Silmaril faces tough `Gala' field

Even so, filly could win Laurel stakes with less than her best performance

Horse racing

September 16, 2006|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun reporter

Trainer Chris Grove loves to recall how well his filly, Silmaril, ran in the Grade III $150,000 Pimlico Distaff Breeders' Cup in 2005, when she upset the big favorite Ashado at Pimlico Race Course.

He'd like to see a similar effort today in the $100,000 Gala Lil Stakes at Laurel Park, but he doesn't expect to.

"That one race was kind of out of this world," Grove said. "It was such a large performance. It was so much better than her normal races, it's hard to reproduce that."

So how does a race like that happen? Grove considered before he answered.

"That's just the horse getting good at a particular time," he said. "She'd run three really good races up to that point and each time she got a little better, until she was peaking at the perfect time. Is she ready to do it again? That may have been a once-in-a-lifetime deal ... I don't know if she will ever produce another race like that.

"But she can still win this stakes race without running as big as she did that day at Pimlico."

Silmaril will have all the competition she could want in the Gala, as seven of the nine horses are stakes winners. The number of successful horses in the field, however, doesn't surprise Grove or trainer Dickie Small, who will send three horses - Magical Broad, Sticky and Take a Check - to the post in the stakes for fillies and mares 3 years old and up.

"When you get in this class of competition, you find you're usually running against the same group," Grove said. "We're a group that beats up on one another."

"It's difficult to find races for horses like these," said Small, whose Magical Broad and Sticky have each won stakes events. Take a Check, while not a stakes winner, finishes consistently in the money and has actually won more ($324,000) than the other two. "They've all won several races and, given a choice, other horses don't want to run against them, so the fields don't often fill, which means the races don't run."

Small said he hopes to use the Gala Lil as a prep race for the Maryland Million races for Sticky, who has won five of 11 starts for nearly $300,000, and he'd like to get Magical Broad, 4-for-26 with 14 finishes in the money, back to the winner's circle, too. Magical Broad has had what Small calls a "checkered career," because in two of her races horses running in front of her have fallen.

"She tried to jump over them and both times her own rider fell off," Small said. "Sometimes unusual things have happened and sometimes she hasn't run her best race."

Notes -- One horse that would usually be in the Gala Lil, Promenade Girl - who won her first graded stakes, the Grade II $294,000 Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Stakes at Monmouth Park on Aug. 27 - will instead run Sept. 30 in the Grade III $175,000 Turfway Breeders' Cup Stakes in Florence, Ky. Trainer Larry Murray said he wants to give her a couple of extra weeks between races ... Also on today's Laurel Park card are two $50,000 stakes races for 2-year-olds, The Oliver's Twist Stakes for colts and the Gin Talking Stakes for

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