By Tom LaMarra
Three Maryland-bred geldings will seek to pad their MATCH Series points in the 3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint—Dirt Division when they square off in the $100,000 Polynesian Stakes at Laurel Park Aug. 12.
The seven-furlong Polynesian attracted a field of six. It serves as a local prep for the grade III, $250,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash, final leg of the division, on Sept. 15.
Linda Zang’s homebred Lewisfield, who leads the division with 12 points, finished third in the grade III Maryland Sprint Stakes and second in the Mr. Prospector Stakes, the first two legs of the division. Trainer Jeff Runco then passed on the third leg, the Hockessin Stakes, to try the 4-year-old in a Breeders’ Cup-quality grade II sprint stakes in New York, and Lewisfield finished a credible fourth.
With a start in the Polynesian, Lewisfield will qualify for MATCH Series bonus money as will owner/breeder Larry Johnson’s It’s the Journey (5 points), who finished in the Mr. Prospector and fourth in the Hockessin. The Mike Trombetta trainee, like Lewisfield, has an affinity for the Laurel main track.
Hillside Equestrian Meadows’ Laki has competed in all three division races so far for a total of 8 points. Trained by Damon Dilodovico, Laki will automatically earn 5 points for his fourth division start on top of points earned for his finish in the Polynesian.
All three are in the running to win their breeder a $5,000 bonus from the Maryland Horse Breeders Association for accumulating the most points in the Maryland breeders’ bonus division for top points-earning male in the MATCH Series.
By Tom LaMarra
Hillside Equestrian Meadows’ Laki moved to the top of the MATCH Series overall points standings after he was placed first on a disqualification in the $100,000 Polynesian Stakes, fourth leg of the 3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Dirt Division, Aug. 12 at Laurel Park.
In one of the closest finishes in this year’s series, favored Lewisfield and Laki battled from the top of the stretch to the wire in the seven-furlong Polynesian, with Linda Zang’s Lewisfield a nose in front and the end. The stewards, however, ruled that Lewisfield drifted out and caused interference in deep stretch.
Lewisfield, based at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races with trainer Jeff Runco, entered the Polynesian with 12 points and the division lead. He picked up 7 points for finishing second and is now second with 19. The Maryland-bred gelding is now eligible for MATCH Series bonus money as well as bonus points should he compete in the final division leg, the grade III, $250,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Sept. 15.
Laki has now competed in the first four legs of the division, and thus picked up 5 points along with 10 for his first-place finish in the Polynesian. He already had 8, so that gives him 23–one more than both Page McKenney (3-Year-Olds and Up Long–Dirt Division) and Oak Bluffs (3-Year-Olds and Up Sprint–Turf Division) for the overall lead.
The final time for the seven furlongs on a track rated good after a storm blew through was 1:23.24. Laki, ridden by Horacio Karamanos, paid $16.60 to win as the third choice. Rockinn On Bye finished third.
Runco, who watched the head-one replay in the winner’s circle while waiting for the result, said he thought the call could go either way. Laurel-based Damon Dilodovico, who trains Laki, agreed.
“Honestly, I tried to block it out of my mind,” he said. “I’ve been taken down in a race that went like that (in the stretch near the wire). The finish was so close–you win some and lose some.”
Dilodovico said Laki, in sticking with the MATCH Series, has been racing about once a month because “he has been training well and doing the right things. But I can tell you, it’s still grueling. I think having the home-court advantage here definitely helps. It’s better coming out of your own bed.”
Dilodovico said the De Francis Memorial is a target for Laki.
“We’ll see how he’s doing,” the trainer said. “Lewisfield could very well be favored in that race.”
Larry Johnson’s It’s the Journey also now qualified for bonus money given the fact the Polynesian was his third start in the division. Laki, Lewisfield and It’s the Journey are all Maryland-breds, and the breeder of the highest point-getting Maryland-bred in the overall MATCH Series is eligible for a $5,000 bonus from the Maryland Horse Breeders Association.