Claimers get one-in-a-Million spotlight 'Starter' races yield more heroes Saturday

September 24, 1992|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

Ratings. Smart Alec. Brilliant Brass. Wood So. Timel Warning. Make Azilian.

These are just some of the well-known stakes horses that will star on Saturday's Maryland Million card.

But there are a couple of spots on the program for claimers, too. These races were specifically designed to give the little guys that support Maryland racing with the "bread and butter" horse a chance to become a Saturday hero.

When the day is over, horses that prevail in the so-called "starter" races, limited to horses that have run for a claiming tag in 1992, also can be called Maryland Million winners.

No one at the local tracks makes more astute claims than Emilio and John Alecci, the father-son combination that plans to run four horses, all purchased via the claim box, on Maryland Million Day.

They include My Sweet Alesia and Singing Ring, both stakes-placed, who will be cross-entered in the Maryland Million Oaks and Sprint Distaff. Both races carry $100,000 purses.

"But it seems like the cheaper the purses get, the better our chances," John Alecci, 35, said yesterday.

The Aleccis' best hopes lie in the "starter" races with Asserche, an $8,500 claim, who is the 118-pound highweight in the $50,000 Maryland Million Starter Handicap, and Bisher, a $12,000 claim, who figures to be favored in the $15,000 Maryland Million Starter Allowance Race.

Between them, Asserche and Bisher have earned nearly $150,000 for the Alecci stable. Kent Desormeaux has been lined up to ride both horses.

"Asserche is a real come-from-behind horse that needs to have everything go his own way if he's going to win," John Alecci said. "There have been times when he is so far back, I simply put down my glasses [binoculars] and think he is going to be pulled up. But then all of a sudden he kicks into gear and makes a big stretch run. No matter how you train him or warm him up before a race, that's the way he wants to run. You can't change him."

About 50 percent of the time, Asserche connects. He has had three wins, one second and three thirds in 14 starts this year. Alecci thinks Bedouin Tent will be Asserche's main Maryland Million competition.

Bisher had a reputation as a rogue when he was haltered by the Aleccis. "He was supposed to be a nut and had once run away in the post parade and threw his jockey," John Alecci said. "But now, he's nice and calm."

Bisher, too, is an effective late runner, winning or placing in 10 of his 15 starts this year.

The Aleccis are not the only stables planning "to run the barn" on Maryland Million Day.

Billy Boniface, who once won three Maryland Million races in one afternoon (in 1987), will have six starters. Depending on how the races are scheduled, Boniface might van the horses into Pimlico in two shifts on Saturday from his Harford County training center.

"We have it down to a science," Boniface said. "We ran eight horses at four different tracks one day this summer. It just takes a lot of organization."

Boniface thinks his best chance for a fourth Maryland Million victory will come with Flight Luxe in the $150,000 First National Bank of Maryland Ladies race at 9 furlongs on the turf.

Other stables with multiple starters will be those of Katy Voss, who could run as many as six horses; Frannie Campitelli, who will have five entrants including Frugal Doc in the $200,000 Classic; and Jerry Robb, with five expected starters.

NOTES: Hunting Horn, a son of the late Northern Dancer, will be the first Maryland Million runner for D. Wayne Lukas. The horse runs against Smart Alec in the Sprint. . . . Kelly's Class, also entered in the Sprint, is tied with a Thistledown-based horse, Speedy Crossing, as this year's winningest horse in the country. So far, each animal has won 11 races. . . . Boniface had hoped to bring in Laffit Pincay Jr. or Craig Perret to ride his Maryland Million horses, but both had prior commitments. Desormeaux will ride Boniface's 2-year-old filly, Icy Warning. Boniface will use Larry Reynolds, Edgar Prado and Jorge Chavez on his other horses.

The Aleccis have come close, but have never won a stakes race with a horse they have claimed. Their most successful claim to date has been Exit West. They haltered the horse for $16,000, placed in stakes with him and then sold him to a Canadian outfit for $80,000. . . . Two 1991 Hall of Fame candidates, Buddy Raines and Tommy Kelly, each have Maryland Million starters. "I told Tommy I was sure he'd get in the Hall of Fame last year and he [Kelly] told me he was sure I'd get in. Darn if that youngster [Scotty Schulhofer] beat both of us," Raines said.

Maryland Million Day

What: Twelve races. Total purses worth $1,065,000. To be eligible, a horse must be sired by a stallion who stands in Maryland. And that stallion must be nominated to the Maryland Million. The nomination fee is equal to that stallion's stud fee. Eligible foals are then nominated to the Maryland Million. There are 201 preliminary entries; final entries will be drawn today.

When: Saturday, post time 1 p.m.

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