year.
The Maryland Sprint Stakes is the tenth race of the day, with a post time of 4:05 p.m. Eastern.