Laurel
notes – March 20

Mike Gathagan
Maryland Jockey Club

TWO $100,000 STAKES FOR OLDER HORSES ON SATURDAY’S CARD

LAUREL, Md. – The Conniver and Harrison E. Johnson Memorial Stakes are featured on the nine-race card at Laurel Park on Saturday, the former for Maryland-bred fillies and mares and the latter for three year olds and upward.

Tell a Great Story is the 7-5 morning line favorite in the 7-furlong Conniver. The Bluegrass Cat filly won her debut race at Laurel, later scored in the Go For Wand at Delaware and last raced in the Delaware Oaks (G2) on July 13. She has eight official works at Payson Park in Florida this year in anticipation of her 4-year-old debut. Forest Boyce has the mount for trainer Ignacio Correas.

“We shipped her to Saratoga but she broke out with hives which took us two months to get rid of,” Correas said. “So we decided to give her some time off and mature. We ended up being very lucky when we decided to come to Florida for the winter with all the weather issues in Maryland. She has been training well. I don’t like the inside post or think the distance is her game but we have her where we want and she should have a good effort.”

More Than a Cruise, the 2013 Conniver runner-up, is the 8-5 second choice. The Larry Murray trainee has finished on the board in 10 consecutive races dating back to August 2012. Julian Pimentel will ride.

Brenda’s Way (4-1), Celtic Katie (5-1) and Gypsy Heart (15-1) round out the field.

“It is a small field but very competitive,” added Correas. “There a couple of fillies who can really run. This race is a starting point for us. We are looking forward to this year. We think she should be even better.”

A total of five shippers from New York, Pennsylvania and Louisiana are among the eight entered in the Harrison Johnson at 1 1/8 miles.

Mr Palmer is the 5-2 program choice. The son of Pulpit won his only start at Laurel, the Private Terms Stakes last March at Saturday’s distance. The Bill Mott trainee enters off a strong 1-3/4 length victory at Aqueduct. Julian Pimentel has the mount.

Ground Transport (3-1) last started in the Mineshaft Stakes at Fair Grounds, finishing fourth for trainer Michael Stidham. Previously she finished second in Tenacious Handicap and last year was fifth in the Louisiana Derby (G2). Trevor McCarthy will ride.

Bandbox, hero of the General George Handicap (G3) here on February 17 in his second start off a 17-month layoff, is the 7-2 third choice. The son of Tapit has a world of stakes experience with added money victories during his two and three-year-old campaigns. Xavier Perez rides for Rodney Jenkins.

“He has good numbers,” Perez said. “Looking at the race, if he runs like he did last time we will be tough to beat. He is one of the horses to beat. There are some horses in here with early speed. Hopefully we will sit off the pace and make one move at the end. He showed so much potential to start his career then had problems on two different occasions. Rodney Jenkins has done an amazing job with him and the sky is the limit if he can keep him healthy.”

Philadelphia shipper Indian Jones (4-1) ran second in January’s Native Dancer Stakes at Laurel. Claimed for $25,000 last May, the Smarty Jones gelding competed in last year’s Breeder’s Cup Marathon (G2), finishing fifth. Angel Castillo is his rider.

Another worthy of mention is Swift Warrior (6-1), a grass specialist who ships from Belmont for John Terranova. Julian Pimentel gets the mount.

Behemoth (15-1) and Concealed Identity (20-1) finished first and third respectively in last month’s John B. Campbell Handicap at Laurel.

Van Persie (30-1) comes into the race off an optional claiming victory at Penn National.