Let's see if we can turn last week's $184 return in this space into a little extra pumpkin pie for the Thanksgiving weekend. The Maryland Jockey Club at Laurel Park unveils a fantastic Fall Festival Program on Saturday that boasts 6 stakes races worth $100,000 each. You'll see many of the stars of the MJC circuit, but from a betting standpoint it doesn't get much better than 14 veteran sprinters in the Frank Whiteley Stakes. The Whiteley is named for the Hall of Fame trainer and Maryland native best known as the conditioner of the legendary filly Ruffian.
A trio of graded stakes winners headline the lineup, including G2 victor STILL HAVING FUN and G3 winners MAJESTIC DUNHILL and LAKI. Depth is provided by graded stakes-placed performers ARCH CAT, EASTERN BAY and ZENDEN. This is a stout lineup for a listed $100,000 stakes, so it will be difficult to win on the class rise.
The scramble for position in a 14-horse field of this caliber almost assures a hot early pace. ARTHUR'S HOPE will be sent from the rail, Charles Town ace PENGUIN POWER customarily finds the front (albeit around 2 turns at CT), ZENDEN has early pop as does CHARGE TO VICTORY and LAKI. This is a very tough race to read in terms of pace because of the field size and how that may impact clean trips from the gate. It won't hurt to be a strong finisher; that much is for certain.
The strongest finishers last out were MAJESTIC DUNHILL and ARCH CAT out of Belmont's Grade 3 Bold Ruler, where they finished first and third, respectively. Both have previously shipped to win at Laurel, so this is a form line that likely translates well in this case. Since the Bold Ruler, runner-up Share the Ride returned to win a Parx allowance and he notably was third in the G2 Vosburgh at Belmont prior. ARCH CAT will appreciate the cut-back to 6 furlongs perhaps more than MAJESTIC DUNHILL and has more propensity for the big prize; ARCH CAT has won 13 of 38 lifetime, while MAJESTIC DUNHILL's last out victory snapped a 10-race losing skid dating back to the 2018 City of Laurel Stakes locally. Given the likely price difference, ARCH CAT appeals more at the bigger number.
G3 DeFRANCIS DASH 1-2 nose finishers LAKI and EASTERN BAY also re-match in the Whiteley, moving their game across the Baltimore beltway from Pimlico's Preakness undercard. I bet EASTERN BAY that day and didn't like the ride, waiting too long to launch from the back. LAKI outfinished him by a nostril, but notice the 97 vs. 89 BRIS late pace figure difference in favor of EASTERN BAY. I prefer EASTERN BAY a second time in this matchup, and shed no tears with a jockey change to Alex Cintron.
STILL HAVING FUN's remarkable 3-year-old season of 2018 seems a faraway land now. He's winless in 12 tries since a Belmont Stakes Day undercard victory in the G2 Woody Stephens. This will be his second start since February and first since June, while picking up leading local jockey Trevor McCarthy. His workout tab indicates he's trending the right direction.
WHERESHETOLDMETOGO exits a restricted stakes win in Delaware Park's New Castle and has fired his shot just about every time he's been asked. The well-traveled, but lightly raced, 5-year-old now competes for red-hot trainer Brittany Russell, who has been on an extended run of success in Maryland. When teaming with husband/jockey Sheldon Russell, the family force has been winning 42% since the start of June at Laurel.
ZENDEN's trainer Carlos David has been hot in South Florida of late and this shipper already has a win over the track in allowance company. He's stepping up in class from that effort, but there's absolutely back stakes class that puts him on this level. A second-off-the-layoff form cycle could see him primed for a big effort.
Most Certain Exotics Contender: WHERESHETOLDMETOGO has been in the superfecta in 10 of his last 11, runs well on the Laurel surface and his connections have been on point.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender: PENGUIN POWER has been Charles Town's middle-distance kingpin for the past few seasons, racking up huge success in its 7-furlong (2 turn) races. He's won 13 of 17 and will venture to Laurel for the first time. Don't sleep on him; sire Fiber Sonde's daughter Midnight Pow Wow certainly proved herself in Maryland after dominating her home track with a series of listed and graded stakes wins at Laurel.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll): $50 win and place ARCH CAT.