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Multiple stakes winner Saguaro Row, having traveled as far as Louisiana and South Florida to run in graded company, will make the short trip to Laurel Park for her next attempt in Saturday's Grade 3, $250,000 Barbara Fritchie Stakes.
The 68th running of the Barbara Fritchie for fillies and mares 4 and older and the 44th renewal of the $250,000 General George (G3) for 4-year-olds and up, both at seven furlongs, co-headline a 10-race Winter Carnival program that features five stakes worth $800,000 in purses.
Race 7 at Laurel Park on Saturday, February 15 - Post 3:20 PM
|1||Anna's Bandit||3-1||Xavier Perez
|2||Saguaro Row||9-5||Jose Lezcano
|3||Blue Eyed Girl||8-1||Alex Cintron
|4||Majestic Reason||4-1||Trevor McCarthy
|5||Victim of Love||8-1||Weston Hamilton
|6||Needs Supervision||9-2||Feargal Lynch
Based with trainer Michael Stidham at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., about 90 minutes northeast of Laurel near the borders of both Pennsylvania and Delaware, 5-year-old Saguaro Row will be making just her 14th career start in the Fritchie.
Bred by Mark Breen and co-owned by Breen and Newtown Anner Stud, Saguaro Row has raced twice previously at Laurel, breaking her maiden in her debut in September 2017 and finishing third as the favorite, beaten a length after rallying from dead last early in the seven-furlong Shine Again Stakes last September.
"She's doing really well. She's at Fair Hill and she worked the other day and worked well. Everything looks good," Stidham said. "We felt like horses that like those winter racetracks like she does, that's why we decided to keep her on the East Coast rather than bring her to the Fair Grounds."
Saguaro Row spent the winter of 2018 in Louisiana, where she was sixth in the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) and didn't race again for nearly 13 months until winning an April 2019 allowance at Keeneland. Off the board in both the Princess Rooney (G3) at Gulfstream Park and Presque Isle Masters (G2) last summer and fall, she won the Nov. 9 Pumpkin Pie and Jan. 20 Interborough, both seven furlongs, and was second by 2 ¼ lengths to Grade 1 winner Spiced Perfection in the one-mile Go for Wand (G3) Dec. 7, all at Aqueduct.
"Her last race set up well. [Jose] Lezcano was riding her for the first time and we told him what she prefers. He got her to settle early and then make a big sweeping run and she was impressive. She ran a lifetime top Ragozin [sheet number], so it was a great effort," Stidham said. "Once we figured out that she was definitely better at one turn and got her limited to those kinds of races, she's gotten real consistent."
In five lifetime tries at seven furlongs, Saguaro Row owns two wins, one second and one third. Jose Lezcano is named to ride from Post 2 in a field of six. All horses will carry 120 pounds.
"I wouldn't rule out a one-turn mile for her. Obviously the [Go for Wand] winner is a Grade 1 winner, so we didn't feel like by her not winning that race it took anything away from her effort," Stidham said. "It was a good effort. I would say anything around one turn is pretty much her best."
Like Saguaro Row, Laurel-based multiple stakes winners Needs Supervision and Anna's Bandit can also find their first graded-stakes success in the Fritchie. Howling Pigeon Farms, Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable and Madaket Stables' Needs Supervision was fourth in the Go for Wand, sandwiched by a win in the seven-furlong Imagining Safely Kept and a second in the 6 1/2-furlong What a Summer at Laurel, the latter Jan. 18.
Trainer Jerry O'Dwyer expects a different Needs Supervision than the 4-year-old daughter of Grade 1 winner Paynter showed in her most recent start, when she got bumped and steadied at the start and made a six-wide rally but came up nearly four lengths short of Victim of Love, who also returns in the Fritchie.
"I don't know what her deal was the last time. She had a bit of an off day. She finished second in a stake, but it really wasn't her true running," O'Dwyer said. "She was a little anxious behind the gate and a little anxious when she was with the pony. She doesn't sweat up or wash out or anything, but mentally she's a tough filly so if something upsets her she wants to fight it.
