Saturday also marks the return of the Magna 5, the nationwide pick five wager on races at coast-to-coast tracks, beginning with the final race on the Laurel program. The other races are simulcast from Gulfstream Park, Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields. The wager has a $1 minimum bet with no guaranteed pool, which was not the case in previous five years.
Fascinatin’ Rhythm, the stronger half of the entry, will be ridden by Jozbin Santana. The daughter of More Than Ready earned her role as favorite with four wins in eight starts last year and second place finishes in both the Northern Dancer and Squan Song Stakes. She closed out 2008 with a 7-1/2 length romp against optional claiming company at Saturday’s distance.
For Kisses, who will be handled by Mario Pino, is the only stakes winner in the field with scores in the 2008 Monmouth Beach Stakes and 2007 Squan Song Stakes and eight in the money finishes in 16 added money races. The daughter of Not For Love finished fifth after a troubled trip in last year’s Nellie Morse but then rallied for third in the Grade II Barbara Fritchie Handicap. For Kisses has five wins in nine starts at the distance, including an upset of millionaire Silmaril 14 months ago.
“I like the chances of both of my fillies,” said Small. “Both are doing well, both are training well.”
The three closest rivals to the Small entry are all listed at 6-1, including two from the powerful Graham Motion barn: Sky Copper and Real Property. The two combined to win five of 18 races in 2008 but did not produce a stakes score.
Syd N Carly’s Rose, also 6-1, was claimed for $20,000 by Tim Hooper in October. She has since finished third and first at Philadelphia Park. Jose Flores will ride the Ecton Park mare for owner Michael Gill.
Trainer Chris Grove won the Nellie Morse with Silmaril (2005) and Lexi Star (2007) and supplemented Irvs Pick (8-1) into this year’s edition. The daughter of Slew O’Quoit has hit the board in eight consecutive starts and has won three of her last five starts, all at Charles Town.
“She keeps getting better and better,” Grove said.
Rounding out the field will be On a High Cloud (8-1), All Smiles (10-1) and La Bomba (12-1).