Laurel's `Martha' turf race shapes up as free-for-all

Horse racing

September 30, 2006|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun reporter

A field of talented 3-year-old fillies goes to the post this afternoon in the $200,000 Martha Washington Breeders' Cup turf race at Laurel Park and, of course, every trainer with a horse in the field thinks he has a chance to win.

According to the morning line odds, most of them have reason to believe, with nine of the 10 entries bunched with odds between 7-2 and 8-1, and even Bowie-based Royal Descent, the longest shot in the field at 30-1, is a stakes winner, having upset the field in the Pearl Necklace at Pimlico Race Course in June.

"The only way you don't have a chance is to keep the horse in the barn," said Laurel Park's Hamilton Smith, who trains Art Show, who is 6-1 in the morning line. "My filly hasn't had a bad race. She's doing very well right now. She's already proven she belongs in this company and this race is in her own backyard."

Art Show, who will be ridden by Luis Garcia, is by Out of Place, and comes into today's race with a second and two third-place finishes in four stakes races. Smith said she should have won the first of those races and said jockey Ramon Dominguez blamed himself for her loss in another.

"He blamed himself because he let the horse that beat her through on the rail," Smith said. "If she had won those two races, she might be 2-1 today."

As it is, Meribel, who will be ridden by Dominguez today, is the 7-2 first choice. She is 3-for-6 in turf races, including her first stakes win in the Dynasty Stakes at Saratoga Race Course in her last outing.

Delmarva, shipping in from Gulfstream Park, is 4-1 in the morning line.

No one is ready to concede.

"This is a good group, but our filly is special," said trainer George Weaver, who brings 5-1 choice Amansara, the lightly raced daughter of War Chant, to the Martha Washington. "She is training like a top filly. I wouldn't trade places with any trainer in the country when it comes to 3-year-old fillies on the turf. This seems like the logical step for us to go to the next level. We are confident of her ability."

Amansara has won two of four races on the turf and lost only by a nose to Meribel in the Dynasty, despite her rider dropping his whip in the stretch drive.

Another filly to watch is Gasia, also 6-1, who has run against the best fillies in the country on the main track while competing in seven stakes this year. She's been in the money in five of her past six, including a second in the Grade III Monmouth Oaks Stakes and a third in the Grade II Delaware Oaks. Her only off-the-board finish was a competitive fourth in the Grade I Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico in May.

"We've been competing on the dirt this year because that is where the money was, but she is by a Theatrical mare and likes the turf during training," said her trainer, Larry Jones. "We want to make our mind up on what we want to do with her next year. This is a good test to see where we are."

Trainer Mark Shuman wants to answer a few questions about Mambo With G, too. The filly is 8-1 in the morning line, despite having not won yet. Shuman is trying to better her chances by giving the mount to Laurel's leading rider, Anna Napravnik.

The answers to some, if not all, of the questions will be answered over the 1 1/16th-mile Laurel course today.

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