By Tom LaMarra
Matthew Schera’s Rocket Heat, claimed for $40,000 last November in California, will seek his third win in a row in the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint May 18 at Pimlico Race Course.
The Jim McKay, named for the longtime broadcaster and promoter of Maryland racing, is the first of five MATCH Series races in the 3-Year-Old and Up Sprint—Turf Division. It’s the 10th race on the 14-race Black-Eyed Susan Day program.
Rocket Heat, one of 10 entered in the five-furlong Jim McKay, went gate to wire in winning an open allowance race at 5 ½ furlongs on the grass at Laurel Park in his last start in April, and previously won a $25,000 claiming race at Santa Anita Park. Trained by Carlos Martin and to be ridden by Jorge Vargas Jr., Rocket Heat, a 6-year-old gelding by Latent Heat appears to have the best early speed and finished third in the Jim McKay in 2016.
Triple Burner, owned by Mens Grille Racing and trained by Laurel-based Linda Albert, rallied from fourth to finish second, a half-length behind Rocket Heat in the Laurel allowance race in his last start. Triple Burner, a 6-year-old Roaring Fever gelding, usually is close to the early pace, though a poor start in last year’s Jim McKay compromised his chances.
Ricardo Chiappe has a return call aboard Triple Burner.
Michael Hui’s Hogy, with seven wins in 11 starts at the distance, is scheduled to ship from Kentucky where he finished ninth in the grade I Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland in April after winning the one-mile, grade III Canadian Turf Stakes at Gulfstream Park in March. Trained by Mike Maker, Hogy was claimed for $80,000 last summer at Saratoga Race Course and since then has three stakes victories.
The 9-year-old Offlee Wild gelding will be ridden by Jose Ortiz, who was aboard when Hogy won a stakes at Sam Houston Race Park in Texas earlier this year.
By Tom LaMarra
The partners in Breeze Easy LLC appear to have a very good turf sprinter in their stable in Imprimis, who chased the early leader and blew by to win the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint May 18 at Pimlico Race Course.
The Jim McKay is the first of five races in the MATCH Series 3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint—Turf Division. And now that Imprimis is based at Monmouth Park in New Jersey, he could resurface in the series, his connections said.
Imprimis, now four-for-four lifetime, was trained by Timothy Hills his first two starts, and then purchased by Breeze Easy and transferred to trainer Joe Orseno, who said the 4-year-old Broken Vow gelding appeared to be a good candidate to compete in Florida-bred races but has earned a chance in open stakes.
“He has a really good turn of foot,” Orseno said. “He does what he has to do early and then turns it on. We bought him to face Florida-breds but he may stay in the MATCH Series, we’re just not really sure. To come back in 16 or 17 days (in the June 2 Pennsylvania’s Governor Cup) may not be too difficult since he had almost two months off. He could come back then, and if not, at (Parx Racing in the grade III Parx Dash).”
The Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course and the July 7 Parx Dash are the next two races in the MATCH division.
Heavy rain left the Pimlico turf course condition soft, and led half of the 10-horse field in the McKay to scratch. Rocket Heat grabbed the lead from the inside post in the five-furlong stakes with Imprimis not far behind and Oak Bluffs in third.
Imprimis took over in the stretch and pulled away to win by 5 ¼ lengths over Rocket Heat, with Oak Bluffs third. The winner paid $3.60 as the favorite and competed the five furlongs in 1:03.81 under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.
Imprimis earned 10 MATCH Series points for his win, followed by Rocket Heat with 7, Oak Bluffs with 5, Field of Courage with 3 and Vici with 2.
The partners in Imprimis are Mike and Phyllis Hall and Sam and Susan Ross. Mike Hall said he got into the Thoroughbred business “to have a little fun,” so he purchased Imprimis from his friend, Craig Wheeler, who bred the gelding.
“We’re looking at the MATCH Series for him,” Hall said. “I think it’s a wonderful project.”