Thanksgiving weekend rolls along at Laurel Park with a trio of Saturday stakes races on a stacked program. Full fields abound throughout the day, including the triple-features with 10, 11 and 11 entrants in Races 6-8. The last of the trio will be the $100,000 Richard W. Small Stakes at 1-1/8 miles on the dirt in the handicap division.
INFORMATIVE is a Grade 3 winner this year, while stablemate FOREWARNED is Grade 3-placed and an earner of a field-best $687,633. CORDMAKER is multiple Grade 3-placed and has bagged $674,640. Listed stakes winners this year include TAPPIN CAT and SHACKQUEENKING. The strongest company lines belong to INFORMATIVE and FOREWARNED.
Inside-drawn TAPPIN CAT, WORKIN ON A DREAM and BUSTOFF all figure to show speed from the 1-2-3 posts with a short run into the clubhouse turn over this 9-furlong main track. SHACKQUEENKING and CORDMAKER figure to draft just off that trio and get pressing/stalking trips. The pace appears honest to hot for the distance, so a late runner will have a chance to launch from the back if good enough.
CORDMAKER was runner-up in this race last year behind front-running Harpers First Ride, who was in outstanding form a year ago. This son of Curlin has had a solid 2021 campaign at age 6 and has not had an off effort in 7 seasonal tries. He's honest, runs very well over this track, owns a couple of wins at the distance and doesn't have any major flaws.
FOREWARNED only split the field while fifth in last year's Small, adding to a Laurel ledger that now reads 0-7 lifetime. The classy Parx raider hasn't fired his best here. While FOREWARNED does come off a blowout win the Best of Ohio Endurance Stakes last month, that's a race he's owned for several years vs. state-breds. This will be a much tougher task, especially from post 11. Uriah St. Lewis also has entered INFORMATIVE, who should be the more dangerous of the pair. The 79-1 upset winner of the Grade 3 Salvatore Mile at Monmouth this summer has but 1 win in 10 tries this year. He hasn't won at Laurel, but has hit the board twice in 3 local tries, though his best efforts have come at shorter distances.
Trainer Gary Capuano also takes 2 shots, namely TAPPIN CAT and SHACKQUEENKING. The former 5-year-old is 18-28 in the exacta lifetime, including 6 straight starts. He narrowly missed at odds on the Maryland Million Classic with no real excuse. SHACKQUEENKING may only a 3-year-old, but he could be poised to make noise in the local handicap division from this point forward. I thought he was the best route prospect among the local 3-year-olds last winter/spring, and he's come back to win a pair of allowance races in nice fashion since going to the sidelines in March. He was a 2-turn winner over this track in the Howard County Stakes last winter.
TREASURE TROVE is an X-factor off the Keeneland claim by Anthony Farrior. He was beaten only three-quarters of a lenght in April's Grade 3 Ben Ali in a blanket finish at Keeneland. But he's winless in 9 starts over the past year. Hot-riding Jorge Ruiz takes the call. MISCHIEF AFOOT has a strong series of BRIS late pace figures and consistent form. The hot pace should help him.
Most Certain Exotics Contender:
CORDMAKER consistently runs his race and is proven over the track and distance while in good form.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender:
McELMORE AVENUE hasn't been too far behind SHACKQUEENKING and CORDMAKER in recent starts and has a strong record over the Laurel main track. He could push double-digit odds in this deep field.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll):
$70 win SHACKQUEENKING. $15 exacta SHACKQUEENKING over CORDMAKER. $5 exacta part-wheel SHACKQUEENKING over INFORMATIVE, MISCHIEF AFOOT and McELMORE AVENUE ($15).