By Tom LaMarra
Lewisfield has done everything asked of him thus far, and on May 19 at Pimlico Race Course he’ll face his biggest test to date in the grade III, $150,000 Maryland Sprint Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs.
The Maryland Sprint, which attracted a field of nine and is slated as the ninth race, is one of two stakes on the Saturday program that are part of the 2018 MATCH Series. The other one is $100,000 The Very One Stakes for fillies and mares at five furlongs on the turf. The first two of 25 MATCH Series races will be held May 18 at Pimlico.
Lewisfield, a 4-year-old Maryland-bred Great Notion gelding owned and bred by Linda Zang, most recently won the state-restricted Not for Love Stakes at Laurel Park on March 17 in 1:09.13 for six furlongs. In his previous start, he won a six-furlong allowance race by 6 3/4 lengths in 1:08.95 at Laurel. His efforts at Laurel opened some eyes.
Jeff Runco, the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races-based trainer who conditions Lewisfield, prefers to space his horses’ races, and he said Lewisfield has had sufficient time between races heading into the Maryland Sprint.
“He’s doing really well,” said Runco, the leading trainer once again at Charles Town. “His works have been good, and he has had some time since that last race. It’s going according to plan. I expect a good performance out of him.”
Lewisfield, who has five wins, one second and one third in seven starts, has won impressively twice in open allowance company in Maryland. Arnaldo Bocachica, who has ridden the gelding in all of starts, is named to ride again.
Woodford Racing’s Switzerland needed eight tries to break his maiden, but thereafter he won two consecutive sprints in quick time at Oaklawn Park for trainer Steve Asmussen. Ricardo Santana Jr., who rode the 4-year-old Speightstown colt at Oaklawn, has a return call.
The Maryland Sprint Stakes is the first of five races in the 3-Year-Old and Up Sprint-Dirt Division.
Maryland Sprint Stakes final past performances
By Tom LaMarra
Trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Ricardo Santana teamed up for the second time in two days in a MATCH Series race when Switzerland, owned by Woodford Racing, powered to a 3 1/2-length victory in the grade III, $150,000 Maryland Sprint Stakes May 19 at Pimlico Race Course.
The Maryland Sprint is the first of five stakes in the 3-Year-Old and Up Sprint–Dirt Division. The $75,000 Mr. Prospector Stakes at Monmouth Park June 17 is next in line.
Switzerland, a 4-year-old Speightstown colt, followed in the steps of Vertical Oak, who won the May 18 Skipat Stakes at Pimlico for Asmussen, Santana, and owners J. Kirk and Judy Robison. The Skipat is the first leg of the five-race Filly and Mare Sprint–Dirt Division of the MATCH Series.
Switzerland sat just behind Red Dragon Tattoo, who led through the first three-eighths of a mile on a track rated sloppy. He took over before the half-mile mark and pulled away to win impressively in 1:09.43. Long Haul Bay, who was just behind Switzerland for most of the race, finished second, followed by Lewisfield, who was steadied early but rallied in into the land and held third.
Switzerland paid $7.80 to win as the second choice behind Long Haul Bay.
“David Ingordo picked him out,” Joe Minor, a partner in Woodford Racing, said of Switzerland. “He has been high on him since he picked him out at (auction).”
Switzerland had been trained by Chad Brown through is maiden-breaker in his eight start in February. He was transferred to Asmussen and won two allowance races at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas.
“He came into the barn a fast horse,” Asmussen said. “The key to winning this race was him getting a :22 4/5 first quarter. I was surprised he was able to do that. He has been progressing and training ideally. With a win like this in a race like this, we’ll have to regroup and see what’s out there for older sprint horses.”
When asked about the MATCH Series, Asmussen said: “We do have horses that seem to fit that, and we expect to use it.”
Switzerland, who now has four wins, two seconds and three thirds in 11 starts, earned 10 points for the MATCH Series win. New York-based Long Haul Bay collected 7 points, followed by Maryland-bred Lewisfield with 5. It was rounded out by Irish Colonel (3), Heartwood (2), and Laki, Fellowship, Sonny Inspired and Red Dragon Tattoo each with 1 point. There were no scratches from the Maryland Sprint despite the sloppy track.
Irish Colonel, trained by Laurel Park-based Cathal Lynch, is owned by Wire To Wire Stable and Sal DeBunda’s Dun Roamin Farm. DeBunda, President of the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said he hopes to Irish Colonel continues in the MATCH Series.
“That’s what we’re here for,” he said.