04/23/2009 12:00AM

Layoff runners complicate Pimlico stakes

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Turf season has barely begun in the East, so it's not surprising that seven of the 11 horses in the $75,000 Henry Clark Stakes at Pimlico on Saturday come into the one-mile grass race following layoffs ranging from six weeks to six months.

Based on the successes their trainers have had with turf runners returning from a freshening, Ghost Hour, Independent George, and Mint Slewlep merit respect.

Ghost Hour, based at Woodbine for most of last season, spent the winter in Florida, where he won a $100,000 optional claimer in his only start of the Gulfstream Park meet in late February.

Significantly, trainer Brian Lynch is 15 for 58 (26 percent) and shows a $3.60 return on investment with turf horses returning from a 31-to-60-day layoff, according to DRF's Formulator. That includes a 3-for-3 record with Ghost Hour.

Independent George has been off since last summer, when he was beaten two lengths in the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth. His trainer, Graham Motion, shows a 3-for-9 record with long layoff types returning in non-graded stakes, including a win by Independent George in last year's Sussex at Delaware Park.

Mint Slewlep has been far back in his only two starts this year, but those were both on the main track. Locally based trainer Rob Bailes is 5 for 16 first time back following a short layoff in turf routes, including a sharp score by Mint Slewlep in the Da Hoss at Colonial Downs in the horse's turf debut last July.

Among those who have raced recently, Crow's Nest and Regal Solo finished first and third, separated by three-quarters of a length, in a second-level optional $25,000 claimer two weeks ago. More than 20-1 that day, they both outran their odds and could do so again in the Clark given their advantage of a recent good race.