There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that the Maryland Million will be canceled if In The Curl does not run.
Yes, the 7-year-old mare is entered in one of the nine races that constitute the $1 million "main" program Sunday at Pimlico Race Course. But no, if she somehow doesn't make it, officials will not call off the Million.
In The Curl has competed in every Maryland Million since thrace was inaugurated at Laurel Race Course in 1986. On Sunday, when Pimlico plays host to the sixth Million, she'll make it 6-for-6 when facing heavily favored Safely Kept in the $100,000 State of Maryland Distaff Handicap.
"It's something, isn't it?" asked Dale Capuano, trainer of In The Curl. "You don't often see a horse running well enough to start in something like this so many years in a row."
The Million program highlights the final Pimlico segment of 1991, a 25-day meet that begins today with a 10-race program. First post is 1 p.m.
Although she has finished no worse than fourth in each of her five previous Million races, In The Curl never has won on Million day. Odds favor a continued winless streak, since Safely Kept figures no higher than 2-5 in a short field.
Gary Stevens, the star Southern California jockey, will ride Safely Kept in the Distaff Handicap. Stevens will make up the bulk of a 130-pound impost assigned Tuesday by Pimlico racing secretary Larry Abbundi.
"Maybe the weight will get to her," said Capuano, who will saddle In The Curl in the Million for the third time. "Maybe her last race took something out of her. That's what I'm hoping for. I do know we're up against it."
Safely Kept, the Eclipse Award-winning sprinter of 1989, failed an experiment in her last start. Trainer Alan Goldberg sent her past a mile for the only time in 29 career starts, and the 5-year-old mare finished a tired third.
The Distaff Handicap is one of six $100,000 events on the program; the $200,000 Maryland Classic, in which Baron de Vaux is expected to be favored, is the richest of the original nine Million races.
The $150,000 Maryland Million Ladies is the second-richest race. Like Safely Kept, Countus In will be shooting for a third straight Million victory. Countus In will be ridden again by Julie Krone, whose five career victories in the Million leads all riders.
NOTES: In The Curl competed in the Million in 1986-88 for Meadow Stable. Capuano claimed her for owner Nick Rinaldi in the spring of 1989. . . . Counting the Maryland Steeplechase Handicap and a race for amateur riders, the Million will be an 11-race program worth $1,065,000. . . . Entries for the Million will be drawn at a breakfast that begins tomorrow at 8:30 in the Pimlico Sports Palace. . . . Management is offering 25-cent grandstand admission and a free program for today's opening ** card. . . . A freshly painted tote board awaits Pimlico customers. A faded blue board is now deep green, and the design has been rearranged to display odds for 14 horses, up from 12. . . . Jockey Mary Wiley will be out indefinitely while recuperating from major knee surgery. Wiley suffered a torn interior cruciate ligament in a training accident 3 weeks ago at the Bowie Training Center.