More Than a Cruise rallies to win Conniver Stakes
More Than a Cruise stormed from last to first to win the $100,000 Conniver Stakes for Maryland-bred and/or Maryland-sired fillies and mares, the co-feature on Saturday's program at Laurel Park. Sent to post as the 8-5 second choice, the daughter of More Than Ready covered the 7-furlong distance under Julian Pimentel in 1minute, 25.55 seconds, drawing away to win by 33/4 lengths over Celtic Katie with Brenda's Way taking third. Betting favorite Tell a Great Story finished last. "They were going pretty quick up front, and she was nice and relaxed in the back," Pimentel said. "I saw a couple of horses battling, so I wanted to get a jump on them. They were on the turn when I asked her. She took off." The Larry Murray trainee, who finished second in the Conniver last year, has finished in the money in 11 straight races dating to August 2012. The win improves her record to four wins in 20 starts for earnings of $215,360. "She always tries. It doesn't matter where you put her," Murray said. "I like these conditions here as I did last year, but Bold Affair was in there and I didn't have any illusions about winning. I was happy with second last year. I gave her the summer off just to target these seven-furlong races here at Laurel. I still don't know what her best distance is, but we might try going a mile somewhere else because there's no seven furlongs at Pimlico. She's 5 this year and this may be her last. I think she'll be a great broodmare." More Than a Cruise paid $5.60.
Harrison E. Johnson Memorial Handicap: Ground Transport and Mr Palmer ran 1-2 all the way around and that's how they finished in the $100,000 race for 3-year-olds and up at Laurel. Ground Transport, who shipped from Fair Grounds, won the 11/8-mile test for his first stakes victory. At the finish, Trevor McCarthy and the son of Big Brown were 31/4 lengths ahead of Mr Palmer. It was another 31/2 lengths back to Swift Warrior, who beat Behemoth by a half-length. "The plan was for us to go for the lead and control the pace, and we were able to slow the pace down," McCarthy said. "That gave us lots of horse for the lane, and it worked out very well. He can be a tricky horse to ride and has to have his way. Today he got it. Once we got to the three-eighths pole we were confident, but when we got to the one-eighth pole, I thought I was the winner." Ground Transport covered the distance in 1:52.17 and paid $8.60. Michael Stidham trains the winner. He is 2-for-4 this year, including a fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 Mineshaft Stakes at Fair Grounds last month. "I told Trevor if they give us an easy lead we'd be there. If not, rate him and just ride it as it comes up," said assistant trainer Chris Davis. "We brought him in here Thursday morning and trained him yesterday. Obviously he likes it here, just a consummate professional. The trainer and I are on the same page. He's one of those trainers who doesn't give you a lot of instructions because too much can get a horse beat. Trevor rode him perfectly. Got him settled, relaxed him and took him home." McCarthy is in position to capture his first riding title with a commanding lead in the jockey standings. The 19-year-old apprentice has ridden 51 winners, 16 more than Victor Carrasco.