03/24/2011 12:36PM

Laurel hosting showdown of stakes winners

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Maryland Jockey Club/Jim McCue
No Advantage, winning last month's General George. is using Saturday's Harrison Johnson as a prep for the $1 million Charles Town Classic.

No Advantage and Alma d’Oro, both of whom turned in impressive performances to win significant stakes at Laurel Park over Presidents’ Day weekend, return to Maryland to meet for the first time in Saturday’s $75,000 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial Stakes.

The Penn National-based No Advantage scored the second graded stakes victory of his 28-race career last month when he got up by a neck to upset the Grade 2 General George Handicap at 10-1. Penn National rider Manual Chaves retains the mount on No Advantage, who has finished in the money in 18 of 28 career starts.

 

“It is amazing how consistent he has been throughout the years,” trainer Stephanie Beattie said. “We call him a war horse because he just loves to run. We always need a little racing luck, including speed in the race because he likes to come off the pace. Chaves and I looked at the race last night and we were pretty happy because it looks like there is a lot of speed in the race. It should set up well for us.”

 

Beattie plans to run No Advantage in the $1 million Charles Town Classic on April 16 and William Donald Schaefer at Pimlico on May 21 for the third consecutive year. No Advantage won the 2009 Schaefer, his first graded stakes victory.

Alma d’Oro, a multiple stakes winner based in New York with trainer Todd Pletcher, comes back at the same 1 1/8-mile distance where he romped by 4 1/4 lengths in the Feb. 19 John Campbell Handicap. Although it is no longer a graded stakes, the Campbell was long one of the biggest races of the winter in Maryland, holding Grade 2 status from 1973 to 1983 and Grade 3 distinction from 1984 to 1999.

No Advantage earned a career-best 101 Beyer Speed Figure for his win in the General George. That number is slightly above the par of 99 fo the last 11 runnings of the Johnson.

Trainer Stephanie Beattie shows a 4-for-11 record (36 percent) with horses such as No Advantage stretching from a sprint to a route after an absence of 31 to 60 days.

Alma d’Oro, a two-time minor stakes winner at Delaware Park last season, probably will have to run faster than he did in the Campbell to win the Johnson. He got a 91 Beyer for his Campbell victory and has yet to surpass 95 on the Beyer scale in 18 starts. On the plus side, Pletcher is 15 for 39 (38 percent) with last-out winners returning in 31 to 60 days in a non-graded stakes.

Marilyn’s Guy, the 122-pound highweight in the field of six older horses, is an intriguing shipper making his first start for trainer Steve Asmussen. Marilyn’s Guy comes into the race off back-to-back wins at Aqueduct with Beyers of 100 and 101, but steps up in class off a $50,000 claim. Asmussen is 0 for 4 moving up horses to non-graded stakes first time off the claim.

Eighttofasttocatch, third in last fall’s Maryland Million Turf the only previous time he raced 1 1/8 miles, is in peak form after drawing off by nearly 10 lengths, earning a career-best 98 Beyer, going a one-turn mile in a third-level optional $32,000 claimer in mid-February.