06/21/2012 12:09PM

Delaware Park: Coax Liberty back from long layoff with new trainer in Sweet and Sassy Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Coax Liberty will make her first start for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin in the $150,000 Sweet and Sassy Stakes.

Nearly two years have passed since Coax Liberty won her maiden in her second career start at Delaware Park. It has been eight months since Coax Libety has raced anywhere.

If she fires first time back for a trainer who excels with horses who have been idle for a long time and rekindles her fondness for Delaware’s main track, the 4-year-old Coax Liberty could be the surprise package in a five-horse field of female sprinters signed on for Saturday’s $150,000 Sweet and Sassy Stakes at six furlongs.

Coax Liberty was taken out of training following three consecutive off-the-board finishes in stakes, including the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga. She has since moved into the barn of New York-based trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and has been training at Belmont Park for her 4-year-old debut.

McLaughlin owns a 25-for-84 record (27 percent) with a $2.64 return on investment with sprinters returning from a break of longer than 180 days, a sign that Coax Liberty might be ready to run in her first start since October. She began her career at Delaware as a 2-year-old of 2010, finishing second in her debut before winning her maiden in July.

As a 3-year-old, Coax Liberty displayed enough talent to finish second by a half-length in the Grade 3 Cicada on Aqueduct’s inner track and win an overnight stakes at Belmont.

The two logical favorites in the Sweet and Sassy, and co-highweights at 123 pounds, are Bold Affair and Winning Image, who have combined to win their last five starts.

The 4-year-old Bold Affair, based in Maryland with Howard Wolfendale, has won three straight stakes, including the Skipat on last month’s Black-Eyed Susan undercard at Pimlico. Wolfendale is a healthy 24 percent with sprinters back after a break of 31 to 60 days and is 2 for 2 in stakes at Delaware over the past five seasons.

Winning Image has won back-to-back stakes at Parx Racing. She most recently went wire to wire to take the $150,000 My Juliet. The horse she beat, C C’s Pal, came back a week later to capture the Grade 2 Vagrancy in New York.

Gleaming, a two-time stakes winner during Oaklawn’s 2012 meet, and Afleet Lass, a Todd Pletcher-trained mare whose best races have come against starter allowance company in Florida, complete the field.