LAUREL -- When trainer Barclay Tagg puts a horse on the grass, it tends to blossom. Yesterday, the bloom came off the Chrysanthemum Handicap when Tagg sent out a formidable entry.
By mid-stretch of the 1 1/16-mile Laurel Race Course fixture, the Tagg team of Splendid Try and Grab the Green had put a comfortable distance between themselves and 10 other fillies and mares. Then, Grab the Green went on to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Starfield, with Splendid Try winding up fourth.
"If Splendid Try runs second, we pretty much have an unblemished day," Tagg said to an assistant entering the winner's circle. The stable was 2-for-2 yesterday in other races -- Indonesia won at Laurel and Highland Crystal won at Aqueduct in New York.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the day, however, was that Tagg dominated the Chrysanthemum without Miss Josh, the most accomplished in his band of turf specialists. The 5-year-old mare took a pass, probably to run in the Matriarch Stakes in California in two weeks; the race could give Maryland racing its first Eclipse Award-winning runner in 11 years.
Grab the Green, a 3-year-old daughter of 1985 Breeders' Cup Mile winner, Cozzene, has displayed a strong stretch kick since her second career start, which came Feb. 19 at Laurel. After lagging some 10 lengths off the pace yesterday, she swept into contention with an outside run before pulling away in the final furlong. Starfield, always in contention while saving ground, held second by a nose from Green Noble, a 43-1 shot.
Edgar Prado rode Grab the Green, who was receiving the bleeder medication Lasix for the first time and was surely the more well-regarded half of the entry, favored at 2-1. "She had a lot of run at the three-eighths pole and I just let her loose," said Prado. "She was nice and strong down the stretch."
"This is our 11th stakes win this year," said Tagg, noting that all have come on grass surfaces. "[Grab the Green] bled a little from her nostrils in her last race [at Keeneland in Kentucky], and that's why we went ahead and put her on Lasix.
"She's going to Florida with the majority of our stable some time next month. We took six down there two years ago, then a dozen last year, and we've had luck there. So we'll be taking most of them this year."
Tagg's horses will stable at Gulfstream Park; turf racing is conducted year-round on the Florida circuit.
Grab the Green and Splendid Try are both owned by Samuel H. Rogers Jr. The duo accounted for $66,000 of the $100,000 total purse.
NOTES: The Chrysanthemum victory was the third of the 11-race program for Prado, who extended his lead in the jockeys' standings to 36-33 over Mike Luzzi, who rode 2 winners. . . . The stakes triumph was the fourth in a 13-race career for Grab the Green; her second came in the Nijana Stakes on Aug. 1 at Saratoga in New York. Prado was scheduled to ride her in the Nijana but had to take off after being banged up in a spill on Nina Blanchard, a Tagg horse, at Laurel 2 days before. . . . Sticks and Bricks and Delray David are the likely favorites in today's Devil's Bag Stakes for Maryland-bred 2-year-olds. . . . Talk about a curious record: Memorable Sal, entered in today's eighth race, has 18 career starts. He has won 10 times but has been well-beaten in the other 8.