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Race of the Week: Harrison E. Johnson Memorial at Laurel | Saturday, March 18, 2023

by Jeremy Plonk

March 16, 2023

The Lead:
The Pot o' Gold stakes day at Laurel Park features 5 featured events worth $450,000 in purses. The quintet of dirt races includes the Private Terms on the 3-year-old path to a potential Preakness berth. It also boasts top older horses in the Harrison Johnson Memorial in Race 7.

A $986 score in this space last week for the Beholder Mile at Santa Anita continued a fantastic run in 2023. Through 10 weeks, the $100 suggested wagers (totaling $1,000) have now returned $3754 for a profit of $2,754.

Field Depth:
This is a rather familiar division with one another and not much separation on class. OURNATIONONPARADE and NIMITZ CLASS have consistently been in the stakes mix at Laurel, while DOUBLE CROWN owns a shocking upset in the Grade 2 Kelso atop his resume.

HELLO HOT ROD ran off on the lead in his local debut and is expected to employ a similar style. AMERICAN PATROL also should contest the front with pressing trips from OURNATIONONPARADE, ROUGH SEA and NIMITZ CLASS. This race could set up well for a finisher.

Our Eyes:
Here are my horse-by-horse notes.

1-AMERICAN D'ORO: Rallied past loose-leading HELLO HOT ROD in recent local allowance over this 1-turn mile trip and had no pace help in doing so. His 2 best races have been at this 1-turn mile configuration and he loves the extended stretch run to the second wire. The one to fear late.

2-DOUBLE CROWN: Loser of 6 straight since his epic upset in the Grade 2 Kelso in October, each by 8+ lengths. No match for some of these in the Campbell Handicap and no reason on local and distance record to think much changes.

3- HELLO HOT ROD: Speedball had absolutely no excuse last time in allowance company when opening up a big and easy lead, only to tire in the stretch. His 2-turn seasoning prior should have gotten him home that day. Respect for the Brittany Russell barn in these kind of races, so it wouldn't be a shock if she got more out of him this time and he makes them sweat deeper into the stretch.

4-OURNATIONONPARADE: Dominant Maryland Million Classic win in his first local start and first off the claim for high-octane Jamie Ness barn made this one look like a winter bulldozer. But he's managed to lose 4 in a row at 3-5, 1-1, 1-1 and 5-2 most recently, twice to NIMITZ CLASS. He's very solid, but proven capable of being beaten and likely will continue as an underlay price.

5- NIMITZ CLASS: Likely and deserving favorite off back-to-back stakes wins in the Manfuso and Campbell. But those were around 2 turns, and the Johnson provides a different test. NIMITZ CLASS is 0-2 in 1-turn races at Laurel, including an off-the-board effort at 3-1 when last tested in late November. His pace versatility will come in handy in a tricky race shape.

6-AMERICAN PATROL: Trainer Cal Lynch has struggled throughout 2023 with limited Laurel offerings and this one comes off a 34-length drubbing in early January at Parx as the 1-1 favorite. It's all or nothing with this one who should be up with the early pace after a freshening.

7-TREASURE TROVE: No-threat fourth in the Campbell behind a few of these and then disappointing at Parx nextg out as the 5-2 favorite. Best races have been at 1-1/8 miles, so this trip could be awfully sharp for him. Positive is that a fast pace could play out and help his style.

8-ROUGH SEA: Starter allowance sort steps up in class, but is a local stakes-winner of April's Native Dancer as a 40-1 upsetter. Since based at Parx, he returns with at least as good of credentials as then, but would be a late-running longshot.

Most Certain Exotics Contender:
AMERICAN D'ORO gets a great set-up for his rail rally.

Best Longshot Exotics Contender:
ROUGH SEA has done it before at a big price and will be finishing late with a chance to pass tired horses

Sending it in ($100 bankroll):
$100 win AMERICAN D'ORO.