Racing’s annual rejuvenation takes place with its crop of 2-year-olds, hinting at future stardom each autumn. The post-Breeders‘ Cup window often displays a peek into the future, and Laurel Park has both the $100,000 Smart Halo Stakes for the juvenile fillies and the $100,000 James F. Lewis Stakes for the colts and geldings on Saturday’s docket. The ninth running of the Lewis, named for the late, first president of the Maryland Million (and father of trainer Lisa Lewis) has lured a diverse cast of regional runners. That’s no surprise: the last 3 Lewis winners were a last-out local maiden breaker, a Maryland Million Nursery alum, and 1-2 finishers a year ago via Presque Isle Downs and Parx.
Stakes winners Kenny Had a Notion and Singlino own the field’s signature wins to date. Dalton is stakes-placed. The rest are seeking black-type on their resume. With inexperienced 2-year-olds, class handicapping can be a misnomer as past fields can vary greatly in actual ability and youngsters are known for their rapid improvement.
#1 Texas Basin – Ridden by Victor Carrasco and trained by George Weaver. This colt has tried the turf in 2 of his first 3 starts, and those 2 starts did not go well at all. However, the one try not on the turf came over a good main track at Belmont and he was able to get a win by a nose while rallying from well off the pace. Breaking from the rail with no speed is going to be very tough to overcome as he is likely to have to circle most of this field. We will see if the one dirt race translates into continued success, but I will look elsewhere.
#2 Ain’t Da Beer Cold – No jockey is listed as of yet, and trained by Kenneth Cox. Ain’t Da Beer Cold has 1 win in 4 starts thus far, and would really have to improve a lot to contend in here. In the 2 starts since the win he has pulled up and didn’t finish the race and last time out finished 8th of 12 and was never in the race. Not much to say good about this horse.
#3 No Cents – Ridden by Trevor Mccarthy and trained by Cathal Lynch. No Cents has very good back to back wins coming into this race. He broke his maiden by 6 lengths, and then came back and beat Heir Port and Singlino last time out. He has every right to continue improving, and could rate a big chance in here. He will sit a very good trip just off the pace, and there is some speed in here that could set it up perfectly for him.
#4 Dalton – Ridden by Jevian Toledo and trained by Jorge Duarte. Placed 2nd in the Smokey Glacken Stakes last time out losing by just a nose to Pickin’ Time. He stalked the pace and took the lead at one point before giving it up right at the wire. He is another one who should get a solid pace scenario in here. He will certainly be prominent throughout this race, but I have a hard time picking this one on top.
#5 Singlino – Ridden by Alex Crispin and trained by John Worsley. Winner of 2 of his first 3 starts including the $100K First Dash Stakes with Crispin aboard at Delaware Park. He then came in 3rd behind No Cents and Heir Port last time out, but he had a very rough trip and was steadied just after starting. He was able to hang in there and lose by just a length in that race. I think Singlino will be put on the front end and he is dangerous up there if he can get clear.
#6 Heir Port – Ridden by Sheldon Russell and trained by Dale Bennett. Won his first career start, and then struggled against better competition the $100k Sapling stakes at Monmouth. He then flew late down the stretch and just missed by a neck against No Cents. I don’t foresee a crazy fast pace in this race which could hinder his ability to come from off the pace. He will have to pass quite a few quality horses if he wants to come from that far off the pace.
#7 Kenny Had a Notion – Ridden by Alex Cintron and trained by Dal Capuano. He has won 3 of his first 4 races to date, and the last 2 were absolutely dominant. In the Jamestown Stakes he won by 5 after stalking the pace and taking over at the top of the stretch. He then repeated that effort in the Maryland Nursery again winning by 5 after stalking the pace. I think he gets the same exact type of trip, and it could very well yield the same result again. To me – the horse to beat in here.
#8 Xtreme Mayhem – Ridden by Cecily Evans and trained by McLean Robertson. Xtreme Mayhem has 1 start and 1 win. That one start was over the track here at Laurel in the slop. There is no rain in the forecast so we will have to see if he can handle the fast track just as well. I do like the fact that he won so nicely at Laurel. You just have to wonder how much the sloppy track moved this one forward. I will wait and see on this one, but I could regret that.
#9 Lugamo – Ridden by Angel Cruz and trained by Rodolfo Sanchez-Salomon. Opened with a 2nd place finish at Pimlico during their short meet this year. Then wheeled right back and won back to back starts at Laurel Park. The first win was by 6 lengths, but against a very weak field. I like the last win though, a nice 4 length victory going a mile and showed speed. He cuts back in distance to this 6 furlong spot and will likely still show some good speed. He can clearly handle longer distances so he should have plenty in the tank coming down the stretch.
#10 Fearless Fly – Ridden by Carol Cedeno and trained by Richard Vega. Very clearly the most intriguing longshot in this field. He won his first start out at Parx very impressively. They thought enough of this one to put him in the Grade 1 Hopeful stakes at Saratgoa against Jackie’s Warrior who is one of the top 2 year olds in the country. Now, he didn’t fare well in that race, but the competition was so much better. He returned to Parx against more tough competition and finished 5th. I think against this field in here he has a very real chance of surprising at a huge price. He could show some nice speed from the outside and sit a very good trip.
1: #7 Kenny Had a Notion
2: #10 Fearless Fly
3: #3 No Cents
4: #4 Dalton