Late bloomer Koh I Noor continues his quest for the $500,000 Pimlico Special in his stakes debut Saturday in the nine-furlong Harrison E. Johnson Memorial at Laurel Park.
Two-time defending champion Eighttofasttocatch, General George winner Javerre, John B. Campbell champion Concealed Identity and 2011 Preakness runner Norman Asbjornson are among the five challengers.
Koh I Noor has won four straight at Laurel since October after a troubled trip in his debut in mid-September. His most recent win was an 81/2-length romp for trainer Dove Houghton on Feb. 28. Sheldon Russell will ride the Harlan's Holiday colt.
"We have to test the waters against stakes horses, and we have to get around two turns. Even though this race is a little sooner back than we would like, doing it here at home would be the best for him," Houghton said.
Concealed Identity (7-2) won for the first time in 14 months with a strong performance in the Campbell, which followed a solid third in allowance company in his 5-year-old debut. Promising apprentice rider Trevor McCarthy won his first stakes aboard the Smarty Jones offspring in the Campbell, as did trainer Linda Gaudet.
"There was something missing last year, but he is really grown up and matured. We were very pleased with both of his starts this year," Gaudet said. "It is a quality field, but the race sets up well for us."
Norman Asbjornson (4-1) was elevated to second in the Campbell behind Concealed Identity after he was fouled by Service for Ten in the final furlong. He has not won since January 2012 but finished second in a pair of stakes a year ago. With trainer Chris Grove suspended, the Real Quiet runner will be saddled by Grove's assistant, Carlos Mancilla. Jeremy Rose picks up the mount.
Javerre (4-1) was 6-1 when he drove to victory in the General George, his second stakes win since winning the New Jersey Breeders Handicap. He also hit the board in the Maryland Million Sprint Handicap, the City of Laurel and the Native Dancer Stakes. J.D. Acosta keeps the mount for trainer Cal Lynch.
Eighttofasttocatch (9-2) has won six stakes races at Laurel during his career, including the 2011 and 2012 runnings of the Harrison Johnson. The son of Not For Love finished seventh in the Native Dancer Stakes after a strong second behind Called to Serve in the Broad Brush Stakes. Abel Castellano will ride the Tim Keefe trainee.
Keefe will also saddle Hughes Next (20-1), who finished third in the Broad Brush on New Year's Eve. Forest Boyce rides the son of Henny Hughes.Copyright © 2015, CT Now