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LAUREL, MD – Hillwood Stable’s Cordmaker cut through his foes in midstretch before grinding away late to win Saturday’s Harrison E. Johnson Memorial Stakes at Laurel Park.
Breaking from post 6 under Victor Carrasco at 4/1 odds, Cordmaker took back and settled in a stalking position while John Jones posted leisurely opening fractions of :25.40, :49.29, and 1:12.61. As the field tightened up as the pace quickened in the far turn, Carrasco steered Cordmaker through an opening in the middle of the pack. At the top of the stretch, the six entries fanned out for an all-out sprint to the finish. Cordmaker put his nose in front nearing the 1/8 pole and dug in to fend off Unbridled Juan to win by 1 1/4 lengths. The Rodney Jenkins trainee crossed in a final time of 1:50.29 for the 1 1/8-mile event over the fast main track.
“I saw that we didn’t have any speed in the race, so I was trying to be as close as possible,” Carrasco said. “I followed Rodney’s instructions, and when we got to the far turn, I knew we were going to be right there.”
Sent off as the slight 2/1 favorite, Unbridled Juan was unable to make up ground on the winner in the stretch, then nearly lost second at the wire but was able to hold off Bonus Points by a head. Further back, John Jones weakened to fourth but still crossed ahead of General Downs and Twisted Tom, who completed the order of finish. Forewarned was scratched.
Cordmaker’s win was his second in his past three starts, having taken the mile-long Jennings Stakes here on December 29, and improved his overall record to 11-4-2-1. The 4-year-old gelded son of Curlin, who was stretching out to this distance for the first time on dirt, has now earned $200,463.
“The horse has been running really well,” Jenkins said. “A mile and 1/8, he’s bred for it but you never know if they’ll do it. The horse has been training beautiful and doing great.”
Cordmaker returned $10.80 to win, $4.40 to place, and $2.80 to show. Unbridled Juan brought back $3.60 to place and $2.40 to show, while Bonus Points paid $2.80 to show.
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