Updated on 12/14/2012 9:22AM

Laurel Park: Winning Image has recency edge in Willa On The Move Stakes

Tom Keyser
Winning Image ships in from Parx Racing for Saturday’s $100,000 Willa On The Move Stakes at Laurel Park.

Winning Image’s sharp recent form may give her a substantial advantage over her three main rivals coming off lengthy absences in Saturday’s $100,000 Willa On The Move Stakes for filly and mare sprinters at Laurel Park.

Based at Parx Racing with trainer Michael Aro, the 5-year-old Winning Image has been in the money in three of her last four starts, but hasn’t picked up a victory since taking the $150,000 My Juliet at her home track in late May. She makes the third start of her current form cycle after back-to-back runner-up finishes in $100,000 stakes at Penn National and Delaware Park.

Although the third time back from a layoff often produces a peak performance for a horse, that has not been the case with Winning Image, who is 0 for 3 in that category.

Red’s Round Table, Island Bound, and Made to Love Her all show back races that would make them a major threat in Saturday’s six-furlong race. The question is whether any of them can be trusted following long stretches on the sidelines.

Red’s Round Table is 4 for 6 lifetime at Laurel, including a pair of stakes wins in the winter of 2011. She has been off since stumbling badly and finishing last of seven in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap in February. Her trainer, Tim Keefe, is an icy 2 for 26 (8 percent) with sprinters returning from a break of 180 or more days the past five years.

Keefe explained that a couple of injuries, including one sustained in the Barbara Fritchie, required extended time off for the 4-year-old Red's Round Table.

“She pulled a muscle in her left-hind in that race and we gave her some time, then she stepped on a nail the day before a stakes race at Pimlico on Preakness weekend,” said Keefe. “She has been back since the latter part of the summer and seems to be back to her old self. She is still every bit as competitive as before.”

Island Bound was good enough to miss by a neck in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss at Saratoga in early August, but was non-competitive in two subsequent graded stakes and hasn’t run since Sept. 11. She will be making her first start for Katherine Voss, a trainer whose record with sprinters back after a beak of 61 to 180 days is just 1 for 16 (6 percent).

Made to Love Her also changes barns. After racing in Southern California for the first eight starts of her career, where she was second in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez in January, Made to Love Her is now based at Penn National with Charles Simon. Simon hasn’t produced a winner from his 13 sprinters coming back after more than 180 days on the sidelines.

The field is completed by Withgreatpleasure, who won an overnight stakes going two turns at Delaware in August, and Pretty Miss Trippi, whose only win in 14 lifetime starts at six or 6 1/2 furlongs came in June at Charles Town.