On the heels of a successful fall boutique meet at Pimlico, live racing shifts to Laurel Park for its calendar year-ending fall stand that begins Friday and features 33 stakes worth $3,205 million in purses led by the 37th edition of the Jim McKay Maryland Million.
Laurel’s 48-day fall meet is scheduled to run through Dec. 31, with live four-day racing in October and November and three-day live racing in December. There will be no racing on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
After opening weekend, racing will be conducted Thursday through Sunday in October, with a 12:40 pm EDT first post that moves to 12:20 pm starting Oct. 27. There will be special post times of 11:30 am for Maryland Million Oct. 22 and 11:25 am on Breeders’ Cup Saturday, Nov. 5; Thanksgiving day, Nov. 24; and Christmastide day, Dec. 26.
Live racing moves to a Thursday-through-Monday schedule for the first three weeks of November, with special Monday programs Nov. 7, 14 and 21. A Friday-through-Sunday live schedule begins Dec. 2 with the exception of Christmas weekend.
Friday’s opening day program of nine races features four grass events, including a 5 1/2-furlong allowance for Maryland-bred/sired fillies and mares 3 and up in race 8. Sparkle Sprinkle, third in the 2021 Maryland Million Lassie, is entered to make her turf debut in her first start since Jan. 29. Among her rivals is 2021 Miss Disco runner-up Hitch a Ride, winless in four starts this year.
Turf racing Friday will be conducted over the All Along and Dahlia layouts. Laurel Park’s expansive 142-foot-wide grass course and portable rail allows for six settings, each named for some of racing’s biggest stars – All Along (rail setting), Bowl Game (17 feet), Kelso (35 feet), Dahlia (52 feet), Exceller (70 feet) and Fort Marcy (87 feet).
Maryland-bred/sired fillies and mares 3 and older will go about 1 1/16 miles on the main track in a race 7 allowance that attracted five-time winner Mit Mazel, racing first time for trainer Rudy Sanchez-Salomon; Chica Rabiosa, exiting a win at Timonium Sept. 3 and multiple stakes-placed Quiet Imagination, second two starts back in the one-mile Peach Blossom at Delaware Park.
Friday’s feature comes in race 4, an optional claiming allowance for 2-year-old fillies sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs. Among the contenders are Miss Georgie and Bosserati, maiden special weight winners in debut at Laurel and Timonium, respectively; Tappin Josie, fourth last out in the Blue Hen at Delaware, and Jerry Robb-trained stablemate Don’t Tell Deren, an eight-length maiden claiming winner July 23 at Laurel in her only previous start.
Claudio Gonzalez, on track to lead all Maryland trainers in wins and purse earnings for a sixth straight year, has one horse entered Friday, Uncle Jerome, in the race 9 finale. Dale Capuano, Jamie Ness, Robb and Mario Serey Jr., who tied for leading trainer at historic Pimlico Race Course’s preceding fall meet, all have horses entered.
Teenage apprentice Jeiron Barbosa won his second meet title of the year at Pimlico fall, edging Horacio Karamanos and Angel Cruz for the top spot. The 18-year-old Puerto Rico native, who rides with a five-pound weight allowance, didn’t come to the US until March 23 and won with each of his first two mounts two days later at Laurel, where he captured the spring meet crown. He is named in all nine races Friday.
Fall stakes action begins on opening Saturday with five stakes worth $575,000 in purses led by the $150,000 Laurel Futurity for 2-year-olds and $150,000 Selima for 2-year-old fillies, both scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the grass.
Also on the program are the listed $100,000 Japan Turf Cup for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/2 miles and a pair of dirt stakes, the $100,000 Twixt for fillies and mares 3 and older at about 1 1/16 miles and $75,000 Challedon for 3-year-olds and up that have not won an open sweepstakes sprinting seven furlongs.
The ground-breaking Maryland Million returns Oct. 22 with eight stakes and four starter stakes worth $1.08 million anchored by the $150,000 Classic for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles. Juveniles are in the spotlight in the $100,000 Nursery and $100,000 Lassie for females, both at six furlongs.
The Maryland Million will also offer the $125,000 Turf (3-year-olds and up, 1 1/8 miles), $125,000 Ladies (fillies and mares 3 and up, 1 1/8 miles), $100,000 Sprint (3-year-olds and up, six furlongs), $100,000 Distaff (fillies and mares 3 and up, seven furlongs), and $100,000 Turf Sprint (3-year-olds and up, 5 1/2 furlongs).
The pre-entry deadline for the Maryland Million is Wednesday, Oct. 12.
Juveniles return to center stage Saturday, Nov. 12, in the $100,000 James F. Lewis III and $100,000 Smart Halo, the latter for fillies, both at six furlongs. The card will also include the $100,000 Thirty Eight Go Go at about 1 1/16 miles for fillies and mares 3 and up.
Laurel Park will serve up five stakes worth $450,000 in purses over back-to-back days on Thanksgiving weekend. Maryland-bred/sired horses are featured Friday, Nov. 25 with the seven-furlong, $75,000 Howard and Sondra Bender Memorial for 3-year-olds and up and six-furlong, $75,000 Politely for fillies and mares 3 and older.
Saturday, Nov. 26, offers the last stakes races in Maryland for straight 3-year-olds, the $100,000 Safely Kept for fillies and $100,000 City of Laurel, both sprinting seven furlongs. In addition, horses aged 3 and up will travel 1 1/8 miles in the $100,000 Richard W. Small. All three stakes are listed.
The final month of the calendar year will feature eight stakes worth $800,000 in purses, launched by the $100,000 Maryland Juvenile for 2-year-olds and $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship, each at seven furlongs, Saturday, Dec. 3.
Christmastide Day Stakes return Monday, Dec. 26 with six stakes worth $600,000 in purses including the $100,000 Heft for 2-year-olds and $100,000 Gin Talking for 2-year-old fillies sprinting seven furlongs, $100,000 Dave’s Friend for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs and $100,000 Willa On the Move for females 3 and older going 6 1/2 furlongs.
Returning for the second straight year to round out the stakes action are the $100,000 Robert T. Manfuso for 3-year-olds and up going about 1 1/16 miles and $100,000 Carousel for fillies and mares 3 and older at 1 1/8 miles .