09/06/2012 1:08PM

Laurel: El Commodore poised for first stakes win in Japan Racing Association

John Duca/Tom Cooley Photography
El Commodore is narrowly beaten by Roman Tiger in the Tampa Bay Stakes.

El Commodore, narrowly beaten in a pair of Grade 3 stakes this season, will look to gain his elusive first stakes victory in Saturday’s $125,000 Japan Racing Association at Laurel Park.

The 1 1/16-mile Japan Racing Association is one of four races scheduled for turf on an 11-race card and attracted a field of 11 older horses.

The 5-year-old El Commodore, who will break from the rail under Abel Castellano Jr., led for all but the last stride when he missed by a nose in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay in late February. He flashed high early speed again when second, beaten a half-length, in the Grade 3 Red Bank at Monmouth Park on July 4.

Most recently, El Commodore failed to display his usual quickness out of the gate when fifth of 11 in the West Virginia Speaker’s Cup at Mountaineer.

There is other early speed alongside El Commodore in Eighttofasttocatch, a multiple stakes winner on dirt who will be racing on turf for the first time in almost two full years, and Action Andy, a front-runner who must overcome post 11.

Eighttofasttocatch, who won last year’s Japan Racing Association when it was contested at a mile on the main track, is just 1 for 9 in his career on grass. His last turf appearance came when he was third in the Maryland Million Turf in October 2010.

Action Andy won the one-mile Da Hoss and fell a head short of wiring the field in the 1 1/16-mile Kitten’s Joy in his last two starts, both at Colonial Downs.

A fast, contested pace would benefit See Tobe, Tonto Fonenot, and Dannhauser.

See Tobe cuts back sharply in distance after missing by a head in the 1 1/2-mile East Hanover at Penn National. He came home his last quarter-mile in 24.04 seconds, a good final fraction for a long-distance event.

Tonto Fontenot has finished second twice in a row since trainer Dane Kobiskie claimed the 5-year-old for $50,000 on July 1. Last time out, he closed from eighth to get second in the West Virginia Speaker’s Cup, 1 3/4 lengths in front of El Commodore.

The deep closer Dannhauser came from 25 lengths behind to get up in the restricted Van Clief at Colonial Downs in late July. He is 3 for 6 on grass.