King Leatherbury has spurned the inaugural running of the Kentucky Cup with his Grade I winner, Taking Risks, and is starting the horse instead in the Maryland Million Classic.
Yesterday, Maryland's No. 1 trainer of winners said he is skipping the $400,000 Kentucky race on Saturday because his horse would have to carry more weight in the race than some of the nation's most proficient runners.
Just last week Taking Risks was listed as one of the intended Kentucky Cup starters. But Leatherbury said Taking Risks was being penalized too much for his 7 1/2 -length victory in the Philip H. Iselin Handicap at Monmouth Park on Aug. 21.
"Because my horse won that Grade I race in his last start, we'd end up carrying 124 pounds, eight more than a horse like Best Pal. And that's crazy," he said.
Instead, Leatherbury will wait an extra week and start Taking Risks on Oct. 1 in the Maryland Million Classic at Laurel Race Course. In that race, a so-called "weight for age" event, Taking Risks will be assigned 126 pounds, but his opposition won't include horses like Best Pal, who is nearing $5 million in career earnings, or Preakness winner Tabasco Cat.
Leatherbury will start two other horses, Super Memory and Ameri Valay, in the Classic, for him an unprecedented three-horse entry in the $150,000 stakes. With the addition of Taking Risks to the lineup, the Leatherbury entry should go off as the odds-on favorite.
Now that former Maryland Million Classic winners such as Timely Warning and Reputed Testamony have been retired and last year's winner, Forry Cow How, is on the shelf with an injury, Taking Risks represents a new wave of horses eligible for the race, which is restricted to the offspring of Maryland stallions.
Since Leatherbury claimed Taking Risks for $20,000 on Nov. 27, the horse has won eight races, including four stakes, and more than $400,000 for his owners, the Lakeville Stable of Baird Brittingham and Daniel Lufkin.
Leatherbury worked Taking Risks five furlongs at Laurel on Saturday in preparation for the Kentucky Cup, but changed his mind over the weekend concerning the gelding's next start. Daily Racing Form clockers timed the horse in 1 minute, four-fifths of a second.
"Now, I'm not sure what he'll do to get ready for the Maryland Million. I don't want to do too much with him," Leatherbury said. He added that the horse's regular jockey, Mark Johnston, will ride Taking Risks in the Classic.
Leatherbury plans to start a total of seven horses on the 12-race Maryland Million card, including Lakeville Stable's stakes-winning mare Buffels in the Maryland Million Ladies. In the eight previous Maryland Million runnings, Leatherbury has saddled three winners -- Big Upheaval, Ms. Rutledge and Thirty Eight Go Go.
NOTES: Omar Klinger, the Panamanian-born jockey whose passport was stolen on a visit to his native country during the Timonium break, was scheduled to arrive back in Maryland last night from Panama. Klinger was detained until he could be processed for a new passport. Klinger is named on two mounts on tomorrow's card. . . . The stakes-winning filly Miss Claratius has bled in a workout and will run in the Oct. 9 Selima Stakes for the first time on Lasix. Miss Claratius is trained by Marilyn Goldman and is ridden by Mary Wiley. . . . The Maryland Racing Writers' Association is sponsoring its annual Maryland Million Crabfeast on Friday night at Pimlico. The group, in conjunction with the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, is awarding four college scholarships at the affair to licensed backstretch personnel. Each scholarship amounts to $1,500.