Corrales, Servis shine through gloom at Laurel

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Jose Corrales stood in the snow at Laurel Park Saturday, and laughed. “I look like Bob Baffert, I’ve got white hair.”

And a graded stakes win.

The first came courtesy of a snowstorm, which turned Laurel’s annual Winter Carnival into an actual winter carnival and put plenty of white in Corrales’ dark hair. The second achievement – the first for Corrales as a trainer – came from Something Awesome, who won the Grade 3 General George Stakes for Stronach Stable and jockey Elvis Trujillo. The annual highlight of Laurel’s winter meet featured six stakes, but lost much of its luster when horses were prohibited from shipping from New York due to a virus outbreak there and wet snow arrived midway through the day. The scratches weakened fields, and consequently handle. The weather kept some fans away, or at least sent them inside in search of cover.

Racetrack performances didn’t suffer much, however, as Something Awesome and Ms Locust Point (wire-to-wire winner of the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie) provided the highlights along with Miracle Wood winner Still Having Fun, Wide Country heroine Enchanted Ghost, Maryland Racing Media victor Miss Inclusive and John B. Campbell winner Afleet Willy.

On the same card last year, Corrales upset the Campbell with 23-1 shot Bodhisattva and went one better in 2018 as Something Awesome became a graded stakes winner by extending progress made since joining Corrales’ barn last year. Bred in Canada by the Stronach family’s Adena Springs, the son of Awesome Again won back-to-back optional claimers at Laurel in November and December, then finished third (beaten three-quarters of a length) in the Fire Plug Stakes Jan. 20.

The top two from that race, Awesome Banner and It’s The Journey, returned in the $250,000 General George but so did hard-hitting New Yorkers Great Stuff and Do Share. When they had to scratch because of an equine herpes virus case at Belmont Park, the locals staged a rematch. Six of the eight runners started at 6-1 or under, with Something Awesome a mild 3-1 co-favorite with Awesome Banner.

Something Awesome started well back in a field of eight as Cowboy Mz put up fractions of :22.73 and :45.90 on the sloppy track. Behind him, rivals loomed.

Awesome Banner sat second. It’s The Journey set up just outside in third, followed (eventually) by Something Awesome and Fellowship. At the top of the stretch, It’s The Journey went after Cowboy Mz but didn’t get past until the eighth pole and by that time had company from Something Awesome. Responding to Elvis Trujillo, the 7-year-old kept digging while five wide in the stretch and brought along even-later-runner Fellowship. The winner prevailed by a neck over Fellowship, who had a half-length on It’s The Journey. Just 1 3/4 lengths separated the first five after 1:23.21 for 7 furlongs.

Something Awesome won for the seventh time in 22 starts, and collected $150,000 to nearly double his career earnings to $341,050. Corrales paid credit to his horse, and a chance to run on dirt as opposed to Woodbine’s synthetic surface.

“I think it’s the surface change,” he said. “I feed him with the same thing I feed everybody else and I train him pretty much the same. The other ones don’t have the legs that can run that fast. He’s old, but he came here and trained like a good horse. To me it is the best horse I ever trained.”

The former jockey saved most of the credit for the Stronach family.

“These people have been so great for me,” Corrales said. “It’s been the opportunity of my life. I’ve been waiting for this, to win a stakes race for them.”

MsLocustPoint• One race later, just five runners made the paddock for the Fritchie as six horses were scratched off the program. The defections included major players Highway Star, Quezon, Boule, Divine Miss Grey and Bishop’s Pond. As it turned out, the big names may have had trouble with the Parx Racing-based Ms Locust Point. Sent off at 3-5, she dominated – breaking on top and leading by at least 3 lengths at every call for jockey Jorge Vargas Jr. She won by 4 1/2 lengths while collecting her fourth consecutive win and sixth in eight starts for trainer John Servis and owners Jim Reichenberg and Cash Is King.

The 4-year-old daughter of Dialed In covered 7 furlongs in 1:24.13. Moiety stayed for second with Berned third.

While walking to the winner’s circle, Servis mulled over what might have happened if the New York horses had made the trip.

“I don’t know, she’s a pretty darn nice filly.”

Named for the Locust Point area of Baltimore where Reichenberg grew up, Ms Locust Point is also proving to be generous. Purchased at Keeneland January 2015 for $17,000 by Reichenberg, Bruno de Julio and some partners – and nearly sold eight months later at Keeneland September – Ms Locust Point won two of three, including Laurel’s Gin Talking Stakes, as a 2-year-old. Longtime Servis client Chuck Zacney (Cash Is King) bought 75 percent of the filly last year and she is unbeaten since missing nine months after a fifth in the Grade 2 Forward Gal at Gulfstream Park in February 2017.

Servis blamed some hoof issues for the layoff and the loss. Now she wears glue-on shoes, stands on a vibration plate twice a day and gets plenty of attention.

“She was a little stiff in her shoulders from her feet bothering her,” Servis said of the troubles last year. “We put some corrective shoes on her, gave her plenty of time. These guys were great and gave me all the time I needed.”

The $180,000 payday boosted Ms Locust Point’s career bankroll to $439,960 and gave longtime racing fan Reichenberg another thrill. The Rockville, Md. resident grew up in Baltimore’s Locust Point neighborhood (now the home of the Under Armour headquarters but long an important industrial area for the city) and said his filly’s win photos dot the walls of the area’s union hall.

“You know what, winning with a horse like that that’s named after the neighborhood I grew up in, it could have been a $5,000 claimer and it’s just as exciting,” he said. “Really. For her to win race like this, it’s really special.”

• Afleet Willy improved to 8-for-16 (with four seconds) at Laurel when he won the $100,000 Campbell at 1 1/8 miles for BB Horses and trainer Claudio Gonzalez. Sixth in the General George last year, the 5-year-old Wilburn gelding led throughout and won by 2 1/2 lengths over Zanotti as the 2-5 favorite.

• Maryland-bred 3-year-old Still Having Fun handled the inside post, the slop and his first start at a mile in winning the $100,000 Miracle Wood for Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable and Terp Racing. Trained by Tim Keefe, the son of Old Fashioned stayed on his left lead in the stretch but still caught Old Time Revival to win by a neck in 1:37.51. Feargal Lynch rode the even-money favorite, now 3-for-4 lifetime.

• Servis and Vargas teamed up to win the $100,000 Maryland Racing Media with Miss Inclusive. Owned by Main Line Stable and Joshtylane Farm, the 5-year-old mare took over midway on the first turn and stayed there – winning the 1 1/16-mile race by 3 1/2 lengths over favorite Line Of Best Fit with In The Navy Now third. The daughter of Include won for the first time since May while collecting her fifth career win.

• Maryland-bred Enchanted Ghost cruised in the $100,000 Wide Country for 3-year-old fillies. Trained for Mens Grille Racing by Hamilton Smith, the 3-year-old filly rallied wide on the final turn and drew off to score by 3 1/4 lengths for Angel Cruz. The daughter of Ghostzapper won for the third time in seven career starts.