Sunday, September 14, 2008
MR. KEEPER PREPS FOR MARYLAND MILLION WITH OLIVER’S TWIST STAKES VICTORY
William Backer’s Mr. Keeper let the others do their thing before he split horses and drew off to a convincing victory in the $50,000 Oliver’s Twist Stakes for 2-year-old Maryland-breds at Laurel Park. The son of Lion Hearted will be pointed to the $150,000 Maryland Million Nursery at Laurel on October 4.
Pilanesberg shot to the lead in the 5-1/2 furlong test on the yielding turf but bolted entering the turn, carrying Helookslikearnold to the outer rail. That left four runners with a fighting chance, but Mr. Keeper had their measure and won off by three lengths in 1:03.56. Morning line favorite Peace Town, promising Ready to Cruise and Count on Lou scratched.
19-year-old Malcolm Franklin rode the winner for trainer Hamilton Smith. Mr. Keeper is now two-for-three lifetime, winning on the dirt at Colonial Downs on June 10 and finishing second in the Chenery Stakes at Colonial on July 26. After that effort he returned to Laurel and Smith worked the gelding four times, including a bullet five-furlong breeze last Saturday.
“He ran well,” said Smith, who won the Maryland Million Nursery with Carnivorous Habit in 1997. “Malcolm did a nice job on him. He didn’t get anxious with him early and rode with confidence.”
“When I saw (Pilanesberg) bolting on the turn, it was a good thing because it gave me a clean trip,” added Franklin, who rode a career-best four winners on the nine-race card. “I waited until I got down the lane and then let him open up. He’ll run well in the Maryland Million.”
The Maryland Million Nursery is a seven-furlong test on the dirt.
Franklin and Smith then won the final two races on the card with Pickering ($5.40) and Night Passage ($11.20). Franklin’s first win of the afternoon was aboard Snickerbritches ($6.60) in the fifth.
Smith leads all conditioners with six victories after the first seven days of the fall meeting.
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