Horsemen Adapting After Winter Sprintfest’s One-Week Delay At Laurel

In a sport where making last-minute adjustments is a daily occurrence, horsemen are adapting accordingly to the one-week transfer of the Winter Sprintfest program, originally scheduled for Feb. 13 at Laurel Park in Maryland.

The entire nine-race program featuring six stakes, two graded, worth $900,000 in purses will be run Saturday, Feb. 20. Co-headlining the card are the $250,000 Runhappy Barbara Fritchie (G3) for females and $250,000 General George (G3).

Barry Schwartz’s Grade 3-winning homebred Sharp Starr, based at Belmont Park with trainer Horacio DePaz, was one of two horses that shipped to Maryland for the Fritchie, which attracted a field of eight including Laurel-based multiple stakes winners Hello Beautiful, the 8-5 program favorite, and Dontletsweetfoolya.

“The only way it affects us, and it’s in a positive way, is the filly has more time to settle in,” trainer Horacio DePaz said. “I’m just going to leave her here at Laurel and train from here and go into the race. It’s all good on that part.”

Sharp Starr, winner of the Go for Wand (G3) Dec. 5 at Aqueduct, exits a bullet half-mile work in 47 seconds Feb. 6, the fastest of 140 horses over Belmont’s training track. She drew the rail in the Fritchie and is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line for DePaz, the former private trainer for Sagamore Farm who maintains a string at Pimlico Race Course.

“She had a huge work coming into it and she’s been doing good and settled in for the most part pretty good,” DePaz said. “It just gives us more time. She’s eating well, so hopefully we’ll get some nice days to train. We’ll see what happens.”

R.A. Hill Stable’s 2020 Bold Ruler (G3) winner Majestic Dunhill made the trip from Palm Beach Downs in South Florida to Maryland, where the 6-year-old gelding drew Post 4 in a field of 10 for the General George that included fellow graded winners Laki and Share the Ride and multiple stakes winners Lebda and Funny Guy, the 9-5 program favorite based in New York.

“Whenever you’re pointing for a race, particularly a stakes race, you put your horse on a schedule and have a very deliberate plan, and then something like this happens with the weather,” Majestic Dunhill trainer George Weaver said. “All the other horses have to deal with it, too. It is what it is.”

Majestic Dunhill shipped in to win the 2018 City of Laurel, run second in the 2019 General George and third in the 2017 Laurel Futurity on turf and 2019 Polynesian.

“I’m just going to leave him there and train him over the phone, and hopefully he does OK,” he added. “We know he likes it at Laurel.”

So, too, does Louis Ulman and Neil Glasser’s Kenny Had a Notion, whose four wins from seven career starts include the Jamestown on turf and the Maryland Million Nursery and Spectacular Bid on dirt, the latter Jan. 16. The son of Great Notion is the 5-2 second choice among seven in the $100,000 Miracle Wood for 3-year-olds going one mile.

“You know in this business, you’re calling audibles every day. So, we’ll have to see how the weather and the track is the next couple days and then I’ll decide what I need to do with him. Hopefully we can get something done with him before Saturday,” trainer Dale Capuano said. “The extra time won’t hurt him.”

Capuano also entered Mopo Racing’s 5-year-old gelding Dixie Drawl in the $100,000 John B. Campbell for 4-year-olds and up at about 1 1/16 miles. Dixie Drawl is third choice in the program at 9-2.

“I don’t think the extra time is going to bother him, either,” Capuano said. “I was going to scratch him anyway with the track coming up sloppy so, for him, it worked out just as well. It’s another chance for a fast track for him. We’ll see.”

The son of late trainer Phil Capuano whose younger brother, Gary, is also a Laurel-based trainer, Dale Capuano has won 3,530 races and more than $63 million in purse earnings since 1981, and is the all-time leading trainer in Maryland Million history with 13 wins.

“It was bad timing, but we’ll see what happens next week,” he said. “You never know what you’re gonna get.”

Laurel is scheduled to host a special Presidents Day holiday program Monday, Feb. 15, offering carryovers of $3,531.94 in the 20-cent Rainbow 6 (Races 4-9) and $1,386.50 in the $1 Super Hi-5 (Race 2). First race post time is 12:25 p.m.

Monday’s card includes a 5 ½-furlong allowance for Maryland-bred/sired horses in Race 7 that includes narrow 3-1 program favorite Nightlife and 2020 Wide Country winner Naughty Thoughts, and a third-level optional claiming allowance for older horses in Race 8 where Grade 3 winner Always Sunshine is favored at 2-1 off a Jan. 24 victory – his first start in 541 days.

John and Diane Fradkin’s Rombauer, sent off as the 6-5 favorite in a field of eight, rallied from last to first for a neck victory over Javanica in the $100,000 El Camino Real Derby Feb. 13 at Golden Gate Fields. Trained by Michael McCarthy and second in the American Pharoah (G1) last fall at Santa Anita, the bay Twirling Candy colt earned an automatic berth to the 146th Preakness Stakes (G1) May 15 at Pimlico.

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