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Laurel Park Picks | Stormy Blues Stakes 2024
Amidst Waves (Angelo Benedetto/EQUI-PHOTO)

Laurel Park Picks | Stormy Blues Stakes 2024

Having earned a graded-stakes placing in her season debut last month, Amidst Waves returns chasing a third stakes win in Sunday’s $100,000 Stormy Blues for 3-year-old fillies at Laurel Park.

The Stormy Blues, scheduled for 5 ½ furlongs on the Exceller turf course, is the first stakes of Laurel’s 33-day summer meet and headliner on a nine-race Father’s Day program featuring Bourbon and BBQ and a vintage car show (weather permitting).

First race post time is 12:25 p.m.

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Owned by Big Tufff Stables, Blackridge Stables, Black Type Thoroughbreds, R.A. Hill Stable and Swinbank Stables, Amidst Waves ran third by 1 ¼ lengths in the May 12 Soaring Softly (G3) sprinting six furlongs on the Aqueduct turf.

It was her first race since finishing 10th, beaten four lengths by multiple British group stakes winner Big Evs, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1) Nov. 3 at Santa Anita, her second straight start against the boys.

“It was a great way to start the year,” co-owner Reagan Swinbank said. “We’re excited about her. She’s always been a sound horse and does everything well. Can’t wait to see what she does.”

Amidst Waves was purchased out of a 3 ¾-length maiden special weight win last June at Belmont Park, her first try on turf after running fourth in debut a month earlier on the Gulfstream Park dirt. She immediately reeled off wins in the Colleen at Monmouth Park and Bolton Landing at Saratoga before running second as the favorite by a nose facing males in the 5 ½-furlong Indian Summer at Keeneland.

“We bought her as a 2-year-old after her [second] race. We liked her then, and she obviously had a good year. She was ready to win some races for us,” Swinbank said. “We were excited to get her going as a 3-year-old and she came out and got third in a stakes race that we were very happy with. We’re excited to see what she does the rest of the season.”

Thus far Amidst Waves has displayed the ability to race near the lead or come from off the pace, a versatility that the connections believe serve her well particularly in large fields such as the Stormy Blues, which drew 15 entries. The daughter of Midshipman drew Post 7 with jockey Feargal Lynch to ride.

“She’s only 3 so we’re still trying to figure out the perfect trip for her and what she likes, but she’s shown the ability to go early and to rate a little bit. That’s what makes her so fun,” Swinbank said. “Turf sprinting, the trip is so important. To be able to hit the board in both race scenarios is pretty exciting.”

Amidst Waves has also shown an affinity for different surfaces, having won the Bolton Landing and run third in the Soaring Softly over courses rated good. The Stormy Blues will mark her eighth different racetrack in as many starts.

“We’ve just got to find all the turf sprints in the country. That’s what we’re after this year,” Swinbank said. “We think that’s her best approach. She’s going to stay short and stay on the grass.”

Like Amidst Waves, Wertheimer and Frere homebred Toupie has made one start this year, finishing second by less than a length in the 5 ½-furlong Mamzelle May 11 at Churchill Downs. It was her first race since running third as the favorite in the six-furlong Sandpiper Dec. 2 on the dirt at Tampa Bay Downs.

“We wanted to give her some time after the Tampa race and just freshen her up a little bit,” trainer Graham Motion said. “I originally planned to run her at Keeneland but it came off the grass so we waited for the Churchill race. She ran super that day. She’s better this year. She’s very nice. I really like her. She’s improved.”

Toupie was third or better in four of her five starts at 2, breaking her maiden at first asking in July over Laurel’s main track. She ran second in the 5 ½-furlong Rosies on the Colonial Downs turf in September and won the six-furlong Stewart Manor in November on the grass at Aqueduct.

“She was good last year but she’s a bigger, stronger filly this year,” Motion said. “She was a little small last year, but she’s really developed. I think this is what she wants to do. She’s pretty quick. I made the mistake of trying to stretch her out which is something I try to do with everybody, to my fault. Her pedigree would tell you she should handle it but she’s quick.”

By champion Uncle Mo out of the Tapit mare Amertume, Toupie’s lone hiccup was a troubled 10th as the favorite in Keeneland’s Jessamine (G2) last fall, contested at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.

“Other than the one race she hasn’t done anything wrong, and that was entirely my fault,” Motion said. “She’s a high-energy kind of filly. I thought I had to try her on the dirt again one [more] time and that’s why I ran her at Tampa. She has plenty of dirt in her pedigree, but she’s a grass sprinter. I believe that. Would I run her on the dirt if it came off? Maybe. She does handle that.”

Jorge Ruiz is named on Toupie from Post 10.

“She’s a nice filly and I want to do right by her,” Motion said. “It’s tough placing those sprinting 3-year-olds. There’s only so many spots you can go to. And, if she runs well she’ll have to come [to Saratoga] if she’s good enough, which I think she is.”

Cap Classique, Carmelina, Miss Harriett and Roanan Goddess are all dirt stakes winners seeking similar success on grass. Cap Classique broke her maiden last August in debut on the Colonial Downs turf before winning Laurel’s six-furlong Smart Halo and most recently ran in the May 17 Miss Preakness (G3) at Pimlico, where she finished fourth. Also exiting that race is Carmelina, a three-time stakes winner including the 2023 Gin Talking at Laurel, who was eighth.

Roanan Goddess also used the Colonial turf to graduate last fall in her second start, going on to win the six-furlong Xtra Heat Jan. 27 at Laurel. Miss Harriett broke her maiden with a 62-1 upset of the Maryland Million Lassie in October and has been winless in three starts since opening her sophomore season with back-to-back wins including the seven-furlong Wide Country Feb. 24 at Laurel.

Also entered in the Stormy Blues Stakes at Laurel Park are:

  • Independenceavenue, who was fourth, a nose behind Amidst Waves, in the Soaring Softly
  • Low Mileage, winner of Colonial’s 5 ½-furlong Jamestown for Virginia-breds on turf last fall
  • Discreet Ops, third in the Miss Preakness yet to run on grass
  • My Girl Ginger, third in the March 30 Serena’s Song on Turfway Park’s all-weather surface
  • Concerti
  • El Terreno
  • Parola Sicura
  • Shuangxi

Caress is entered for main track only.