Introduced in 1986, the Jim McKay Maryland Million, a program of races restricted to the offspring of Maryland-based stallions, continues to receive strong support from Maryland’s extensive breeding industry, which includes more than 200 farms. Thanks to Jim McKay’s love of his home state and thoroughbred horse racing, Maryland breeders have one day a year that they can stand proud and potentially pickup a few new clients.
Maryland-sired thoroughbreds are nominated before they become 2-year-olds and remain eligible for life to run in the Maryland Million races. After 24 runnings, 210 stallions have sired runners in Maryland Million races. Saturday afternoon, thirty-five stallions will be represented. First post for the 11-race program is 12:35 p.m. at Laurel Park.
Not For Love leads all stallions with 20 potential runners tomorrow afternoon. The son of Mr. Prospector, who stands at Northview Stallion Station, is Maryland’s highest ranking stallion for the eighth consecutive year. Progeny of Not For Love have captured 20 Maryland Million races in the last eight years, including four in 2009. His sons and daughters could be competing in all 11 races Saturday.
The ghost of Allen’s Prospect, who passed away in 2003, continues to leave its mark. The standard bearer of Country Life Farm, he has been responsible for 156 starters and 22 winners, the most of any stallion during the previous runnings of the Million. All Giving, who won last year’s Distaff, is his lone representative in 2010.
On Saturday the Jock’s Room will be a bit crowded, as 32 different jockeys have mounts. One jock, Monmouth Park-based rider Elvis Trujillo will be busy Saturday with mounts in nine of the 11 races. The 26-year-old will be aboard morning line favorites in the Sprint (Roaring Lion), Distaff (Love That Dance), Oaks (Lil Kiara) and Starter Handicap (Northpoint Costas), though the latter is expected to compete in the Classic. Trujillo also has live shots in the Classic (Cuba), Ladies (Talkin About Love) and Turf Sprint (Heros Reward). Trujillo finished second with Presidentialaffair in the 2003 Classic, losing by a nose to Docent. In my humble opinion, I see Trujillo winning only 2, maybe 3 races.
Just in case you were wondering how the turf course held up after taking on 5.1” of rain on Thursday. Well, on Friday afternoon racing secretary Georganne Hale and turf superintendent Robbie Mitten walked the course. In 2005, the Laurel surface was widened from 75 feet to 142 feet and accommodates six configurations of what makes up two (2) racing lanes (the “All Along” and “Exceller”). “We walked both lanes that will be used tomorrow,” Hale said. “The All Along is perfect because we have not used it since the summer meet in August. The Exceller is in good shape and with the sun and wind today (Friday), it will only improve. The jocks might see a divot here and there but it is nice and solid on the bottom and not dangerous to the horses or the riders.”
In recent past, Maryland Million Day has been a good day for “Chalk Players”. That is, the favorite has won the majority of the races. After handicapping the 2010 11-race card, I see plenty of opportunities for runners who may go off at generous odds and score. If you’re looking for a race that might produce a nice pay-off, it would be wise to look at the turf races (5th, 7th and 9th) because during the current Laurel Fall meeting, thirty-five (35) races have been contested on the Laurel turf with an average WIN payout of $21.20.
Below are my selections of a couple of the Maryland Million Day races. To get my selections for all 11 races which include Daily Double and PICK-3 plays go to… GQ’s No Chalk Zone
Best Bet: Regal Warrior (# 8; 10th race – MD Million Classic; 5-1)
Hard to believe he’ll go off at these generous odds, but maybe since this 3 yr old will be facing his elders for the first time in his 12 race career, the 5-1 M/L makes sense. Though he hasn’t been winning lately, he’s been facing stakes worthy competition, most of whom were on the Derby Trail at some point in the Spring. Trainer Michael Trombetta does a great job in placing his runners where they can succeed and has done just that by taking a shot in the biggest race on Maryland Million Day. Complete an Exacta by using #6 – In The Juice (5-2).
Longshot: Mr. Keeper (# 3; 3rd race – MD Million Starter Hcp.; 10-1)
This 4 yr old son of Lion Hearted has split time running on both dirt and turf during his 15 race career. Last month he was claimed by CT trainer Ollie Figgins who does well with his new pupils. Mr. Keeper has the necessary back class to step up today with a big closing kick in the stretch to capture this 1 mile event.
Favorite To Avoid: Twelve Pack Shelly (# 2; 1st race – MD Million Lassie ; 4-5)
She broke the track record for 4½ furlongs in her debut race here in April. Followed that up by placing 3rd in a Grade 3 event versus the boys at CD and has since won her last 3 races, 2 of them being minor stakes races. Her only off-the-board finish (6th by 11) came when she went to her knees at the start of a 4½ furlong stakes race at Delaware Park.
So WHY am I suggesting you avoid making your 1st race wager on her? Answer: 6 furlongs. As brilliant as the speedy Twelve Pack Shelly as been in her young, 6 race career, the furthest she has run is 5½ furlongs and appears to get leg weary whenever she goes beyond 4½ furlongs. Use #7 – Love’s Reason (5-2) on top in your Exactas, Trifectas and Daily Double. You’ll be rewarded if/when she beats the heavily favored “Shelly”.
It’s a beautiful day to go to lovely Laurel Park and celebrate this rich thoroughbred horse racing tradition in Maryland. Good Luck!