12/06/2012 1:47PM

Laurel Park: Brigand, Hardened Wildcat top contenders in wide-open City of Laurel Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
New York shipper Brigand will need a top performance in the City of Laurel Stakes.

A pair of New York-based 3-year-olds who were graded stakes-placed this past spring, a horse whose six-race winning streak included a $450,000 stakes, and two others coming off daylight victories with near-identical Beyer Speed Figures in the low 90s are part of an intriguing lineup for Saturday’s $125,000 City of Laurel Stakes at Laurel Park.

Among the eight 3-year-olds entered in the seven-furlong sprint are Brigand and Hardened Wildcat, both good enough to hit the board at the Grade 2 and Grade 3 level, and Lucy’s Bob Boy, winner of the $450,000 West Virginia Breeders’ Classic two starts back.

Brigand, according to Daily Racing Form statistics, will be the first horse trainer Bob Baffert has ever run at Laurel. In his last six dirt starts around one turn, Brigand owns 2 wins and 4 seconds, including a runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Jerome in April. He returns to stakes company for the first time since finishing second against New York-breds in the seven-furlong Mike Lee in June.

Hardened Wildcat, trained by Chad Brown, has been off since finishing fourth in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens in early June. He came from off the pace to finish second in the Grade 3 Bay Shore at seven furlongs in April. Statistically, Brown is 3 for 14 (21 percent) with horses returning from layoffs of more than 180 days in sprints at 6 1/2 or seven furlongs.

The West Virginia-bred Lucy’s Bob Boy was the hottest 3-year-old on the grounds at Charles Town, where he reeled off six wins in a row between May and October. He cuts back to one of his best distances following a pair of 1 1/8-mile races. He surrendered the lead in deep stretch to the millionaire Russell Road last time out.

Florida shipper Bellefire and the lightly raced local gelding Service for Ten could challenge the three logical favorites, based on their current sharp form.

Leo Azpurua Jr. brings Bellefire out of Florida for the first time following a six-length score worth a 92 Beyer in a field that contained a pair of 4-year-olds. One of them, Close It Out, came back to win his next start in the $125,000 Jack Dudley at Calder.

Service for Ten, 3 for 5 lifetime, did not begin his 3-year-old campaign until October. He has won back-to-back starts by a combined eight lengths, including a victory on Nov. 15 that produced a 94 Beyer.