Birthday cake to celebrate 100 years at Laurel Park.

Birthday cake to celebrate 100 years at Laurel Park.

Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club

Laurel Park Celebrates Centennial

Softly Lit wins Selima Stakes on the Oct. 15 card at the Maryland track.

PTK’s Softly Lit and Embracing Hearts finished first and second, respectively, in the 82nd running of the Selima Stakes for 2-year old fillies at Laurel Park in Maryland Oct. 15. The $55,000 Selima, Laurel’s oldest stakes race, was the feature attraction as the track celebrated its centennial.

Laurel Park debuted on Oct. 2, 1911 under the auspices of the Laurel Four Corners County Fair and quickly became an autumn fixture on the racing calendar.

A crowd of 4,657 attended Laurel Park’s 100th Birthday Bash and Fall Festival on a picture-perfect afternoon in central Maryland.

Trained by Dane Kobiskie, Softly Lit was first away at the start, with her entrymate Embracing Hearts a close up third. Sarah Rook was marking her second stakes win as the Latent Heat filly led from start to finish in 1:14.83 for six furlongs over the "good" turf.

“Dane just told me to go with her however she broke,” Rook said. “If anything out broke us we were going to sit behind it and if we out broke everyone else the idea was to go to the front.  She’s a very talented sprinter. I was more worried about the length of the stretch than I was about the actual distance. She proved me wrong.”

Softly Lit carried Rook to victory in the Tippett Stakes at Colonial Downs in July at odds of 30-1. Embracing Hearts finished a half-length behind the winner in second.

“I really liked both fillies but was worried about the rain we got all week,”  said Kobiskie, who saddled Lemon Juice to victory in the Laurel Futurity Oct. 8 for PTK. “When the race stayed on the grass I knew we were going to be in good shape. It is great to win any race. I am really happy for the owners. They really want to win stakes races. I had run five horses this week and had five second-place finishes. It feels good to get a W.”

The entry paid $5.60 as second choice in the wagering. Good Looking Girl was a distant third. Scat's Lassie, the 7-5 betting favorite, never threatened and finished fourth.

The Birthday Bash and Fall Fest celebration included birthday cake for fans, a key chain giveaway, and a proclamation from Laurel mayor Craig Moe. The afternoon also featured a jockey autograph session, a health fair and music in a community village, on-track performances between races (Pony Club, Jack Russell Terriers, Medieval Times & Bassett Hounds), a cupcake relay, actors in period costume, and prize drawings such as flat screen televisions, iPads and Baltimore Ravens tickets.

“It has been a fantastic day,” said Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas. “It is an opportunity to thank Laurel and the surrounding communities for 100 years of support. I think we have been a good corporate citizen and corporate partner. We are lucky to have Laurel and the community is lucky to have us.”

The Maryland Jockey Club donated $2,700 to two area elementary schools with a modified jockey challenge program that took place during the first four races on the card. Ryan Fogelsonger had a win aboard Our Bailiwick in the opener and finished second with Funny Side Girl to help Brock Bridge Elementary School earn $1,700 and win the challenge.

“The schools can always use the money to help the kids learn,” said Fogelsonger, who visited Brock Bridge Oct. 13 and talked to all 700 students. “It was a lot of fun. They all seemed excited about coming out today.”