05/19/2016 10:36AM

He'll Pay can handle non-firm turf in James Murphy Stakes

Coady Photography
He'll Pay owns a stakes win in the Rushaway over Polytrack and a runner-up finish over "good" turf, traits that may prove helpful in the James Murphy.

The $100,000 James Murphy Stakes, a one-mile turf contest for 3-year-olds, has attracted a wide-open field of nine. Rain is predicted for the Baltimore area on Saturday, and the course could be less than firm.

The Murphy, race 6 on the 14-race card, is the first leg of the day’s middle pick four, which has a guaranteed pool of $500,000. The other races in the sequence are a second-level optional $28,000 claiming dirt sprint, the $100,000 The Very One – a turf sprint for fillies and mares – and the $100,000 Chick Lang, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds.

He’ll Pay, Aquaphobia, and Ousby should figure prominently in the Murphy.

He’ll Pay took seven starts to win a maiden race for trainer Larry Jones, but he came right back to take the $99,000 Rushaway over Polytrack at Turfway Park in his most recent outing. He may just be figuring things out.

He’ll Pay finished second over a “good” course at Fair Grounds last winter and should be able to handle the footing if it is off. The 90 Beyer Speed Figure he earned in winning the Rushaway is the best in this field.

Aquaphobia won his career debut over turf at Tampa Bay Downs for trainer Arnaud Delacour. In his second and most recent start, he finished third in a Keeneland allowance over “good” ground. The runner-up in that race, Camelot Kitten, returned to win the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day.

Aquaphobia’s dam, Pussycat Doll, was a three-time Grade 1 winner.

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Ousby has raced over “good” turf twice for trainer Marcus Vitali and has won $35,000 starter races on the lead both times. One of those wins came at Laurel Park on May 7, and he will be running back on two weeks’ rest.