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LAUREL, MD – Frank Demarco’s Honor the Fleet dug in deep to neck out a narrow victory for his first stakes score in Saturday’s $100,000 Fire Plug Stakes at Laurel Park.
Breaking from post 4 under Alex Cintron at 6/1 odds, Honor the Fleet initially raced near the front before taking back into a close stalking position, running two-wide in a group of four. Ahead of him, Long May You Run and Dupree dueled heads apart through opening fractions of :22.92 and :46.13.
Off the far turn, Dupree shifted out to the two path, giving Honor the Fleet an opening along the rail. Cintron dove through it and put his mount to a drive while Threes Over Deuces powered past Dupree’s outside.
Fighting hard along the inside, Honor the Fleet was able to out-game Threes Over Deuces at the wire by a neck. The Louis Albertrani trainee completed the 6 1/2-furlong sprint over the good main track in a final time of 1:17.09.
“Louis told me how to try to keep him in the clear and give the horse a nice comfortable trip,” Cintron said. “I didn’t really have too much room on the backside. I had to keep inside the whole way and I had to wait for the fence to open up. At the 1/4 pole, the horse on the lead just moved out and I had a nice trip from there.”
Tiz He the One made a mild rally from mid-pack to take third by a 1/2-length over Arch Cat, the 2/1 favorite who had to check off heels 1 furlong into the race and was positioned too far back to threaten the top three finishers.
Dupree faded in the stretch to fifth, crossing ahead of Brother Chub and an empty Long May You Run to complete the order of finish. Still Having Fun‘s connections scratched him in favor of running in the Toboggan Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct, where he finished fifth.
Honor the Fleet’s win was second straight, having won a local allowance/optional claiming event on November 23. The 6-year-old gelded son of To Honor and Serve improved his record to 16-5-2-1 with $207,460 earned.
“He has so much ability and he has run hard against some nice horses and he’s very competitive,” Albertrani said. “We’ve had a little bad luck with him over the last couple years, battling abscesses in his feet and quarter cracks. We’ve solved all those problems and he came back good his last race and showed incredible ability, so we thought let’s take a shot in the Fire Plug and get 2020 off to a good start.”
Honor the Fleet returned $15.40 to win, $8.40 to place, and $5.60 to show. Threes Over Deuces brought back $5 to place and $3.40 to show, while Tiz He the One paid $3 to show.
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