Rugbyman can step forward with City of Laurel victory
The five Saturday stakes on Salute the Troops Day at Laurel Park include two sevenfurlong sprints for 3-year-olds and two six-furlong races for 2-year-olds. The card is topped by the Richard Small Stakes, a 1 1/8-mile race for older horses.
The 3-year-old stakes have lured competitive fields. The Safely Kept, which drew 10 fillies, is carded as race 5. It closes the early pick five and begins the Rainbow 6.
The nine-horse City of Laurel is race 8 and the third leg of the late pick five, which also includes the James F. Lewis III and Small stakes.
The 10-race card begins at noon, 30 minutes earlier than usual.
The City of Laurel goes through the talented and steadily improving Rugbyman. The huge son of Tapit has shown flashes of potential during seven starts this year, but has yet to put it all together.
Rugbyman romped by 14 lengths over a muddy track in a Belmont Park maiden race in May, then came back to finish second by a neck in the Easy Goer Stakes on the Belmont Stakes undercard. In his last two starts for Graham Motion, he has won a Laurel allowance and finished third in a Keeneland allowance.
Rugbyman’s competition includes Oldies But Goodies, who is coming off two sharp optional-claiming victories for Mike Trombetta; Sparticle, who recently won an optional claimer by five lengths at Parx Racing for Michael Pino; and stakes-winning Majestic Dunhill, who will be going turf to dirt for George Weaver.
The field also includes Golden Brown, winner of the Grade 3 Kent on turf for Pat McBurney, who will be switching to dirt and shortening in distance. Old Time Revival is coming off a restricted stakes win at Laurel for Kenneth Decker.
The Safely Kept lineup includes four last-out winners. Kentucky shipper America’s Tale earned a 90 Beyer Speed Figure winning a secondlevel optional-claiming race at Churchill Downs by 5 1/4 lengths and could go postward a slight favorite.
Trained by Bernie Flint, America’s Tale will be turning back in distance from a oneturn mile. Trevor McCarthy picks up the mount.
Split Time has won three stakes for Linda Rice. She took the New York-bred Maddie May in March at Aqueduct, the open Alma North in June at Laurel, and the statebred New York Oaks in July at Finger Lakes.
In her most recent start, Split Time was second-best behind 4-year-old Bonita Bianca, who won the $250,000 Empire Classic Distaff Handicap by six lengths at Belmont.
Other contenders include Pacific Gale and Special Relativity, who finished first and second, separated by a head, in a second-level optional claimer at Belmont. The stakes winner Smokinpaddylassie has been freshened since August and could come back sharp at a price.
All eyes will be on Congrats Gal in the Smart Halo, which is slotted as race 3 and has a field of seven. Congrats Gal has shown a wealth of talent in her four starts for trainer Cal Lynch and comes into the race off a 14-length romp in a Laurel optional claimer in September.
In her first three starts, Congrats Gal won a Laurel maiden race by 6 1/4 lengths, finished third in the Grade 3 Schuylerville at Saratoga, and was second to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Frizette winner Jaywalk in the White Clay Creek Stakes at Delaware Park.
The Smart Halo is not a walkover, as it also has attracted Mae Never No, who won the Colleen at Monmouth Park for Wesley Ward; Our Super Freak, who has looked good winning two straight for Jamie Ness; and Love My Honey, whom Mike Maker sends in from Kentucky.
Ward has Fayette Warrior and Hawaiian Noises in the James F. Lewis III. Fayette Warrior finished fourth of 11 last out in the Futurity at Belmont. Hawaiian Noises closed from fifth in her second career start to win a Keeneland maiden race by a neck.
The field also includes Follow the Dog, who improved with the addition of blinkers last out to win the Maryland Million Nursery for Parx-based Marya Montoya. Scrap Copper, the 6-5 favorite in the Nursery who lost his chance with a poor start, also is entered.
Rugbyman notched his maiden win May 13 at Belmont. He is a contender in the City of Laurel.