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Wide Country Stakes 2024 | Laurel Park Picks
Roanan Goddess (Maryland Jockey Club)

Wide Country Stakes 2024 | Laurel Park Picks

Mens Grille Racing’s Roanan Goddess, fearless winner of her first stakes race last month in her third try, faces a new cast of characters when she returns looking for a repeat performance in Saturday’s $100,000 Wide Country Stakes at Laurel Park Race Track.

The Wide Country is the next step in Laurel’s 3-year-old filly stakes series that began with the Xtra Heat and continues with the one-mile Beyond the Wire March 23 and 1 1/16-mile Weber City Miss April 20, an automatic ‘Win and In’ qualifier for the 100th Black-Eyed Susan (G2) May 17 at Pimlico.

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After finishing off the board in the Smart Halo and Gin Talking at Laurel to cap her juvenile campaign, Roanan Goddess drew the rail in the six-furlong Xtra Heat Jan. 27 and was still stuck down inside approaching the eighth pole, when she powered through tight quarters and went on to win by 2 ¼ lengths.

“Down the lane a horse came over on her and bumped her pretty solid, actually, and she just pinned her ears and said, ‘Let’s go.’ She’s a gritty little thing, she really is,” trainer Hamilton Smith said. “I was very pleased with the way she responded there.

“She acted like she was mad and she drew off pretty impressively in that particular race,” he added. “It’s a different bunch this coming week and if she can come back and perform like she did the last time she should be able to compete, I would hope. We’ll see.”

Smith swept all four Black-Eyed Susan prep races with two-time Maryland champion Luna Belle in 2022. Jeiron Barbosa, aboard for two of her three wins from seven starts including the Xtra Heat, returns to ride from outermost Post 7.

“Everything has been pretty much normal. She’s a hyper little filly and she hasn’t backed off at all, so we’re going to go ahead and try it again and see what happens,” Smith said. “We’ll run her this time and see how she does and then might just lay off her about a month or so, give her a little break. She was just doing so good, we decided to come back and try again.”

Three other stakes winners have signed on for the Wide Country. Joanne Shankle-owned and trained Kissedbyanangel went gate to wire to win the seven-furlong Maryland Juvenile Filly by two lengths Dec. 2, then ran fifth in the Gin Talking and most recently was third in the Jan. 7 Glitter Woman at Gulfstream Park.

Narrow Leaf Farm’s Miss Harriett upset the Maryland Million Lassie at odds of 62-1 in her career debut Oct. 14 at Laurel. After running fifth in the Smart Halo, she rebounded with a front-running optional claiming allowance score by seven lengths Jan. 14. Stronach Stable Inc. homebred Shamans Girl has run once, a 3 ½-length winner of the six-furlong Shady Well on Woodbine’s all-weather surface Dec. 2.

D. Hatman Thoroughbreds’ Determined Driver broke her maiden on the turf last summer at Colonial Downs, then ran second against the boys despite bobbling at the start and getting pinched back in the Timonium Juvenile. The Dialed In filly didn’t race again for four months, returning with a 1 ¾-length victory in an six-furlong optional claiming allowance Feb. 9 at Laurel.

“She is a real game filly. She’s kind of had some lingering physical issues that’s made us start and stop with her, and she hadn’t had a real consistent training patters going into the race. I wasn’t 100 percent certain how fit she was,” trainer Phil Schoenthal said. “Obviously I felt like she was fit enough to run and was pleased that she dug deep and got the job done. She seems to have come out of it OK. We’re not really sure if the two weeks rest going into the stake is ideal for her, but we’ll see what happens.”

Perfectly Wicked, third in the Tempted last fall at Aqueduct; and Photo Finish, a last-out maiden winner Jan. 3 at Charles Town, round out the field.