Laurel Park kicks off its 51-day fall meet with a nine-race Opening Day program Friday that includes six races contested over its world-class turf course.
A total of 102 horses were entered, an average of 11.3 per race, as Laurel looks to build on the momentum of its summer meet, which saw total handle rise 20 percent over 2015 as well as increases in average and in-state handle.
First race post time is 1:10 p.m.
Friday’s feature event comes in Race 8, a $ 45,000 optional claiming allowance for fillies and mares 3 and older going six furlongs on the main track. The field of seven includes 124-pound co-highweights Cursive, from summer meet co-training champion Hamilton Smith, and Scip’s Sonata, as well as 2015 Maryland Million Lassie winner Lexington Street.
Also on the program is a $ 42,000 allowance for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles on the All Along Turf Course in Race 6; a $ 40,000 maiden special weight at six furlongs in dirt for 2-year-olds in Race 5; and a $ 40,000 maiden special weight for 2-year-old fillies going 5 ½ furlongs on the Fort Marcy Turf Course in Race 4.
Smith and Tim Keefe shared Laurel’s 24-day summer meet title with 10 victories apiece while Jevian Toledo, Maryland’s leading rider in 2015, captured the jockey title with 29 wins. Smith has horses entered in two races Friday and Keefe is entered in one; Toledo is named in all nine races.
Fall meet racing will be conducted on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 31 with the exception of Christmas Day, Sunday, Dec. 25. There will be special programs on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 24, and Monday, Dec. 26.
A total of 32 stakes, four of them graded, worth $ 3.25 million in purses have been scheduled for the fall meet, not including the 31st annual Jim McKay Maryland Million Day program on Saturday, Oct. 22.
There will be five Super Saturday programs serving up multiple stakes starting with the Laurel Turf Festival on Saturday, Sept. 10, offering six stakes worth $ 575,000 in purses.
Also on Saturday is an individual gentlemen’s race in the FEGENTRI International Federation of Gentlemen & Lady Riders series. Founded in 1955, FEGENTRI’s main purpose is to promote international races for male and female amateur riders. Previous races in Maryland this year were won by France’s Lara Le Geay June 9 at Pimlico and Italy’s Evelyn Poehl July 23 at Laurel.
In addition to Saturday’s live racing, Laurel will also play host to the Hops and Horses Beer Fest featuring more than 100 beer selections, beer pong tournament, cornhole, Sam Adams stein hoisting competition, live music, DJ and karaoke from 1 to 6 p.m. Tickets are $ 40 for VIP and $ 15 for basic admission. For tickets or more information, visit http://www.ticketfly.com/event/1301271-hops-horses-beer-festival-laurel/.
Other highlights from the fall meet are Commonwealth Day on Saturday, Sept. 24 with eight turf stakes worth $ 850,000 including the Commonwealth Derby (G2), Commonwealth Turf Cup (G2) and Commonwealth Oaks (G3); and Fall Festival Day on Saturday, Nov. 19 offering seven stakes worth $ 825,000 led by the $ 350,000 Frank De Francis Memorial Dash, which was promoted to Grade 3 status for 2016.
For the complete stakes schedule, visit http://www.laurelpark.com/sites/www.laurelpark.com/files/PDF/Laurel2016StakesSchedule.pdf.
The Maryland Jockey Club Players’ Challenge Tournament begins Sunday, Sept. 11 and will follow with qualifying rounds the next seven Sundays leading up to the championship round on Sunday, Oct. 30. For more information, go to http://www.laurelpark.com/handicapping/players-challenge.
The 5th annual Brew and Bourbon Classic will be at Laurel from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19.
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