By Tom LaMarra
Ms Locust Point, a graded stakes winner for Cash is King and James Reichenberg, will look to get back on track in the $100,000 Skipat Stakes, which will kick off the 2018 MATCH Series May 18 at Pimlico Race Course.
The Skipat, for fillies and mares at six furlongs, attracted a field of eight. It’s the fifth race on the 14-race Black-Eyed Susan Stakes Day program. The $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint, also part of the MATCH Series, is the 10th race on the Friday program.
Ms Locust Point, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred filly by Dialed In, has won six of nine starts for trainer John Servis, including the grade II Barbara Fritchie Stakes at Laurel Park in February. That effort led Servis to try the filly in the grade I Madison Stakes at Keeneland in April, but she broke last in a 10-horse field and was taken out of her game.
Ms Locust Point, who is based at Parx Racing, finished eighth in the Madison after struggling to overcome the start.
“We went out there and tackled grade I horses,” Servis said. “She didn’t break good, and once that happens you’re just asking for trouble. Then she made up about six lengths into a wicked pace. She just came up a little empty.
“She’s doing good now, and I’m just looking for a spot to get her back in the winner’s circle.”
Ms Locust Point, who likes to ramble on the lead, has four wins in five starts at six furlongs; the only loss at the distance was a second-place finish in her career debut as a 2-year-old. Jorge Vargas Jr., who has ridden the filly in seven of her races, has the return call.
J. Kirk and Judy Robison’s Vertical Oak, a 4-year-old Giant Oak filly who won the grade III Miss Preakness Stakes last year at Pimlico, finished third in the Carousel Stakes at Oaklawn Park in April in her first start of 2018. Trained by Steve Asmussen, Vertical Oak last year won the grade II Prioress Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
Ricardo Santana Jr. has a return call aboard Vertical Oak, who is 5-for-11 at the distance.
The Skipat Stakes, one of five races in the Filly & Mare Sprint–Dirt Division of the MATCH Series, is named for the Connecticut-bred mare who won 26 of 45 starts from 1977 to 1981 and won multiple stakes at tracks in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions. She won the graded Barbara Fritchie Handicap, then held at Bowie Race Course, twice in her career.
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 at five furlongs. 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.
Rocket Heat, one of 10 entered, went gate to wire in winning an open allowance race at 5 1/2 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 Vargas, 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.