Updated on 03/10/2011 5:45PM

Laurel's Conniver softer spot for Sweet Goodbye

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Sweet Goodbye drops into the Conniver for Maryland-breds at Laurel.

Sweet Goodbye’s last three races haven’t been nearly as good as her first four starts in 2010, when she won three stakes, highlighted by the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap, and placed second in the $250,000 Sugar Maple.

A class drop from graded stakes to Maryland-bred company may be suffiicient for the 6-year-old mare Sweet Goodbye to regain her old form in Saturday’s $75,000 Conniver Stakes at Laurel Park.

Sweet Goodbye, 5 for 9 lifetime at Laurel, is the defending Conniver champion. She won last year’s seven-furlong race by 2 1/4 lengths over a sloppy track one start after scoring the biggest victory of her 18-race career in the Barbara Fritchie.

Lately, however, Sweet Goodbye hasn’t been as effective. She went to the sidelines following a fourth-place finish as the 2-5 favorite in the Ohio Valley Handicap at Mountaineer last May. She hasn’t finished closer than 6 1/2 lengths to the winner in two starts this year and was beaten more than 10 lengths in last month’s Barbara Fritchie.

The 6-year-old Sweet Goodbye prepped for the Conniver with a bullet five-furlong work last Saturday at the Bowie Training Center, stopping the clock in 58.60 seconds.

 

“She is training great," trainer Chris Grove said. "I probably asked too much of her coming into the Fritchie off a layoff. I am looking for a better effort. She definitely needs a confidence builder. We are looking for a win and then we can get back to the plans we had for her this year.”

The sharpest recent form in the six-horse Conniver lineup belongs to Five Diamonds. The last three times the 5-year-old Five Diamonds has raced beyond six furlongs, she has been in front by daylight margins after seven furlongs. Two races ago, Five Diamonds finished 2 1/4 lengths in front of Sweet Goodbye in the six-furlong What a Summer.

"She is a super horse. I would love to have a barn full of Five Diamonds,” trainer John Salzman said. “I think she is getting better and don’t know how good she can be. We worked her three-furlongs Saturday to keep her sharp and she did 35 and 3 with her neck bowed. We will not have any excuses.”

Fascinatin’ Rhythm, who has been beaten by Sweet Goodbye three times since February 2010, comes into the Conniver off one of the fastest performances in her career. She earned a 91 Beyer Speed Figure – just shy of her career-best 92 for winning the one-mile Geisha last September – for her third-place finish in the Barbara Fritchie.

Baltimore Belle, no worse than second in 8 of 9 starts as a 3-year-old last season, makes her first start in nearly two months after finishing a distant fourth at 8-5 odds in the one-mile Nellie Morse.

Miss Charm City, whose four wins in six starts at Laurel included the 2008 Maryland Million Lassie, returns to her home track after two off-the-board finishes at Tampa Bay Downs.