LAUREL -- There's an unspoken rule that applies to Maryland's 3-year-olds: Go elsewhere and win, or don't be considered a legitimate Triple Crown candidate.
"It's hard getting a gauge on how good our horses are this year," said Jerry Robb, who trains He Is Risen. "Nobody's shipped in, and ours haven't been running out of town."
The last time a Maryland horse drew national attention was 1988, when Private Terms went into the Kentucky Derby as the unbeaten favorite. The colt won the Gotham Stakes and Wood Memorial in New York in his final races before the Derby; they gave him much more credibility than prior victories at Laurel and Pimlico race courses. He finished ninth at Churchill Downs.
On Sunday, a bit of irony: The $50,000 Private Terms Stakes at Laurel begins the quest for respectability. Haymaker, Colonel Hill, Forry Cow How, Gala Spinaway and He Is Risen are all expected to run.
"We're as anxious as anybody to see how he matches up," Robb said of He Is Risen, owned by Arnold Heft. The colt is 3-for-4 lifetime and will be making his stakes debut. "It's going to be interesting. He's never hooked this kind of horses."
The top finishers can likely be expected back March 17, in the $175,000 Tesio Stakes on the first weekend of the Pimlico meet.
* Virtually every "name" older horse in the country is on the list of nominations for the Pimlico Special. Officials yesterday released the names of 64 horses eligible for the May 11 race.
Included are Unbridled, Summer Squall, Jolie's Halo, Farma Way, Quiet American and Rhythm.
NOTES: Laurel president Joe De Francis said the track plans to pay tribute Sunday to Donnie Miller Jr. for his 10 years of riding in Maryland. Miller will fly from San Francisco to ride He Is Risen. . . . A review by three Maryland Racing Commission members Wednesday concerning trainer Ann Merryman and a voided claim has been referred to the full commission. Merryman is serving a 20-day suspension for her role in the incident. . . . Postponed discussions in Annapolis on the controversial twilight racing issue have been rescheduled for Tuesday. De Francis said Laurel/Pimlico will ask for permission to conduct twilight racing on an experimental basis. . . . Laurel offers one simulcast this weekend -- the $200,000 Louisiana Derby from the Fair Grounds in New Orleans. The Kentucky Derby prep is Sunday. . . . Matt McCarron, son of jockey Gregg McCarron, was the winning rider in an American-Canadian challenge event last weekend at Turf Paradise in Arizona. . . . Jay Rushing, older xTC brother of Steve Rushing, is the new agent for jockey Marco Castaneda. Steve handles Edgar Prado's book. . . . Reputed Testamony is the 117-pound topweight among 10 in tomorrow's $60,000 Native Dancer Handicap at Laurel.