The Stories of the Million
by John Piassek
Thursday, October 19, 2017
This Saturday, Maryland racing gets its chance to shine on the national stage. It’s the 2017 edition of the Maryland Million, showcasing the very best Maryland-sired horses.
There’s no shortage of horseflesh on the Laurel Park card: 142 horses have entered 11 races, which includes four starter races and seven stakes. With so much going on, the big question is: what should the fan who doesn’t usually follow Maryland racing look for? Here’s a brief synopsis of some of the most interesting horses on the card.
Maryland Million Nursery (race 3, 1:23 PM EDT)
2- Jamaican Don: You don’t see many Maryland-breds make their debut at Thistledown, out in Ohio, but that’s what Jamaican Don did. He broke his maiden by nine lengths on Labor Day, and followed that up with a runner-up finish in the First State Dash Stakes at Delaware Park. The winner of that race Whereshetoldmetogo, is Maryland-bred, not Maryland-sired, and as such is on the also-eligible list. Because of that, Jamaican Don is clearly the classiest horse in the nine-horse main body, and if he wins Saturday, it will be interesting to see if he tackles open stakes company next out.
The most recent Maryland Million Nursery winner to make a splash on the national racing scene was Cherokee’s Boy. He won this race in 2002, went on to compete in the Preakness the next year (finishing 8th), and won the 2005 Salvator Mile. Jamaican Don, and everyone else in this race, will be hoping for the same type of success down the road.
Maryland Million Sprint (race 4, 1:55 PM EDT)
1- Pete’s Play Call: Pete’s won three out of hive races this year, including a dominating score against $50,000 claimers at Saratoga last out. His brisnet figure was a 104, the tops in the field and a career-high. For a horse who was racing in n/w2L claimers at Los Alamitos back in December, he’s come a long way, and hopes to complete his ascent to the top with a stakes win.
2- Rockinn on Bye: He’s lost 21 races in a row, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a hard-knocker. During that stretch, he’s come in second or third fifteen times, and has earned more than $200,000 doing so. He has a deep closing style that usually doesn’t win races, but it gets him a decent slice of the purse. Whether or not you bet him, it’s hard not to root for horses like him.
5- Lewisfield: No one has ever won this race off just three lifetime starts, but that’s what Lewisfield will try to do here. He made his first two starts at Charles Town in West Virginia, breaking his maiden by 20 lengths back in August. Last out, he improved his brisnet figure by 16 points, defeating Maryland-bred allowance horses at Laurel. He’s got promise, and for a horse who didn’t debut until June 30 of this year, he’s doing pretty well for himself.
7- Nicaradalic Rocks: He won this race as a three-year-old last year, defeating top-class sprinters such as Morning Fire and Ben’s Cat. He hasn’t won a race since then, but has accumulated a string of second and third-place finishes. He’s cross-entered in the Classic, but no matter where he ran, it would be his first race since May 29.
8- Blu Moon Ace: Not many horses who race in the Maryland Million are coming off graded stakes placings, but Blu Moon Ace just missed by a neck in the DeFrancis Dash Stakes last out, after a big win in the Coalition Stakes. His form has been fantastic as of late, and will almost certainly be the favorite.
11- Winplaceorshowono: After a three-year-old won this race last year, Winplaceorshowono will try to make it two in a row. He’s never been worse than third in five lifetime races, and is coming off a win in the New Castle Stakes at Delaware. Younger horses have historically done well in the Sprint: it’s been won by seven three-year-olds.
Maryland Million Lassie (race 5, 2:27 PM EDT)
10- Margie’s Money: From her first race, Margie’s Money had been pegged as a Maryland Million Lassie contender. She broke her maiden by six lengths back in August, and followed that up with a win in a n/w1x allowance back on October 1. Her brisnet figure declined from her big debut, and it was a half-length victory, but she nevertheless got the job done. A victory here would improve her lifetime mark to 3-for-3.
11- Limited View: This John Salzman-trained filly broke her maiden here on June 17, impressively enough that she was sent to the Adirondack Stakes at Saratoga. She didn’t run well there, losing by 20 lengths. On opening day of Laurel fall meet, she won a n/w1x allowance by almost two lengths at 1/5, bouncing back nicely.
Maryland Million Distaff (race 7, 3:33 PM EDT)
9- Crabcakes: She showed promise last year with a victory in the Maryland Juvenile Fillies Championship. After winning her first three races, she went on a four-race losing streak. However, she’s found her form in a big way since then, winning the Miss Disco Stakes at Laurel in August, followed by a n/w2x allowance score against open company in September. She makes her Maryland Million debut here, and many expect this race to be a mere coronation. We will see if she can add another stakes win to her resume.
Maryland Million Ladies (race 9, 4:40 PM EDT)
2- Barrel of Dreams: Not too many New York-breds qualify for the Maryland Million, but Barrel of Dreams does, being out of Maryland-based sire Not For Love. She had a great summer at Saratoga, winning two races up there, one of them against open company. In her last race, she set the early pace in the John Hettinger Stakes at Belmont Park, only to tire and finish fourth. This unique mare figures to be the primary speed of the race.
7- Rocky Policy: She is cross-entered in the Distaff, but would probably fit in better here. She was fifth, beaten less than four lengths, in last year’s renewal of this race. Last out, she lost the Sensible Lady Stakes by two lengths against open company. The big question with her is if she can stretch out effectively: with the exception of last year’s Maryland Million, all her recent races have been around one turn.
9- Devilish Lady: Last year’s winner went off at 9/2, and won by the barest of noses for Alex Cintron. She’s raced twice on the grass since then, and not since June 24 at that. Without much racing this year, she’ll have to dig deep to find the form that made her a Maryland Million champion in 2016.
Maryland Million Classic (race 10, 5:13 PM EDT)
1- Admirals War Chest: Several horses have won two Maryland Million Classics in a row: Eighttofastotcatch, Docent, Algar, and Timely Warning. However, no one’s ever won it three consecutive times, and that’s what Admirals War Chest will attempt to do Saturday. He’s raced twice since last year’s front-running score, finishing tenth in the Richard Small Stakes, then fifth against n/w2x allowance company at Laurel on October 8. It wasn’t an inspiring effort, but he’s got the inside post, early speed, and the hot riding of Steve Hamilton. Can miracles happen?
2- John Jones: Like Admirals War Chest, he’s an accomplished Maryland-bred who’s only raced once this year. He had a strong 2016, with five victories in the last five months of the year. After a victory in the Jennings Stakes on December 31, he went to the sidelines, only resurfacing for a fourth-place finish at Belmont Park. Jockey Jevian Toledo is the leading rider at the meet, and he’ll be trained by well-known Lacey Gaudet. He’s definitely a contender here.
5- Bonus Points: No three-year-old has ever won the Maryland Million Classic, but Bonus Points will seek to change that. He won the Parx Derby back in May, and is coming off a fourth-place finish in the Smarty Jones Stakes. He’s got the class, and a top-notch trainer, in Todd Pletcher. Without a doubt, one of the most interesting horses in the field.