"I think she just got a little upset that day," he added. "She broke slow and never really got into it early and her class got her up for second. I'm drawing a bit of a line through it and I'm expecting a much better performance. I know she's better than that."
Needs Supervision was also off the board in two previous graded attempts last year - the Rachel Alexandra (G2) in February, which was followed by a seven-month gap between races; and the Raven Run (G2) in October that preceded the Safely Kept. Feargal Lynch will be aboard from Post 6.
"It's not going to be easy. It's going to be a tough race with everybody looking to get a piece of it. We're just doing our best to tweak a few things and keep her happy. Going into this race she's had two nice breezes and come out of them both very well, so I'm looking forward to getting her back there," O'Dwyer said. "This track at Laurel suits her a little better and she's won over it. She's familiar with it. It's home turf for her."
No horse entered in the Fritchie has had more success at Laurel than No Guts No Glory Farm's Anna's Bandit, with 10 wins from 21 tries. The 6-year-old mare, bred in West Virginia by Laurel trainer Jerry Robb, had a six-race win streak snapped when second in the one-mile Geisha Stakes Jan. 18.
A 16-time career winner, 10 in stakes, with $718,715 in purse earnings from 33 starts, Anna's Bandit has never run in a graded-stakes. Regular rider Xavier Perez has the call from Post 1.
"I've just kind of been picking my spots," Robb said. "You never know who's coming until entry time. My plan is to enter and if it looks like she has a shot in it, I'll run her. If it looks like it's way too tough for her, I won't run her because I don't want to make her do any more than she has to. She's been very, very good to us."
Despite suffering her first loss since last July and her first on the dirt since last May, Anna's Bandit gave Robb an unusual indication that she is up for the challenge.
"The other morning, she was supposed to gallop. Usually she just does her thing and that's it. But that morning she got real aggressive and tried to get away from Xavier like she wanted to do something. She was getting pretty high so I went ahead and breezed her the next day. I wasn't going to breeze her at all," Robb said. "She's never done that before. That was something new. She was just full of herself."
Morris Kernan and M-Z Racing Partnership's Blue Eyed Girl will be making her stakes debut in the Fritchie, having won her last three starts by a combined 14 ¾ lengths. After a pair of wins at her home base of Parx, she aired by 6 ½ lengths in a second-level optional claiming allowance Jan. 11, her first time at Laurel.
"I know she can run, but I didn't know she could run like that. I was pretty impressed with her. I've always liked her. She's the kind of horse that has just gotten better and better and better," trainer Marcos Zulueta said. "She's doing perfect right now. She's on top of her game. She's doing good, so we'll take a chance."
Blue Eyed Girl will have the services of Alex Cintron from Post 3.
Hillwood Stable and Richard Golden's multiple stakes winner Majestic Reason, worse than third in nine career tries at Laurel including a three-quarter-length triumph in the Willa On the Move Dec. 28 for trainer Graham Motion; and Victim of Love, also winner of the Island Fashion last winter at Sunland Park, complete the field.
Grade 1-winning millionaire Spiced Perfection, second to win machine Late Night Pow Wow a year ago, returns among 22 older fillies and mares nominated to the 68th running of the $250,000 Runhappy Barbara Fritchie Saturday, February 15 at Laurel Park.
The Barbara Fritchie and 44th renewal of the $250,000 General George (G3) for older horses, both at seven furlongs, highlight a Winter Carnival program that features five stakes worth $800,000 in purses.
Also on the Feb. 15 program are a trio of $100,000 stakes - the one-mile Miracle Wood for 3-year-olds and seven-furlong Wide Country for 3-year-old fillies, and the John B. Campbell at about 1 1/16 miles for 4-year-olds and up.
Wachtel Stable, Peter Deutsch and Pantofel Stable's Spiced Perfection came up a head short of Late Night Pow Wow in last year's Barbara Fritchie before avenging that loss two months later in the Madison (G1) at Keeneland. The 5-year-old mare went on to win the Thoroughbred Club of America (G2) and Go for Wand (G3) and was most recently fourth as the favorite in the Inside Information (G2) Jan. 25 at Gulfstream Park.
