Juveniles gain spotlight at Laurel 'Passion' seeks to add to resume in Challedon

December 26, 1997|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

If the 12 days of Christmas include one at the horse track, this should be it.

Today at Laurel Park, 15 2-year-olds born in Maryland compete in two races worth $100,000 apiece. In a third stakes, one of the most exciting horses in Maryland seeks his fifth straight win.

And in California, on opening day at Santa Anita Park, Silver Charm races for the first time since nearly sweeping the Triple Crown. His narrow loss in the Belmont Stakes followed thrilling victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

At Laurel, the Maryland Juvenile and Maryland Juvenile Filly Championships top the 10-race card, which begins at 12: 15 p.m. But the $60,000 Challedon Stakes showcases a horse who, although new to the state, may soon become a household name.

Purple Passion already has won eight of 10 races, a record that places him among the most consistent thoroughbreds in the country. Although born at Worthington Farm near Glyndon, Purple Passion raced primarily in New England until last month, when his owners, a New England racing family, transferred him to the Laurel barn of Donald Barr.

The 3-year-old brown colt had accomplished all he could at Suffolk Downs and Rockingham Park. A transplanted New Englander, Barr knew the fellow who manages the horse and become the beneficiary when the owners sought greater laurels.

In two starts for Barr at Laurel, Purple Passion has won two stakes. Thirteen days ago, the son of Northern Raja and Purple Glory won the six-furlong Bowie Stakes in the near-record time of 1 minute, 8 2/5 seconds.

"I never had a horse that ran 8 and 2 before. And he does it in scary fashion. He's all racehorse," Barr said. "I thought he was a good horse, but I didn't know he was that good."

If Purple Passion passes the seven-furlong test of the Challedon, Barr may begin preparing him for the $250,000 General George Handicap on Feb. 16 at Laurel, a seven-furlong dash that often attracts top national sprinters.

In the twin stakes for younger horses, the mystery is who can run 1 1/8 miles. Only two of the 15 entrants have raced that far. Many have not raced farther than seven-eighths mile.

"That's the question we're all facing," said Todd Pletcher, trainer of the filly Maragold Princess. "A mile and an eighth is a demanding race, especially for 2-year-olds."

A daughter of Smarten, Maragold Princess is the 9-5 morning-line favorite for the filly championship. Stabled at Belmont Park, she won the $100,000 Maryland Million Lassie, and then ran fourth in the mud in a Grade III stakes at Aqueduct.

"That was a legitimate Grade III," said Pletcher, a former assistant of D. Wayne Lukas. "She chased the winner to the middle of the turn and then faded a little bit."

She bled slightly and was treated with Lasix her next start, the Heavenly Cause Stakes for Maryland-breds Nov. 30 at Laurel. She ran second by a half-length.

"We think we've got a nice filly," Pletcher said. "And we think she's found her niche with Maryland-breds."

The filly who defeated Maragold Princess last month takes her on again today. Cosmo Topper, 2-1 in the morning line, has won three of four races. Her only loss was the Maryland Million Lassie. In that race, the slow-breaking Cosmo Topper launched her bid with three-eighths of a mile remaining, only to run into a wall of horses slowing down in front.

In the Heavenly Cause, Cosmo Topper broke slowly again, forcing her jockey Greg Hutton to hustle her into contention. Her trainer, Jerry Robb, feared that after running so hard early, the daughter of Compelling Sound would crumble late.

"The whole race I just waited for her for stop," Robb said. "But she never did. She wouldn't let that other horse [Maragold Princess] by her. That was very, very impressive."

Neither Cosmo Topper nor Maragold Princess has won past seven furlongs, but the Mary Eppler-trained Ragtime Doll prevailed at 1 1/16 miles her last start.

"And it looked like she was just starting to run," Eppler said.

In the championship for males, a winless colt is the 5-2 program favorite. A son of Broad Brush, Full Brush has run second at six furlongs and third at seven, finishing powerfully both times.

"He's a typical Broad Brush," said his trainer, Larry Murray. "You don't rush him onto the racetrack or out of the gate. He breaks and just dawdles along. He picks it up about the three-eighths pole, and then he's ready to go. He should be running at the end."

So should Carnivorous Habit, who has won three of six and was fourth in the 1 1/8 -mile Laurel Futurity on Nov. 1.

"I don't think he was 100 percent then," said his trainer, Hamilton A. Smith. "He was lackluster in the paddock. He's usually on his toes. I think I just ran him back too quickly that race. At least that's what I'm hoping it was."

Trainer Robert P. Klesaris sends Malaka Head from Belmont Park. She finished third in the Maryland Million Nursery, a race won by Carnivorous Habit.

NOTE: Bob Baffert, trainer of Silver Charm, said that, after today's $200,000 Malibu Stakes, he plans on racing the colt Jan. 17 in the San Fernando Stakes, Feb. 7 in the Strub Stakes and March 7 in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap. The "Big 'Cap" could boast a dream field of Silver Charm, Skip Away, Free House, Deputy Commander and Gentlemen.

"I think he's going to go right through those races," Baffert told Associated Press about Silver Charm. "I think he's going to win them all; he's that good. If the world was flat, he'd run right off the end of it. That's the kind of horse he is."

Laurel's week

Post times: Today, tomorrow and Sunday, 12: 15 p.m.

Simulcast: Monday.

Information: 410-792-7775.

Out-of-town simulcasts: For results, scratches, call 410-792-7464.

Pub Date: 12/26/97

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