Five stakes races fill the program Saturday at Laurel Park as the Maryland Jockey Club presents its third of three Summer Stakes Sizzler events for July. A total of $400,000 in purse money will be on the line for horses in the dirt and turf sprint ranks, as well as dirt routers in the Deputed Testamony. The marquee turf sprint, the Ben's Cat, goes as Race 8 and is named for the legendary Maryland-bred grass dasher.
Horseplayers on the 1/ST BET app and at Xpressbet will play for an additional $2,000 in bonus winnings in Laurel's late pick 5 Saturday as part of the $100,000 July Hit & Split promotions. Take down the late pick 5 and collect your parimutuel winnings plus your share of $2,000, to be split among fellow winning players at 1/ST BET and Xpressbet.
Grade 3 winner JAXON TRAVELER won the Maryland Sprint on the Preakness undercard for the top score amongst this group. KENNY HAD A NOTION and GRATEFUL BRED are listed stakes winners who have had success in state-bred and open company. YOUNGEST OF FIVE is stakes-placed in open company.
There's not as much early speed as you'd expect for a 5-1/2 furlong turf sprint. JAXON TRAVELER should be fastest away from the gate with GRATEFUL BRED in close pursuit. Late runners will have their work cut out for them making a major impact.
JAXON TRAVELER is a talented son of the versatile sire Munnings and has been campaigned smartly by Steve Asmussen. The Maryland-bred hasn't been thrown to the national dirt sprint division's wolves, and has made the most of his return trips home to Laurel and Pimlico. He won on this card last year in the Star De Naskra on dirt, and now moves to turf where he's finished third twice in as many tries. Those came in Belmont's Grade 3 Quick Call and Allied Forces, losing only by 3-1/2 lengths to Golden Pal in the former when facing 2021's premier US turf sprinter.
GRATEFUL BRED is the stable star for the Madison Meyers barn, which has won just 2 races this year heading into the racing week. GRATEFUL BRED may be 0-3 on the campaign, but has knocked on the door in turf sprint stakes at Laurel, Pimlico and Colonial Downs. Last year's Maryland Million Turf Sprint champ is most effective when he can make the lead, but likely isn't as fast as JAXON TRAVELER if that one is sent with intent. GRATEFUL BRED re-matches here with MATTA, who has finished behind him in both prior bids. MATTA should be among the better finishers in this race, though the pace doesn't look too fast to give much of an assist.
KENNY HAD A NOTION was busy last winter as a sophomore and ran straight through November before taking a respite. When he returned in June, he was offered for the $25,000 optional claiming price and purchased away from the Dale Capuano outfit. He tired going a mile on dirt at Delaware since then and hasn't been a big factor on turf to date. The new connections seem to be swinging outside his best strike zone, which has been dirt sprints. The Capuano barn will have a rep in this race, however, with JUSTWAVEANDSMILE, a former claimer who has won 5 of his last 6 starts -- including 5 in a row on turf.
Primarily dirt performers DOUBLE CROWN, YOUNGEST OF FIVE and SHOWTIME CAT round out the field.
Most Certain Exotics Contender:
JAXON TRAVELER is both the speed and the class of the race. That's tough to topple.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender:
YOUNGEST OF FIVE has 12 straight superfecta finishes dating back 14 months, albeit all on dirt. I like the outside draw on the surface change and this one looks fast enough early to sit third or fourth and take his chances turning for home for a share.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll):
Straight-shooting time here -- $100 exacta JAXON TRAVELER over GRATEFUL BRED.