Regardless of the sport, playing at home is an advantage. And the eight Maryland horses entered yesterday in the Barbara Fritchie Handicap on Saturday at Laurel Park will need every edge they can get when they race against Bear Fan.
The 5-year-old mare from California will make her first start outside her home state in the seven-furlong Barbara Fritchie, a Grade II stakes worth $200,000 that lured 12 fillies and mares.
Laurel-based Xtra Heat won the race the previous two years. This year, the little-known Bear Fan is the 7-5 morning-line favorite.
Bear Fan has won four of eight races, including two stakes for California-breds.
Wesley Ward trains Bear Fan, who has been ridden in races by Mike Smith and Jerry Bailey and breezed in the morning by Julie Krone. Ryan Fogelsonger, who has returned to Maryland after riding in California, will pilot Bear Fan in the Barbara Fritchie.
"Mike Smith told me she is a real nice filly to ride," Fogelsonger said. "Julie breezed her earlier this week and thinks she has a huge engine. Apparently she breaks slowly, but she'll run them down."
According to Laurel oddsmaker Frank Carulli, the horses most likely to spoil Bear Fan's trip are Gazillion at 9-2, Bronze Abe at 6-1 and Shiny Sheet at 8-1. Those three are based at Laurel.
Thirty minutes before the Barbara Fritchie (4:25 p.m. Saturday), New York-based Evening Attire will compete in the John B. Campbell Handicap, a 1 1/8 -mile race for older horses worth $150,000.
The 6-year-old gelding, a son of 1991 Horse of the Year Black Tie Affair, has won 10 of 29 races and earned $1.9 million. He has competed in the country's premier races and won six graded stakes, including the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup in 2002.
The Campbell and Barbara Fritchie will kick off Laurel's Winter SprintFest. The $75,000 Jameela Stakes will take place Sunday, followed the next day by the Grade II, $200,000 General George Handicap.
PP Horse Trainer Odds
1. River Cruise Larry Murray 15-1 2. Wallop Donald Barr 30-1 3. Balmy John Servis 10-1 4. Gazillion Hamilton Smith 9-2
5. Bronze Abe Bud Delp 6-1 6. Worldly Pleasure John Alecci 20-1 7. Pleasant Note Christopher Grove 30-1 8. Bear Fan Wesley Ward 7-5
9. Shiny Sheet Charles J. Hadry 8-1 10. Jester Rahab Bruce Levine 20-1 11. Bamba John Scanlan 12-1 12. City Fire Mark Shuman 12-1