01/13/2011 1:06PM

Laurel appropriate return spot for Sweet Goodbye

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Sweet Goodbye drops into the Conniver for Maryland-breds at Laurel.

Sweet Goodbye hasn’t raced since finishing fourth as the 2-5 favorite in the Ohio Valley Handicap last May at Mountaineer Racetrack. But based on her fondness for Laurel Park’s main track and her ability to fire fresh, the 6-year-old Sweet Goodbye looks dangeorus in Saturday’s $75,000 What a Summer Stakes.

The six-furlong What a Summer, the first stakes of the Maryland racing season, drew a field of nine fillies and mares.

Sweet Goodbye has collected 5 wins and 1 second in 7 starts at Laurel, including last year’s What a Summer, which served as a prep for her 6-1 upset in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap. She has prepped for her comeback by posting consecutive five-furlong bullet workouts at the Bowie training center.

“She had a little setback after the Mountaineer race and we gave her some time," trainer Chris Grove said. "She came back to the barn in late October and is getting stronger every day.The game plan is to use this as a prep for the Fritchie."

Grove’s star runner, the millionaire Silmaril, won the What a Summer in 2007 and 2008.

“Sweet Goodbye is a talented, athletic filly but she isn’t Silmaril,” Grove said. “Up until last year she would not relax but then she put it all together in the What a Summer and then again in the Barbara Fritchie."
The last time Sweet Goodbye returned from a similar long layoff, she won the seven-furlong Pink Ribbon at Charles Town in August 2009.  Grove is 14 for 67 (21 percent) with sprinters returning from a break of more than 180 days.

Sweet Goodbye’s sharpest rival is Aspenglow, who has reeled off five straight wins since September, highlighted by a wire-to-wire score in the $225,000 Cavada on the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic program at Charles Town. She faded to fourth when she faced Sweet Goodbye in last year’s What a Summer.

Although based at Laurel, most of Aspenglow’s success has come at Charles Town, where she is 12 for 14. In contrast, she is 1 for 4 at Laurel, with that victory coming two starts ago.

“Aspenglow’s win at Laurel probably was her best race,” said her regular jockey, Travis Dunkelberger. “She’s as good as she’s ever been right now.”

The 6-year-old mare Fascinatin’ Rhythm, a five-time winner at Laurel, takes one more crack at Sweet Goodbye after finishing behind her three times since November 2008. Fascinatin’ Rhythm is 0 for 7 at the What a Summer distance.

Wind Caper ships in from New York for trainer Mike Hushion and cuts back in distance. Last time out, in an overnight stakes, she opened up an eight-length lead after the first six furlongs of a mile-and-70-yard route and surrendered a five-length advantage in the final furlong to end up third. She won her previous two starts, both sprints.

Five Diamonds seeks her third straight win while stepping up to stakes company following a three-length score sprinting and a 4 1/4-length victory going a one-turn mile.

* The $75,000 Fire Plug Stakes for older males was canceled after only two horses were entered.