Rising Sun Racing Stables' Colonel Sharp earned a trip back to graded-stakes company by putting away one multiple stakes winner in favored Laki and holding off another in Ohio shipper Altissimo to register a head victory in Saturday's $100,000 Dave's Friend at Laurel Park.
The six-furlong Dave's Friend for 3-year-olds and the $100,000 Thirty Eight Go Go for fillies and mares 3 and up, contested at one mile, were among six stakes worth $550,000 in purses on a 10-race Christmastide Day program.
Entering the Dave's Friend off a one-length victory over multiple graded-stakes winning millionaire Something Awesome in a seven-furlong allowance Nov. 16 at Laurel, Colonel Sharp ($12.80) completed the distance in 1:09.30 over a main track rated good.
Altissimo, a five-time stakes winner in Ohio racing outside of his home state for just the second time in 33 career starts, just missed in a desperate late bid along the inside and finished second, three-quarters of a length ahead of 8-5 favorite Laki. It was another three-quarters back to Cautious Giant in fourth.
Winning trainer Hugh McMahon said Colonel Sharp, winner of the Maryland Coalition Stakes Sept. 1 at Timonium, would be pointed to the seven-furlong General George (G3) Feb. 16 at Laurel. Colonel Sharp ran fourth in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) Sept. 22 at Laurel.
“We've got about 6 ½ weeks. He'll probably have two works between now and then. He keeps himself fit. I don't have to do too much. He's an easy horse to train. I can't take too much credit,” McMahon said. “He's just really come into his own. He's eating well, training well, he loves it. He's a competitor.”
“Whatever level we've put him in, he's showed up,” he added. “He's had hindered trips, kind of troubled trips in the past, so we've never really gotten to the full potential. This is a new strategy: get him out there, get him contentious and see what he's got. Against this kind of field and with that kind of pressure early on, he has proven himself to be a really nice sprinter.”
Colonel Sharp settled in second as Midtowncharlybrown went the first quarter-mile in 22.05 seconds, the top two chased by Laki and Altissimo to the inside. Following a half in 45.02, Colonel Sharp rounded the far turn to take the lead and extended his advantage in mid-stretch, holding on as Altissimo gathered his momentum and rocketed up the rail to the wire.
“They were cooking on the front end. There were two significant speed horses in there and he was well and truly on that pace, and still having that kick to the wire that's pretty significant,” McMahon said. “The other horse was coming. He obviously had softer earlier fractions so he's got a bit more kick there, but [Colonel Sharp] dug in. I'm proud of him.”
Acqua Nova Stable's Isotope found room along the rail to grab the lead from pacesetting favorite Sower in mid-stretch and steadily edge clear to win the $100,000 Thirty Eight Go Go by 1 ¾ lengths.
Fifth in the Sis City Stakes March 31 to open her 2018 campaign, her only previous try in stakes company, Isotope ($14.40) finished up in 1:37.61 under jockey Jorge Vargas Jr. It was the second win of the day together for Vargas and New York-based trainer Jeremiah Englehart.
“Jeremiah has been a good supporter of me lately, so I have to thank him,” Vargas said. “This filly was working so good. I worked her last week and she just dragged me around there. Jeremiah told me to try to get her to the outside today but I couldn't; nothing went right for me. I was pretty excited at the end because we were able to get the win.”
Even-money favorite Sower, a multiple stakes winner in New York who broke her maiden in debut April 28 in her only previous race at Laurel, cruised to the front from Post 4 and was in front after a quarter-mile in 23.73 seconds flanked by 40-1 long shot Mo Knows and a half in 46.63.
Vargas saved ground along the inside from his rail post and was able to stalk Sower before surging past once straightened for home and digging in to the wire as Forever Liesl, Total Control and Trace of Grace on the far outside came to challenge Sower for second. Trace of Grace, at 35-1, took the place by a nose over Total Control with Sower another neck back in fourth.
Following a steward's inquiry and objection from jockey Victor Carrasco, riding Forever Liesl, Sower was disqualified from fourth to fifth behind Forever Liesl for drifting into her path under the left-handed whip of jockey Horacio Karamanos.
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