02/21/2013 3:26PM

Laurel Park: Blessed Soul and trainer Hank Allen back in stakes for Maryland Racing Media

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Moon Philly, winner of the Jan. 26 Nellie Morse under Jeremy Rose, is one of the logical contenders in the Maryland Racing Media.

Twice the Lady and Moon Philly, both coming off stakes wins last month while equaling or setting a career-best Beyer Speed Figure, are prime contenders in a field of eight older fillies and mares in Saturday’s $75,000 Maryland Racing Media Stakes at Laurel Park.

But the best storyline in the 1 1/8-mile race is tied to Blessed Soul, a 7-year-old mare who will be a longshot after beating just one horse in her comeback following an absence of nearly two years.

Blessed Soul’s trainer, Hank Allen, had been away from the game for even longer than Blessed Soul. Allen, 72, a former Major League Baseball outfielder and brother of former Phillies and White Sox slugger Dick Allen, switched sports to train race horses following his retirement from baseball in 1973.

In 1989, Allen became the first black trainer since Raleigh Colston in 1911 to saddle a horse in the Kentucky Derby. Allen’s 3-year-old Northern Wolf finished sixth behind Sunday Silence, but the following season set six-furlong track records at both Laurel and Pimlico. Northern Wolf’s record of 1:09 at Pimlico still stands.

After going 0 for 10 in 1998, Allen disappeared from the racing scene, but resurfaced 13 months ago and has gone 1 for 13 with four horses. Blessed Soul finished a close second in the 2011 running of the Maryland Racing Media when trained by Damon Dilodovico, but was a distant ninth in the Jan. 26 Nellie Morse after an extremely wide trip.

Moon Philly, the Nellie Morse winner, will vie for favoritism off her 3 1/2-length score as the 4-5 favorite. The 4-year-old Moon Philly matched her career high with a 91 Beyer.

Jeremy Rose. Rose has ridden Moon Philly five times and has never been worse than second.

“She is getting better every race,” Rose said. “What I like about her is that she is so tactical. She has laid back, she has been on the lead. If the pace is slow we’ll be close, if it is speedy she’ll be fine as well. She is very nice to ride.”

Moon Philly's trainer, Mike Trombetta, shows an 8-for-21 record (38 percent) with female last-out winners back in less than 30 days in a route.

The trainer stats angle is even stronger for the 5-year-old New York shipper Twice the Lady. Making her 20th lifetime start in the Affectionately at Aqueduct, Twice the Lady won by two lengths and earned a career-best 90 Beyer.

Her trainer, Tony Dutrow, is 12 for 24 (50 percent) with female last-out winners coming off a career Beyer top while returning in a route in less than 30 days.

Forecasted rain in central Maryland would benefit Twice the Lady, who has been no worse than second in 6 of 7 starts on wet tracks.