Trainer Chad Brown had the horses to beat in two of the three graded stakes at Laurel on Saturday, and all ran to expectations as the conditioner enjoyed one-two finishes in both the $200,000 Baltimore/Washington International Turf Cup (G2) and $150,000 Commonwealth Oaks (G3).
In the one-mile Turf Cup, 6-5 favorite Projected headed long-time leader Xmas Sky passing the eighth pole and drew off to win by 1 1/4 lengths under Nik Juarez. Second choice Catapult, also trained by Brown, edged Ring Weekend for second by a nose.
“I just saw [Xmas Sky] go to the front and it looked to me that it was a really fast horse and really hard to take back, so I was just letting the speed go on and keep my trip patient,” Juarez said. “When it was time to run, Projected really just kicked on. They just told me to ride the way I’m comfortable and try to save ground and take the shortest way home, and we did just that.”
A homebred racing for Juddmonte Farms, Projected paid $4.40 after completing the course on firm ground in 1:34.25.
This was the first career stakes win for Projected, who placed second three times in stakes company in France prior to his importation. Earlier this year, he was the runner-up in the Dixie (G2), Poker (G3), and $100,000 Lure. A one-race experiment with blinkers resulted in a fifth in the Bernard Baruch H. (G2) most recently.
The English-bred is by Showcasing and out of Deliberate, a King’s Best half-sister to 2016 champion turf male Flintshire.
Unraced since winning the Sweetest Chant (G3) at Gulfstream on February 4, the Brown-trained Rymska showed no signs of rust in the Commonwealth Oaks.
Ninth through the first half-mile, the French-bred daughter of Le Havre charged down the center of the course to edge stablemate Taperge by three parts of a length under Feargal Lynch. Final time for nine furlongs was 1:46.94.
“I watched the replay of her race down in Florida when she won the stake last time at Gulfstream, and Joel [Rosario] did the same thing and sort of dropped her in,” Lynch said. “She was going nicely down the back but as soon as I got her to the outside, she had such acceleration. You don’t want to get stopped in her run. My only instructions were she’s got a huge acceleration so when she kicks, don’t get in her way. She just picked it up from there.”
The 2-1 favorite, Rymska paid $6.80. A half-length behind Taperge was 10-1 chance and pacesetter I’m Betty G, who clung to third by a nose over In the Lee.
Owned by Sheep Pond Partners et al, Rymska won two of three starts in France at the beginning of her career, including a minor stakes at Craon open to males. Second to future stablemate New Money Honey in the Miss Grillo (G3) in her American debut, she finished fifth behind that rival again in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) at Santa Anita.
Two-for-two this year, Rymska now sports a line of 7-4-1-1, $269,394.
In the $200,000 Commonwealth Derby (G3), Lynch guided the Maryland-bred Just Howard to a 7-1 upset over odds-on favorite Voodoo Song by three parts of a length in a time of 1:45.81 for 1 1/8 miles on the grass.
Owned by Skeedattle Associates and trained by Graham Motion, the son of English Channel was coming off narrow back-to-back wins in the $74,000 Caveat and the $75,000 Find, both for Maryland-breds at Laurel. His record now stands at 9-4-2-1, $266,520.