Even with multiple graded stakes winner Toccet out chasing an Eclipse Award and Cherokee's Boy running yesterday in the NTRA Great State Challenge in Texas, Crafty Guy showed the depth of quality in Maryland's 2-year-olds in blazing to victory in the $40,000 Primer Stakes at Laurel Park.
Steady sunshine thawed out the racing surface, putting a little spring in the clay and dirt course, but among the fast times recorded during the day Crafty Guy's was exceedingly quick, as he ripped through six furlongs in 1 minute 8.98 seconds. The time was just a second off the track record and one of the fastest six-furlong times recorded at Laurel.
Owner Michael Gill bought Crafty Guy privately for $120,000 in February after he failed to sell at auction in Florida. The colt immediately paid him back by breaking his maiden and then winning a $200,000 stakes race at Delaware over the summer. When trainer John "Jerry" Robb tried to stretch Crafty Guy's speed to a mile, however, the horse fell apart and finished ninth in his next start.
"Mike Gill was disappointed in the [race]," Robb said. "I said, 'Don't give up on this horse.' "
In the Primer, Crafty Guy showed his raw speed, sprinting to the lead from his inside post position and running the first quarter-mile in 22 seconds for jockey Mark Johnston. Gators N Bears briefly engaged him on the backstretch and Mt. Carson attacked on the turn, but Crafty Guy easily repelled both, pulling away to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Gators N Bears held for second and late-running Gimmeawink was third.
"Being down on the inside, the plan was to go," Johnston said in the winner's circle. "We had to use him a little, but we got him a breather on the turn."
Robb's 2-year-old stakes-winning filly, Makin Heat, was transferred by Gill to the barn of trainer Mark Shuman, who is wintering in Florida. Robb said he hopes to hang on to Crafty Guy through the winter. "I haven't picked [his next race] yet, but I hope he stays right here."
Racing Note: Local turf star La Reine's Terms led a strong Maryland contingent in the first NTRA Great State Challenge at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston, winning the $275,000 Great State Challenge Turf under rider Horatio Karamanos. La Reine's Terms put away heavily favored Forbidden Apple on the turn and won the 11/8-mile race in 1:51.61.