Saturday's nine-race card at Laurel Park will feature four $100,000 stakes races and a special retirement ceremony for Bowie-based Dance to Bristol, who completed her career with a sixth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint earlier this month at Santa Anita Park.
Owned by Taneytown-resident Susan Wantz and trained by Ollie Figgins III, Dance to Bristol enjoyed a stellar four-year-old campaign with victories in seven of her 10 starts this year, including three graded stakes.
The daughter of Speightstown and jockey Xavier Perez reeled off seven straight victories from February through August, including a win in the Skipat Stakes at Pimlico on Preakness weekend.
She then shipped to New York and recorded wins in the Grade 3 Bed o' Roses Handicap at Belmont Park and Saratoga's Grade 2 Honorable Miss Handicap and Grade 1 Ballerina before finishing second in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap back at Belmont prior to her Breeders' Cup run.
"She took me on the journey of a lifetime," Figgins said. "She took me to places where I never ran before and was very successful. She got me to where I could be seen on the big stage and I think that would be a big boost for my career."
Wantz, Figgins and Perez will be on-hand to say goodbye to Dance to Bristol, who will leave two days later for Mill Ridge Farm near Lexington, Kentucky, to start a new career as a broodmare.
"It is going to be sad," Perez told Maryland Jockey Club racing analyst Gabby Gaudet Wednesday in herweekly video blog. "She gave me so much. I fell in love with her but I know she is going to be fine. Every year I want to pick a day or two to go see her and her babies. I am never going to forget her."
"It is going to be a bittersweet day," Figgins added. "You hate to see a horse like that walk out of your barn but at the same time it is good to see one walk out of your barn to retire for a good reason."
Dance to Bristol finished her career with 10 wins and eight second-place finishes in 20 career starts for earnings of $980,880. In all, she racked up seven stakes wins and five black-type placings while running throughout the Northeast. Her trip to California for the Breeders' Cup was the filly's first foray off the East Coast.
In addition to the retirement ceremony, Laurel will host the Jennings Handicap, Smart Halo Stakes, Dave's Friend Stakes and James Lewis Stakes on Saturday.
The one-mile Jennings, restricted to Maryland-breds, will see seven take to the track, including veteran gelding Eighttofasttocatch. The Not for Love seven-year-old is a two-time winner of the Maryland Million Classic, scoring in 2011 and taking this year's edition by 3 1/4 lengths last out on October 19. The chestnut has captured the past two runnings of the Jennings and gets Forest Bryce in the saddle for trainer Tim Keefe.
The Dave's Friend will send nine runners, including multiple Grade 3-winning millionaire Ben's Cat, six furlongs later on the card. The seven-year-old gelded son of Parker's Storm Cat has scored in 23 of his 36 lifetime starts, including repeat wins in the Grade 3 Turf Monster Handicap at Parx Racing and three editions of the Maryland Million Turf Sprint. The hard-knocking Ben's Cat just missed a four-peat in that latter race when a neck second last out but is still going strong for veteran trainer King Leatherbury. Regular rider Julien Pimental has the call on Ben's Cat.
The other two stakes on the card are for juveniles going six furlongs. The Smart Halo features seven two-year-old fillies, including Silver Valley, a four-length winner of the Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies last out, and Who's In Town, who crossed under the wire first in the Grade 2 Adirondack at Saratoga in August before being disqualified to fourth. The latter miss returned in early October to run fourth in the Grade 1 Alcibiades at Keeneland.
The James F. Lewis III will wrap up the stakes action on Laurel's Saturday program, with 12 juvenile colts and geldings headed to the gate. The race will feature a rematch between It's a Bang, who moved his record to an unbeaten two-for-two when taking the Maryland Million Nursery on October 19, and Joint Custody, who saw his perfect mark marred when running second in that contest. Also entered are Grade 3 Bashford Manor hero Debt Ceiling, eased in the Grade 1 Champagne last out, and Grade 2 Saratoga Special victor Corfu, runner-up in the Grade 2 Futurity most recently.
Saturday's festivities at Laurel also include the second annual Brew & Bourbon Classic from noon to 5 p.m. (EST). Fans may enjoy a fun-filled afternoon of beer tasting and bourbon sipping for just $35. More than 60 different beers and bourbons will be poured trackside as the races unfold.