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Laurel Park Summer Meet Opens Friday

Laurel Park
The Laurel Park summer meeting gets underway on Friday (Photo credit: Maryland Jockey Club).

Led by the $150,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash, an esteemed sprint for 3-year-olds and up, the Maryland Jockey Club is offering 16 stakes worth $1.525 million in purses during Laurel Park’s summer meet, which opens Friday.

The 33-day stand will run Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Sunday, Aug. 20. Post time will be 12:25 p.m.

Following a successful Preakness Meet at historic Pimlico Race Course, where National Treasure gave Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his record eighth victory in the Preakness Stakes (G1), Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, live racing returns to Laurel with Friday’s nine-race program that saw 84 horses entered (9.3 per race) including 49 in four scheduled turf races (12.2 per race).

The opening day card at Laurel Park begins with a claiming event for fillies and mares 3 and up scheduled for one mile on the Dahlia turf course. Singalong is set to make her season debut after finishing 2022 with a maiden claiming triumph going 1 1/8 miles in late October at Laurel. Heartburn has run third twice in three turf starts this year, most recently a 1 1/8-mile claimer May 26 at Pimlico. Princess Palmer also owns a win over the Laurel turf.

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Irish-bred Gunslinger, a 10-time career winner, and Pretty Good Year, who upset the 2020 Maryland Million Turf at odds of 15-1, are among the contenders in Race 5, a 1 1/16-mile starter optional claimer for 3-year-olds and up also scheduled for the Dahlia. Horses 3 and up will go 1 1/8 miles on the main track in Race 6, another starter optional claimer featuring Clubman, whose 16 career wins include a pair of stakes; 9-year-old 17-time winner Bobby G, claimed out of a runner-up finish May 12 at Pimlico; and stakes-placed Guillaume and Workin On a Dream.

Race 7 is a 5 ½-furlong allowance for Maryland-bred/sired 3-year-olds and up scheduled for the Dahlia that drew a field of 11 including Ladneedsahandler, entered for main track only. B Determined, popular winner of the 2021 Maryland Million Turf Starter Handicap, shortens up after closing to be fifth by less than three lengths in a 1 1/16-mile optional claimer May 19 at Pimlico. Ragtime Riches and Odinson both exit wins, the latter a dead heat for first going 5 ½ furlongs May 4 at Laurel in his career debut.

Eight Go in Friday Feature

Friday’s feature comes in Race 8, an open one-mile allowance for 3-year-olds and up. The field of eight includes 12-time winner Thomas Shelby, beaten a neck when second in the 2022 Razorback (G3) at Oaklawn Park; 2022 Bald Eagle Derby winner Vance Scholars; American d’Oro, second last out behind multiple stakes winner Nimitz Class in the April 29 Native Dancer; 2021 Jimmy Winkfield winner Hello Hot Rod, dropping down out of a ninth in the Maryland Sprint (G3) May 20; Zabracadabra, first or second in nine of 12 career tries at Laurel; 2022 Harrison Johnson winner Dontmesawithme and Yodel E.A. Who, runner-up in the Feb. 18 General George (G3).

The 20-cent Rainbow 6, solved for a Maryland state-record $547,686.94 payout June 3 at Pimlico, spans Races 4-9. The Jackpot Super High Five, which saw its carryover swell to $490,727.68 for Pimlico’s June 4 closing day card before a mandatory payout of $4,510.60 on Sunday, returns in Race 6.

Laurel will offer advance wagering Friday on Saturday’s full 13-race Belmont Stakes (G1) day program from Belmont Park as well as four two-day double wagers and the two-day Pick 6 wager.

In addition to its own nine-race live program that starts at 12:25 p.m., Laurel will open its doors at 10:45 a.m. Saturday to accommodate Belmont’s 11:30 a.m. post time. The Belmont Stakes is scheduled to go off at 7:02 p.m.

Launching the summer stakes program is the listed $100,000 Stormy Blues for 3-year-old fillies sprinting 5 ½ furlongs on the grass Saturday, June 18. It highlights a Father’s Day program featuring a buffet that includes a complimentary Old Fashioned at the door and curated food and beverage menu at a cost of $80 for adults and $40 for youths.

Three Stakes on July 1

Saturday, July 1 will have three stakes – the listed $100,000 Concern for 3-year-olds sprinting seven furlongs and a pair of six-furlong turf sprints, the $100,000 Laurel Dash for 3-year-olds and up and $75,000 Jameela for Maryland-bred/sired fillies and mares 3 and older.

Three $100,000 stakes are on tap Saturday, July 15 led by the listed Prince George’s County for 3-year-olds and up and Big Dreyfus for fillies and mares 3 and older, each scheduled for 1 1/8 miles on the grass. Fillies and mares 3 and up will go one mile in the Caesar’s Wish.

Frank DeFrancis Slated for July 29

The 32nd running of the listed six-furlong De Francis highlights a program of five stakes worth $500,000 in purses Saturday, July 29. First run in 1990 and named for the late president and chairman of both Laurel and historic Pimlico Race Course, the De Francis’ illustrious roster of winners includes Housebuster – who beat fellow future Hall of Famer Safely Kept in 1991 – and sprint champion counterparts Cherokee Run, Smoke Glacken, Thor’s Echo and Benny the Bull.

Supporting the De Francis are the $100,000 Deputed Testamony for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/8 miles and three other sprints – the $100,000 Alma North for fillies and mares at six furlongs, $75,000 Star de Naskra for 3-year-olds and $75,000 Miss Disco for 3-year-old fillies, each restricted to Maryland-bred/sired horses and contested at seven furlongs.

Sunday, Aug. 13 will feature the $100,000 Bald Eagle Derby for 3-year-olds going 1 3/16 miles and the $100,000 Searching for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles, both scheduled for the grass.

Laurel’s summer stakes schedule is rounded out by a pair of $75,000 events for Maryland-bred/sired horses scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the turf Saturday, Aug. 19 – the Find for 3-year-olds and up and All Brandy for fillies and mares 3 and older.