11/11/2017 5:44PM

Prince of Hempt continues ascension in City of Laurel Stakes

James McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Prince of Hempt wins the City of Laurel Stakes on Saturday under Dana Whitney.

Prince of Hempt aced his class test in the $100,000 City of Laurel Stakes on Saturday at Laurel.

Prince of Hempt beat Pennsylvania-bred maidens in his debut Sept. 2 at Parx Racing, won a first-level allowance there three weeks later, then came back with a Penn-bred allowance win Oct. 23. On Saturday, Prince of Hempt showed his talent could hold up against stiffer competition when he beat back a sustained outside rally from Tale of Silence, who had been a close fourth last out in the Grade 1 Allen Jerkens Stakes at Saratoga.

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Turning back from a pair of two-turn races, Prince of Hempt and jockey Dana Whitney had no trouble keeping up with solid splits of 22.67 and 45.44 as only Tale of Silence wanted no part of the early pace. Prince of Hempt turned into the homestretch three wide and head and head with Sonic Mile to his outside as Honor the Fleet began fading badly in the two path and El Areeb gradually backed out of contention along the rail.

It was actually Sonic Mule who did the better work in upper stretch, taking a lead to the furlong grounds as Tale of Silence loomed up even wider, but Prince of Hempt got back on even terms with a half-furlong to go, put away Sonic Mule, and resolutely turned away Tale of Since to win by one length. Sonic Mule was just a head behind in third, with No Dozing another two lengths back in fourth. El Areeb, making his first start since the March 4 Gotham Stakes, checked in sixth as favored Honor the Fleet dropped back to last.

Trained by Tim Kreiser for Thomas McClay, Prince of Hempt is by Majestic Warrior and out of the Broken Vow mare Promised Treasure. He paid $12.80 to win, and might have his connections thinking about another step up in class, perhaps into graded competition.

“He’s passed every test,” Kreiser said. “He’s a big, strong horse. We thought we had a good one. He’s been training forwardly. We haven’t looked ahead yet. We’re taking it one step at a time.”

Berned fires home in Safely Kept

Berned, who had been 17 lengths behind the leader at one point, came rolling down the stretch Sept. 23 in the Grade 3 Charles Town Oaks, but Charles Town is a bullring track, its homestretch not much longer than a furlong. Berned was only fourth at the wire that night, but given much more straightaway with which to work Saturday, she rolled past all 10 of her rivals in the last half-mile and won the $100,000 Safely Kept Stakes by 4 1/4 lengths.

“We just decided to ride her the same as last time at Charles Town,” said Feargal Lynch, who rode Berned for trainer Graham Motion and owners Three C Stables and West Point Thoroughbreds. “She needed the longer stretch here.”

Your Love, who was ahead of only Berned after a quarter-mile, finished second, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of 7-5 favorite Shimmering Aspen. Astrollinthepark crossed over from an outside draw to set splits of 23.10 and 46.17 before fading to fourth.

Berned paid $18.20 winning for the third time in 10 starts. A $550,000 yearling purchase by Bernardini and out of the Giant’s Causeway mare First Passage, Berned ran decently in several true route races, but on the basis of Saturday’s showing and two runs last year, she might have found a niche as a one-run closer in one-turn races between seven furlongs and a mile.