Weekend Preview: Free State Boost

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The desk is a mess. The scribbled and jotted notes have scribbled and jotted notes. The calendar is at the printer. The magazine is almost there. It’s an off week in jump racing. And Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away.

Time for some notebook emptying.

Super Saturday at Laurel

Springtime at Pimlico gets all the attention, but autumn at Laurel can sure put a jolt into Maryland racing as well. Saturday’s nine-race card features big fields, four stakes and class from top to bottom.

Maryland-breds get a shot in the $100,000 Jennings as Eighttofasttocatch tries to win the race for the third consecutive time. Owned by Arnie and Sylvia Heft, the chestnut front-runner carries high weight of 124 pounds and is 3-5 for trainer Tim Keefe. Forest Boyce rides the 7-year-old, who will try to make his speed last for the mile. The Jennings is the fourth race with a post time of 1:59 p.m.

The $100,000 Smart Halo at 6 furlongs lured seven 2-year-old fillies highlighted by Maryland-bred Who’s In Town. The Michael Matz trainee, owned by Richard Golden, was disqualified from a stakes win at Saratoga this summer. She’ll have to deal with Co Cola from the barn of Todd Pletcher in the day’s sixth race.

Though it appears Ben’s Cat will skip the $100,000 race, the Dave’s Friend still looks like a solid race headed by Service For Ten, Guam Typhoon, Rainbow Heir and Action Andy. A dozen 2-year-old colts tangle in the $100,000 James Lewis. The Pletcher-trained Corfu is favored at 5-2, just ahead of Pure Sensation from the barn of Christophe Clement. Pletcher also entered Aarons Orient. It’s A Bang steps out of a Maryland Million win for trainer Donald Barr, who will have company from fellow locals Joint Custody and Debt Ceiling (Jerry Robb).

Stallions on the move

Northview Stallion Station sent two press releases Friday – one announcing the new stallion Buffum joining the ranks in Maryland and another announcing the relocation of E Dubai from Pennsylvania to Maryland. The two additions are good news for Maryland’s breeding/racing industry, which is being boosted by new owner/breeder incentives. Everybody said the new money would help the state rediscover its glory. Welcome back, Maryland.

Up the road in Pennsylvania, Northview moves Bullsbay from Maryland and adds El Padrino while Pin Oak Lane Farm adds Corinthian and Any Given Saturday to its roster. Welcome to town, boys.

There’s more so make sure you get the December Stallion Edition of Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred.

Steeplechasers get a break before finale

The jump season takes a hiatus with no racing scheduled for this weekend. The 2013 racing calendar wraps up next Saturday with the Colonial Cup meet in Camden, S.C., headed by the $100,000 Cup (the year’s final Grade 1 and the last chance to make championship cases).

Nominations came out this week and include the usual names headed by longtime rivals Divine Fortune and Demonstrative. They meet again and either could claim the Eclipse Award with a victory. Demonstrative won the $150,000 Iroquois (over Divine Fortune) in May. Divine Fortune won the $250,000 Grand National (over Demonstrative) in October. Grade 1 winner Gustavian, second in the Grand National, could also have championship aspirations with a win. Decoy Daddy leads all steeplechasers with three stakes wins this year, but needs a Grade 1 to be considered title material.

Nominations (with trainer): Barnstorming (Jonathan Sheppard), Changing Times (Kathy Neilson), Decoy Daddy (Cyril Murphy), Demonstrative (Richard Valentine), Divine Fortune (Sheppard), Gustavian (Leslie Young), Italian Wedding (Sheppard), Martini Brother (Sheppard), Pierrot Lunaire (Blythe Davies), Sir Dynamite (Britt Graham), Spy In The Sky (Jimmy Day), The Grey Express (Janet Elliot). Entries close Tuesday for the 2 3/4-mile classic.

Individual championship races are also on the line heading to Camden, none more tight or important than the battle for champion jockey between Darren Nagle and Paddy Young. The Irishmen have 15 wins each and will be in demand at the Cup.

Young eyes his fourth title in five years after taking the crown in 2009, 2010 and 2011. He yielded to Ross Geraghty in an injury shortened campaign last season, and reeled in Nagle to force the tie last weekend at Charleston. Young will be aboard Gustavian in the feature. Nagle has never won a title, but finished second last season and has been on or near the lead throughout 2013. He rides Divine Fortune in the feature.

The steeplechase owners’ crown will also go down to the final day as Bill Pape ($542,650) leads Irv Naylor ($504,850) atop the leaderboard. Three-time defending champion Naylor will likely be represented by more horses than Pape (who has never won the crown despite heaps of success) at Camden, but will almost need a Colonial Cup win to make up the difference.

Jonathan Sheppard (20 wins) leads Jack Fisher by two in the trainers’ standings.

Graded stakes action

Big fields were drawn for grass stakes in New York (Grade 3 Red Smith at Aqueduct) and Kentucky (Grade 2 Mrs. Revere and Grade 3 Commonwealth Turf at Churchill Downs), the three graded stakes of the weekend in the U.S.

Plenty of familiar names and faces in the $250,000 Red Smith that drew 13 and a main-track only, led by Imagining, Hyper, Nutello and Tannery. Hyper was second last time in Woodbine’s Canadian International for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trainer Chad Brown, while Tannery won the accompanying E. P. Taylor for fillies and mares for owner Richard Santulli and trainer Alan Goldberg. The Red Smith is run at 1 3/8 miles on the grass.

The $175,000 Mrs. Revere, named for the four-time Churchill stakes winner from the 1980s, attracted 14 3-year-old fillies that will go 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Florida Oaks winner Tapicat earned slight favoritism at 7-2 over 4-1 second choice Emotional Kitten from the Ramsey juggernaut. Tapicat drew post 13, while Emotional Kitten starts from the rail.

The $100,000 Commonwealth at the same distance for 3-year-olds drew a field of 13 with Central Banker listed as only “50-50” to start by trainer Al Stall Jr. after he drew the extreme outside post. Winning Cause, second against older horses on Polytrack in Keeneland’s Grade 2 Fayette last time out, is favored at 4-1 for Pletcher.