Competitive racing and full fields over its world-class turf course mark the annual return of live racing to Laurel Park for its 43-day summer meet beginning Friday, May 31.
Coming off a Preakness Meet at Pimlico Race Course that saw wagering records set on both Black-Eyed Susan (G2) and Preakness (G1) days, May 17 and 18, racing gets under way at Laurel with a nine-race program starting at 1:10 p.m.
A total of 101 horses were entered in nine grass races over the first two days on the All Along and Dahlia course layouts, an average of 11.22 starters per race. Friday's card opens with the first of two eight-horse divisions of a five-furlong sprint for 2-year-olds, which continues in Race 3.
Saturday's 10-race program offers six turf races that attracted 65 entries, an average of 10.83 horses per race. The feature comes in Race 8, a $47,000 third-level optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/16 miles on the All Along course that includes 2018 Sky Classic (G2) winner Utmost; John Jones, a stakes winner on turf and dirt; and 2018 Maryland Million Classic winner Saratoga Bob.
Jockey Trevor McCarthy, Maryland's leading rider in 2014 and 2016, has won four consecutive meet titles since returning to the circuit full-time last fall, including the preceding Preakness Meet at Pimlico. Jevian Toledo, who led Maryland in wins in 2015 and 2017, is the defending summer meet titlist.
Maryland's overall leading trainer the past two years, Claudio Gonzalez won the 2018 summer title in the midst of four consecutive meet championships at Laurel. Mike Trombetta broke the streak at Laurel's spring meet, and Jamie Ness finished first at Pimlico's Preakness meet.
The summer meet begins with 13 stakes worth $1.1 million in purses starting Sunday, June 16 with the Alma North for 3-year-old fillies and Polynesian for 3-year-olds and up, both seven-furlong sprints receiving a $25,000 purse boost to $100,000. They are joined on the card by the inaugural $100,000 Prince George's County for 3-year-olds and up and $100,000 Big Dreyfus for females 3 and older, each at 1 1/16 miles on the grass.
Stakes action continues Sunday, July 14 with five races worth $400,000 in purses led by the $100,000 Stormy Blues for 3-year-old fillies sprinting 5 ½ furlongs on the turf. Other grass stakes are the $75,000 Ben's Cat and $75,000 Jameela for Maryland-bred/sired horses, and the $75,000 Concern for 3-year-olds and $75,000 Twixt for fillies and mares 3 and up, each going seven furlongs on the dirt.
Maryland Pride Day returns on the final Saturday of the summer meet, Aug. 17, featuring a quartet of $75,000 stakes for Maryland-bred/sired horses – the Star de Naskra for 3-year-olds and Miss Disco for 3-year-old fillies, each at six furlongs, and the Find for 3-year-olds and up and All Brandy for females 3 and older, both going 1 1/16 miles on the grass.
Racing will be conducted Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from May 31 through Sunday, June 30 before adding Thursdays starting with the July 4 holiday and continuing through closing day, Sunday, Aug. 18. Racing shifts to the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium Aug. 23 to Labor Day, Sept. 2 before returning to Laurel for the calendar year-ending fall stand.
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