HRI EDITED RELEASE — Laurel Park: A dazzling 8 ¾-length winner in last year’s $100,000 Maryland Million Sprint at Laurel Park, Linda Zang’s Lewisfield may well be in store for a much sterner challenge in Saturday’s renewal.
The Jeff Runco-trained 5-year-old gelding is scheduled to face seven rivals, including graded-stakes winner Call Paul in the six-furlong sprint for Maryland-sired and Maryland-bred 3-year-olds and up, which will be one of 11 stakes worth more than $1 million in purses on the 2019 Maryland Million program.
Lewisfield, although a winner of only one of five starts this year, brings a record of excellence over the Laurel racetrack, where he successfully defended his title in the Not for Love Stakes in March.
The Charles Town-based gelding, who has won six races and finished in the money in 10 of 12 starts at Laurel, is coming off a second-place finish to next-out winner Mr. Jagermeister in the Aug. 17 Chesapeake Stakes at Colonial Downs.
“He’s doing fine. He’s coming off that second-place finish at Colonial. This was a good breather between races. He’s had a couple nice workouts,” Runco said. “It looks like he’s ready to go.”
Runco, like Lewisfield, has also found success when shipping to Laurel Park, where he celebrated his 4000th career victory with Vua Saigon Dec. 9, 2017.
Runco was only the 12th trainer in history to reach that plateau and only one of a handful of trainers who saddled 4000 winners while scoring at a 20-percent or higher strike rate.
Lewisfield, a son of Great Notion, has finished in the money in 17 of 20 starts while amassing more than $425,000 in earnings.
“He’s just an honest horse. He brings it every time he runs,” Runco said. “As long as he has a good break and a good shot, he always runs well. He tries every time.”
With a good start, Lewisfield has been always forwardly placed and has been successful while either setting the pace or pressing it.
“He’s usually up close. He doesn’t need to be in front. He can sit off the pace,” said Runco, who has named Trevor McCarthy to ride Lewisfield. “Either way, he’s pretty versatile.”
Michael Dubb, David Simon and Bethlehem Stable LLC’s Call Paul, who has also shown the ability to win on the lead or off the pace, has demonstrated a high turn of foot while competing against strong competition.
The 3-year-old son of Friesan Fire, who was in contention at the top of the stretch in the H. Allen Jerkens (G1) at Saratoga two starts back, is coming off a three-length, front-running score in the New Castle Stakes at Parx against Pennsylvania-bred 3-year-olds and up.
“He’s doing very well,” said trainer Jason Servis, who named Paco Lopez to ride Call Paul.
Call Paul earned graded-stakes credentials while closing from fifth at the top of the stretch to win in the Feb. 2 Swale Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park. “It doesn’t matter. He can do it either way,” Servis said.
While Lewisfield will face Call Paul for the first time, he will renew a longstanding rivalry with Hillside Equestrian Meadows’ Laki, who defeated him in the April 20 Frank Whiteley Stakes the last time they met and also prevailed victorious in the Howard and Sondra Bender Memorial last December.
Laki finished behind a victorious Lewisfield in this year’s Not for Love, as well as the Polynesian, in which he finished second and was placed first via disqualification of his archrival.
“We’ve had a nice little rivalry the last year and a half or so, back and forth,” said Laki’s trainer Damon Dilodovico, who also entered Big Bertha Stable’s Taco Supream in the Sprint.
“I expect [Lewisfield] to be dangerous coming off a little bit of a break. I think he’s special with that kind of time away. Both my guys ran in late September. They both came out of their races well, but if I could switch it around I would.”
Laki, who finished sixth in the Sept. 28 Mr. Prospector Stakes at Monmouth, is slated to be ridden by Horacio Karamanos. Taco Supream, who finished second in the Sept. 28 Challedon Stakes at Laurel, will be ridden by Sheldon Russell.
Clove Hill Farm Inc. and Clover Hill Racing LLC’s Onemoregreattime, who set the early pace in last year’s Maryland Million Sprint before fading to fourth, is scheduled to take on Lewisfield again.
The 4-year-old son of Great Notion came off a nine-month layoff to capture a 5 ½-furlong allowance at Laurel Sept. 21.
“He came off a long layoff and won easy the other day. He ran a really nice race and deserves a shot,” trainer John Robb said. “He did very well. I was thinking he would run big. We was working dynamite going into the race.”
Xavier Perez has the return mount.
Rounding out the field will be Robert Akinson’s Confessor, Mens Grille Racing’s Hall Pass, and Bell Gable Stable LLC’s Fearless Terp.
Michael Hui and partners’ Pete’s Play Call and Marathon Farm’s Showalter, who are Maryland-bred but not Maryland-sired, were also entered and will only be eligible to run if the main body of the field of Maryland-sired horses is reduced to fewer than eight starters.