Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
Well-regarded for his success with juveniles, both domestic and abroad, trainer Wesley Ward will be represented by a trio of 2-year-olds as part of Saturday’s Maryland Hall of Fame Day program at Laurel Park.
The $100,000 James F. Lewis for 2-year-olds and the $100,000 Smart Halo for 2-year-old fillies, both at six furlongs, are among five stakes worth $500,000 in purses on a 10-race card that begins at noon.
Calumet Farm’s Fayette Warrior, fourth in the Futurity Stakes Oct. 7 at Belmont Park, and Ward-owned and trained Hawaiian Noises, a recent maiden winner at Keeneland in his second start, drew Post 2 and 3 in the seven-horse Lewis.
Fayette Warrior will be racing for the first time on dirt after three turf starts. He was off the board in his debut Aug. 13 at Saratoga then broke his maiden impressively Sept. 6 at Kentucky Downs prior to the six-furlong Futurity, where he loomed a threat at the top of the stretch before tiring. Jose Ferrer, up for the maiden triumph, gets a return call.
“You kind of get stuck down in there [from Post 2]. It’s tough, but he’s certainly an experienced horse so we’re hopeful,” Ward said. “I feel pretty good about him. He’s had a lot of nice works on the dirt. We ran him at Saratoga and he was a little green. We came back and won at Kentucky Downs and he ran an incredible race at Belmont. All of his works on the dirt have suggested he’s certainly going to like it so we’re going to give a nice try and see what happens.”
Hawaiian Noises was unveiled on the same card as Fayette Warrior but finished well back after pressing the early pace. The son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver returned with a gutsy neck maiden special weight victory going six furlongs on the dirt Oct. 13 under Kent Desormeaux, who launched his Hall of Fame career in Maryland and is named to ride back.
“He might not be quite as good yet as Fayette Warrior,” Ward said. “I was really excited with his last race. I’ve always had high hopes for him but he just hasn’t really come through for me in his workouts. He’s one of the very few horses I can tell you was a complete surprise by winning. It was amazing. He burst through there and won.”
Among the challengers are a pair of colts exiting the Maryland Million Nursery Oct. 20, runaway winner Follow the Dog and beaten favorite Scrap Copper. Waldorf Racing Stables’ Follow the Dog hadn’t crossed the wire first through three starts, promoted to his Sept. 14 maiden win via disqualification, but was a no-doubt 3 ¼-length winner of the six-furlong Nursery, his first start with blinkers.
“He’s a very green horse that’s really just starting to figure it out. The race before, he broke a step slow and we tried to get him to rate. When he got off slow he just totally lost focus so we put the blinkers on and it worked out,” trainer Marya Montoya said. “He’s still learning.”
Kathleen Willier’s Scrap Copper won at first asking July 22 and came up a nose short in the Laurel Futurity over Laurel’s world-class turf course Sept. 22 in his second career start. In the Nursery, the Great Notion colt stumbled badly at the start and was never a factor finishing seventh.
“There was a [spot] where his foot just dug into the dirt and he couldn’t get his action. He went right to his nose and lost all chance. He never got a clear shot to run after that. The jock said he was boxed in the whole way. It was just a bad race,” trainer Hamilton Smith said. “He came out of it no worse for wear, thankfully. I don’t know if he’d have won the race but he’d have been on the board, at least, I felt. He was going into the race doing great. The stumble didn’t bother him; he didn’t grab his quarter or anything of that nature so we’ve been training him forward ever since.”
Rounding out the field are Grand River, Passcode, Sovereign Impact and Bustin to Be Loved.
In the Smart Halo, Ward entered Breeze Easy’s stakes-winning filly Mae Never No, a bay daughter of No Nay Never, who Ward trained to wins in the Group 2 Norfolk at Royal Ascot in 2013 and the 2014 Woodford (G3) at Keeneland, the same year he ran second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1).
With that in mind, Ward sent Mae Never No to Santa Anita to make her grass debut in the Speakeasy Stakes Oct. 6, where she finished third by a length as the favorite. Her three previous races were all on dirt, including a third in the 5 ½-furlong Tremont Stakes June 8 at Belmont Park and a front-running seven-length romp in an off-the-turf Colleen Stakes Aug. 4 at Monmouth Park.
“Being by No Nay Never, we kind of wanted to take a chance at the Breeders’ Cup. Being a ‘Win and You’re In’ race we flew her out there but she just doesn’t have an affinity for the grass. She still ran a real nice race,” Ward said. “This filly is much better on the dirt. We were looking for a sprint race. She’s up and ready to go, so here we are.”
Mae Never No was favored in the Tremont, a race where she took a 2 ½-length lead into the stretch before being passed by Laurel-based winner Our Braintrust, who has not raced since, and subsequent Sanford (G3) winner Sombeyay.
“She kind of had a little displacement when she ran in the [Tremont]. She opened up like she was going to win by 10 and kind of faltered the last 10 jumps and they swarmed her and beat her on the line,” Ward said. “After we scoped her, we did a little bit of an equipment change and then ran her in the race that came off the turf. I was really confident going in and she proved me right.”
Jose Ferrer, up for the Colleen, will ride back from outside Post 7.
“I love the post, I’ve got a rider that won on her and knows her and I’ve got confidence in her, so I’m excited,” Ward said. “I’ve always been high on this filly.”
Also entered are Congrats Gal, third in the Schuylerville (G3) and unbeaten in two starts at Laurel; Helen, third in the Sept. 22 Selima over Laurel’s turf Sept. 22; Our Super Freak, a, winner of two straight including a 6 ¼-length triumph on an off track Oct. 27 at Laurel; Love My Honey, Music of Life and Questionoftheday.