07/25/2012 12:47PM

Colonial: Commonwealth Turf Fest features five stakes


When handicapping the quintet of $50,000 turf stakes races at Colonial Downs on Friday, remember this connection: owner Larry Johnson and trainer Michael Trombetta.

The pair won two of the five races in last year’s inaugural $250,000 Commonwealth Turf Fest and will have the potential to surpass that this year with four entrants in three races.

The first of the Friday stakes – all of which are for Virginia-breds – is the Jamestown, a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint for 2-year-olds. Of the 10 horses in the field, five are first-time starters and just one has reached the winner’s circle – Johnson and Trombetta’s A Lover’s Question.

A Lover’s Question will be making her third start in the Jamestown, and is coming off a 5 3/4-length victory in a five-furlong maiden race at Colonial. Both of her starts have been five-furlong sprints on the grass, and she demonstrated significant improvement in her second outing. Julian Pimentel, who has been aboard for both of her starts, will again ride.

Sired by Spring At Last, who had a 1-for-2 record on the grass, A Lover’s Question is a half-sibling to Harbingerofthings, as she is out of the mare Kelly’s Question. In last year’s Jamestown, Pimentel rode Harbingerofthings to victory for Johnson and Trombetta.

◗ The Oakley Stakes is a 5 1/2-furlong sprint for fillies and mares. Johnson and Trombetta won the Oakley last year with Doing Great. They have a pair of 3-year-olds this year: Harbingerofthings and Heaven Knows What.

Harbingerofthings has not won since last year’s Jamestown and will be ridden by Xavier Perez, while Heaven Knows What has the services of Pimentel. Trombetta and Pimentel have won four of their past 12 starts at Colonial. Heaven Knows What struggled on the rail last time out, but holds the highest Beyer Speed Figure in the race, an 82 at this distance on turf.

◗ Owner-trainer-breeder Susan Cooney will be trying to repeat in the Brookmeade Stakes, a mile route for fillies and mares, with last year’s winner Embarr. A 4-year-old, Embarr is coming off a third-level optional-claiming win at Pimlico on May 13 in which she earned a career-high 84 Beyer Speed Figure. Embarr is 2 for 2 on the Colonial grass.

In last year’s Brookmeade, Embarr came from more than seven lengths back in the stretch to nip In the Rough by a neck. In the Rough, a 5-year-old mare trained by Kelly Breen, is back for another try and will be ridden by the meet’s leading jockey, Sheldon Russell, who has won 28 percent of his starts at Colonial in 2012.

◗ The Bert Allen, a 5 1/2-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up, includes six horses who faced each other in the $50,000 Punch Line Stakes on July 4 at Colonial. The 6-year-old mare Staged Affair, who will again be facing males, won the Punch Line by a nose over the 7-year-old gelding Jake Rattle N Roll, with both earning 80 Beyers. The other Punch Line runners are Giant Patriot (third), Romans Reward (fourth), Valter (sixth), and A Keeper Partner (seventh). A Keeper Partner is the fourth Johnson-Trombetta entrant in the Turf Fest.

◗ As in the Brookmeade, the first- and second-place finishers from last year’s Daniel Van Clief will meet again in this year’s edition of the 1 1/16-mile race. Silver Tie Affair, a 6-year-old gelding, won last year’s Van Clief and is coming off a career-high 89 Beyer at 1 3/16 miles. Silver Tie Affair rallied from eighth on the final turn of the 2011 Van Clief for a one-length win. Chedi, who was run down by Silver Tie Affair last year, will be stretching out in distance off a fifth-place finish in the five-furlong Punch Line.

Hugo, who was eighth in the Punch Line, is also a contender as he stretches out to to a more natural distance for him.