Md. trainer Smith returns as winner Hamilton Smith's horses excelled over the summer at Colonial Downs, but the Maryland trainer said he can't wait to return to Laurel Park today when it opens for its 10-day minimeet.
"We're certainly glad to be back," said Smith, who has Free Dubai in the first race and Sporting Print in the seventh. "It was getting tiresome running back and forth to Colonial, near Richmond. I had 20 or 30 horses here at Laurel Park and another 30 or 35 down there."
Smith's horses won 20 of 106 races at Colonial Downs, making him that meet's leading trainer, beating out fellow Maryland trainers Ferris Allen (18 wins) and Graham Motion (14 wins).
With Laurel's minimeet, which runs through Aug. 23 and includes twilight racing cards that begin at 3:30 p.m. today and five other weekdays, Maryland's horsemen and jockeys are returning to their home base.
They will see a large number of turf races, making the most of the new course that opened in September 2005. During that time there have been 273 turf races run, with 219 of them featuring fields with 10 or more horses.
The average field size on the turf has been 11.3, and that is unlikely to change, as racing secretary Georganne Hale has carded 13 of 28 races on the turf through Sunday. Many have 10 or more entries.
Tomorrow's feature is the $50,000 Twixt Stakes, a mile on dirt for Maryland-bred, 3-year-old fillies. It has an eight-horse field that includes 9-5 favorite Ethan's Car, trained by Dickie Small.
Maryland Jockey Club officials know the large fields make betting more interesting to racing fans. They also hope the decision by MJC president and chief operating officer Lou Raffetto, with the cooperation of the horsemen, to cut the takeout to 10 percent, will encourage more betting.
On the track, Smith hopes to make the most of the home field advantage, but acknowledges that he might not have the stock on hand to compete for Laurel's minimeet training title.
"But in September," he said. "I should have all my horses here and ready to rock and roll."
Besides the trainers, the jockeys are also coming back. Horacio Karamanos was the leading jockey at Colonial. His 62 wins on 254 mounts beat out Malcolm Franklin (35 wins on 232 mounts) and Carlos Quinones (26 wins on 198 mounts), who were bug riders (rookies with a weight allowance) at Laurel last year. They lost their weight allowance the last week of July, and will now face the Maryland jockey colony as full-fledged competitors.
Anna Napravnik, who started her career here in 2006 when she finished as runner-up for the Eclipse Award for outstanding apprentice rider, is recovering from a broken wrist and finger.
Napravnik, who has moved her tack to Delaware Park this summer, is sidelined until possibly late October. She took a spill July 6 at Colonial, breaking her left wrist and right pinky. . Both injuries required surgery.
"It's really disappointing," said her agent, Steve Rushing. "Especially since she'd just come back two months earlier from that fractured vertebra."
The leading Maryland freshman sire of 2006 by state-bred winners, Polish Miner, will be leaving the Northview Stallion Station in Chesapeake City to go to Allaire Farm in Poulsbo, Wash. ... Talent Search, a 4-year-old by Catienus, trained by Mark Shuman at Fair Hill, won the $100,000 Teddy Drone Stakes at Monmouth Park Wednesday with Ryan Fogelsonger up. It was Talent Search's third win in six starts this year and followed a second-place finish to Diabolical in the Maryland Sprint Handicap on May 19.