El Areeb, Page McKenney Among 154 Ben’s Cat Day Stakes At Laurel

Multiple Grade 3 winner El Areeb, a one-time leading Triple Crown contender unraced since being injured in late March, and claimer-turned-millionaire Page McKenney are among 154 horses nominated to six stakes worth $575,000 in purses to be run Saturday, Nov. 11 at Laurel Park.

The stakes-filled program features a tribute to late Mid-Atlantic legend Ben’s Cat, a 26-time stakes winner of more than $2.6 million in purse earnings.

M M G Stables’ El Areeb is one of 23 nominees to the $100,000 City of Laurel for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs. He won the Jerome (G3) and Withers (G3) to open 2017 and put himself among the top sophomore prospects before hurting his knee while prepping for a start in the Wood Memorial (G2).

Also nominated are multiple stakes winners Bonus Points, who took the Maryland Million Classic Oct. 21 at Laurel, and Sonic Mule from the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher; stakes winners Harmac, No Dozing, Uncontested and Winplaceshowono; graded stakes-placed Beasley, Honor the Fleet, Petrov, Tale of Silence and True Timber.

Adam Staple and Jalin Stable’s Page McKenney tops 28 horses nominated to the $100,000 Richard W. Small for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles. The 7-year-old gelding, trained by Mary Eppler, has won 20 of 51 career starts and four of seven in 2017, all in stakes, including the Native Dancer Jan. 21 at Laurel off a nine-month layoff.

Trainer Graham Motion nominated Ascend, winner of the Manhattan (G1) June 10 at Belmont Park, who kicked off his 5-year-old season with a victory in the Henry Clark April 27 at Laurel. Ascend has made 15 of his 17 lifetime starts on turf including back-to-back fifth-place finishes in the Arlington Million (G1) and Turf Classic Invitational (G1).

Other nominees include Bonus Points; Grade 3 winners Classy Class, Fear the Cowboy, Just Call Kenny and Watershed; multiple stakes winners Bodhisattva, Fellowship, Marengo Road, No Distortion and Talk Show Man; and Linda Rice-trained stakes winners Matt King Coal and Seymourdini, both 2-0 at Laurel.

Leading the way with 41 nominations is the $100,000 Safely Kept for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs, led by multiple stakes winners Crabcakes and Shimmering Aspen. Morgan’s Ford Farm’s Crabcakes has won three straight races, two in stakes, most recently the Maryland Million Distaff Oct. 21. Hillwood Stable’s Shimmering Aspen won the Alma North and Twixt over the track and distance over the summer at Laurel.

Seven other stakes winners are nominated including Moonlit Song, a winner of three straight and eight of her last nine races, five of them in stakes, at Charles Town; as well as undefeated Shackleford filly Angel At War and Grade 2-placed Dawn the Destroyer, Jamyson ‘n Ginger and Torrent.

Stakes winners Barry Lee, second in the Futurity (G3) Oct. 14 at Belmont last out, Enchanted Star, Kowboy Karma, Whereshetoldmetogo and Clever Mind, who took the Maryland Million Nursery in his career debut Oct. 21, lead 20 2-year-olds nominated to the $100,000 James F. Lewis III at six furlongs.

Oak Tree Stables’ Enchanted Star is also among 29 nominees in the $100,000 Smart Halo for 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs, along with fellow stakes winners Limited View, Pacific Gale, Rose to Fame, Take Charge Paula, Wise Gal and Yes to the Dress; and Flowers Vale, Frigid Sister and Maurer Power, all unbeaten in two starts yet to attempt stakes company.

Rounding out the stakes is the $75,000 Geisha for Maryland-bred/sired fillies and mares 3 and up at one mile which attracted 13 nominations led by Miss Nosy, a winner of three straight capped by the Maryland Million Distaff Handicap.

In addition to the stakes Laurel will be giving away a poster and bobblehead in the likeness of Ben’s Cat, whose ashes will be buried adjacent to the historic paddock. His Hall of Fame breeder, owner and trainer, King Leatherbury, and the five jockeys to ride him will also sign autographs following the third race.

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