Saturday afternoon Laurel Park offered a pair of six-figure stakes races on the main track named in honor of Maryland-bred Hall of Fame horses, one of each gender, that were both conditioned by the late, great Richard Small.
Just past the midway point of the Saturday card, Laurel offered the $100,000 Caesar’s Wish Stakes for older fillies and mares at the one-turn mile distance on the main track. Among the seven runners who went postward, much of the attention was focused on The Grass Is Blue (Jorge Ruiz), a former Bill Mott trainee now conditioned by Graham Motion. She opened as the 1-5 favorite but floated up to 7-5 at post time.
When the gates opened in the Caesar’s Wish, The Grass Is Blue broke very alertly from her outside stall, but she was under stoutrestraint entering the main track and eventually yielded the inside advantage and the lead to Hybrid Eclipse (Jevian Toledo), the 5-2 second choice in the group. Those two maintained an honest tempo to the quarter in 23.72 and half in 47.22 and were still almost inseparable nearing the quarter pole.
“The traffic going north to Delaware earlier was pretty bad, but coming back down from there it was moving pretty good,” Toledo said. “When the gates opened, my filly wanted to make the lead and it looked like the other riders really didn’t want to be on the lead. So, I pushed her through before the turn and she still had [The Grass Is Blue] sitting outside of me turning for home, but she really responded when I set her down.”
A four-year-old daughter of Paynter trained by Russell for owner Magic Oaks, Hybrid Eclipse notched her second win in three starts this year and now owns a 5-2-2 slate and over $265,000 banked from 14 career outings. The Grass Is Blue was clearly second best while no match for the winner in the lane and sports a 4-1-2 slate and nearly $235,000 banked from 11 lifetime tries following her runner-up effort in the Caesar’s Wish.
Then one race later in the $100,000 Concern Stakes for three-year-olds, Old Homestead (Charlie Marquez) provided a slightly more formful finish when the sophomore son of Overanalyze pressed the pace down the backside then edged clear in the lane to a two-length score over Nimitz Class while stopping the timer in 1:22.65 for the seven furlongs.
“He really didn’t run his race last time out [in the Chick Lang Stakes],” trainer Brett Brinkman said of Old Homestead, who has now won four times in five starts and banked nearly $280,000 along the way for owner-breeder Marablue Farm and Pegasus Stud LLC. “He just didn’t show up that day. I had thought about the [Alapocus Run] at Delaware Park, but that race had some tough older horses in there. I just wanted to stay in a three-year-old race, since it’s tough to find any outside of state-breds.”
“I knew he had enough speed to make the front and that’s what he did,” Marquez said. “I just let him take me to the front down the backside and I still had plenty of horse turning for home. He really responded when I asked him the last furlong. I was grateful to get this opportunity today.”
Caesar’s Wish, a daughter of Proudest Roman that Small trained for owner Sally Gibson, won 11 of 16 starts and earned just shy of $315,000, highlighted by a victory in the Grade I Mother Goose Stakes under regular pilot Danny Wright. Concern, a son of Broad Brush that Small trained for owner-breeder Robert Meyerhoff, concluded his career with a 7-7-11 slate and over $3 million banked from 30 lifetime outings. Clearly his signature moment came when he captured the 1994 Breeders Cup Classic at Churchill Downs, following second-place efforts in the Grade I Super Derby and Grade I Travers and a third-place effort in the Grade I Haskell.