The Chick Lang Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds drew a compact field of six. The Maryland Sprint Match Series Stakes (G3) features 11 older runners. Both are contested over 6 furlongs on the main track.
It would be tough to overlook trainer Steve Asmussen’s Oaklawn Park shippers in the Chick Lang. Between them, Jaxon Traveler and Mighty Mischief have gone to the post eight times, returning winners in six of those starts with close seconds in the others.
Jaxon Traveler is the more accomplished of the two and has the advantage of a trip over the track. The Munnings colt won at first asking at Pimlico last September and followed that with victories in an allowance optional claiming event and the Maryland Juvenile Futurity, both at Laurel Park.
After a short break, Asmussen sent him directly to open stakes competition at Oaklawn where he just failed to hold off Sir Wellington after leading most of the way in the $150,000 Gazebo Stakes in his 3-year-old debut. He bounced back from that with a 2 3/4-length score in the $200,000 Bachelor Stakes April 24.
Mighty Mischief, by Into Mischief , did not race at 2 but got things off to a promising start Feb. 7 at the Hot Springs track. Facing a muddy strip, he led until the final yards, finishing second by three-quarters of a length. That was the only time in his three-race career he’s been behind another horse as he showed the way in two succeeding victories.
Connections of two others in the Chick Lang tested the waters for higher goals.
Willy Boi , an Uncaptured gelding, won his juvenile start in Florida but then finished eighth in the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) when facing two turns. He came back to win the Hutcheson Stakes at 6 furlongs.
Shackled Love , a Shackleford gelding, has been chained to the local circuit. He opened a few eyes with a win in the March 13 Private Terms Stakes at Laurel Park going 1 1/16 miles but a last out sixth-place finish in the Federico Tesio Stakes resulted in a return to the sprinting ranks.
Pimlico Race Course, Saturday, May 15, 2021, Race 3
- Grade III
- 3 yo
- 11:41 AM (local)
Strike Power Looks to Rebound in Maryland Sprint Match Series
Asmussen also saddles Strike Power , the morning-line favorite for the Maryland Sprint Match Series Stakes. Strike Power, a 6-year-old son of Speightstown , won a well-funded optional claiming event at Oaklawn March 11 but that was sandwiched by a fifth in the King Cotton Stakes and a fourth in the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) in his last start April 10.
Strike Power wins an allowance optional claiming race at Oaklawn Park
Special Reserve , a 5-year-old Midshipman gelding, was taken for $40,000 at Oaklawn in February and two starts later just failed to last after setting the pace in the Commonwealth Stakes (G3) going 7 furlongs at Keeneland for trainer Mike Maker.
Other invaders include Frosted Grace , a 5-year-old by Mark Valeski who was second behind Mischevious Alex in the Gulfstream Park Sprint (G3) two starts back and second again going 7 furlongs in his last start, the Sir Shackleton.
Laki and Lebda return from a 1-2 finish in the Frank Y. Whiteley Stakes over course and distance. Both have been mixing it up in the top local sprints, with mixed results. Laki, an 8-year-old Cuba gelding, posted the two most recent of his 11 career wins over the Pimlico strip and they were among his biggest. He rallied from near the back of the pack to win the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash Stakes (G3) on last year’s Preakness Stakes (G1) undercard and used the Whiteley win to prep for this.
Trainer Damon Dilodovico said he always felt Laki would like the Pimlico surface but added the gelding will have to reverse his penchant for finding trouble.
“Going back and looking at his races, maybe it wasn’t so much his doing. I think in a couple of them he got bounced around,” Dilodovico said. “I don’t care where he is, he finds trouble. He could be in an elevator by himself and he’ll bump into something. So maybe it was that.”
Lebda’s last triumphs came in succession at Laurel Park in the winter of 2020—the Miracle Wood and Private Terms. Trainer Claudio Gonzalez said a new “go for it” strategy resulted in the better result in the Whiteley.
“All the time we look too much in the paper (and say), ‘This one has speed or that one has speed,'” Gonzalez said. “The last time I said, ‘Okay, I don’t want to look at anybody. We’ll go.’ He did a good job taking the lead and tried to go easy, and he ran a big race. He got beat by a really good horse.”