Laurel-loving stablemates Cairenn and Majestic Reason are also nominated. Grade 3-placed Cairenn owns four wins, four seconds and two thirds in 10 tries at Laurel, including a victory in the 2018 Shine Again Stakes. Majestic Reason is nine-for-nine in the money at Laurel, four of them wins, led by the 2018 Miss Disco and 2019 Willa On the Move Dec. 28.
Other nominees include Laurel-based 10-time stakes winner Anna's Bandit; Blue Eyed Girl, a winner of three straight; 2018 Victory Ride (G3) winner Dixie Serenade; 2019 Santa Anita Oaks (G1) runner-up Flor de La Mar; multiple stakes winners Needs Supervision and Saguaro Row and Victim of Love, exiting a 3 3/4-length triumph in the Jan. 18 What A Summer at Laurel.
10-time stakes winner Anna's Bandit is under consideration for the $250,000 Runhappy Barbara Fritchie (G3) Feb. 15 at Laurel Park after turning in a sharp five-furlong breeze Sunday.
Anna's Bandit completed the distance in 1:01.40 over Laurel's main track, third-fastest of 15 horses, in her first work since having a six-race win streak snapped when second in the Geisha Stakes Jan. 18 in her 6-year-old debut.
"I had no intention originally, but you watch her gallop every day and she always goes nice and kind. The last couple days, she's been trying to run off," trainer Jerry Robb said. "She needed to do something so I came in and breezed her and she breezed real nice. I'm going to enter and if it looks like she has a shot to win it, I'm going to run her."
Anna's Bandit, bred by Robb in West Virginia, has won 16 races and $718,715 in purses from 33 lifetime starts, although she has never run in graded-stakes. Ten of her wins have come at Laurel.
Last year, Anna's Bandit finished in a seven-way tie for most wins of any horse in North America with nine from 11 starts, including a six in a row to cap the year, five in stakes.
Blue Eyed Girl, who impressively extended her win streak to three races last time out at Laurel Park, will return to Maryland to make her stakes debut in the $250,000 Runhappy Barbara Fritchie on Saturday, February 15.
The 68th running of the Barbara Fritchie for fillies and mares 4 and older is the co-headliner on Laurel's lucrative Winter Carnival program, along with the $250,000 General George (G3) for older horses. Both races are contested at seven furlongs.
A trio of $100,000 stakes will also be held during Winter Carnival, the biggest day of Laurel's ongoing winter meet - the one-mile Miracle Wood for 3-year-olds and 1 1/16-mile Wide Country for 3-year-old fillies, and the 1 1/16-mile John B. Campbell for 4-year-olds and up.
Nominations for all five stakes close Thursday, Feb. 6.
Blue Eyed Girl, a 4-year-old daughter of 2010 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Super Saver, made her Laurel debut Jan. 11 and rolled to a 6 1/2-length victory in a 6 1/2-furlong optional claiming allowance to kick off her season. She returned to the work tab for the first time since with a half-mile breeze in 48.45 seconds Monday at Parx, fourth-fastest of 16 horses.
"She's a very easy filly to train. She's all class," trainer Marcos Zulueta said. "We're looking to stay at Laurel Park for the stake on the 15th. We're going to shoot for that race."
Claimed for $20,000 out of a seven-furlong sprint win last June, Blue Eyed Girl has finished first or second in seven straight starts and has been third or better in 10 of 13 lifetime races. The Fritchie would be her first time facing stakes company.
"She's doing perfect right now. She's on top of her game," Zulueta said. "She's doing good, so we'll take a chance."
Zulueta has won 445 races and multiple stakes since 2011 but has yet to earn a graded triumph. Four of Blue Eyed Girl's six career wins have come since joining his barn, and he felt her most recent effort was her best yet.
"I know she can run, but I didn't know she could run like that. I was pretty impressed with her," Zulueta said. "I've always liked her. She's the kind of horse that has just gotten better and better and better."
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