Sun shines on Prado, Algar Rider hot as weather with 5 wins in Million, including Classic trip

October 18, 1998|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

On a sparkling, sun-drenched day that belonged to Maryland racing and Edgar Prado, a record crowd bet a record amount of money yesterday on Maryland Million Day at Laurel Park.

Prado became the first jockey to win five Maryland Million Day races. His biggest score was the Maryland Million Classic with Algar, the defending champion who hadn't won in 11 months.

But although the spotlight shined upon Prado, who padded his lead as the nation's winningest jockey, the luster of the day spread into the VIP tents, the grandstand and every corner of the track.

The weather was perfect, the crowd spirited, the racing competitive.

"This is a sensational day," said Tim Capps, executive director of Maryland Million Ltd. and executive vice president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association. "It's been everything we hoped it would be."

At Laurel Park, 18,468 fans turned out for the 11 races for horses sired by Maryland stallions -- and for the variety of on-track entertainment. Combined with 4,015 pa- trons at Pimlico watching by simulcast and 2,351 at Rosecroft Raceway, the 24,834 was a state record.

Those bettors and ones at the state's other off-track betting sites wagered $3.4 million, another Maryland Million Day record. And total betting, including out of state, reached $5.2 million, also a record.

But betting was only part of the action. The politicians competed in their own little races: Ellen Sauerbrey, the Republican candidate for governor; Frances Glendening, wife of Gov. Parris N. Glendening, and assorted legislators.

Between races, Jack Russell terriers sprinted and riders demonstrated Olympic jumping, jousting, trick riding, Roman riding and dressage. Artists painted faces, clowns made children laugh and magicians performed the impossible.

Prado did, too, winning the $50,000 Distaff Starter-Handicap with Set the Pace, the $50,000 Starter-Handicap with Main Quest, the $100,000 Oaks with Maragold Princess, the $100,000 Turf with Winsox and the $200,000 Classic with Algar.

"I don't have words to express my feelings," said an emotional Prado after winning his fifth race. "Maryland Million is a special day -- very special for everybody."

So far this year, Prado, who led all jockeys in wins last year, has won 372 races, far more than his nearest competitor, Russell Baze. Through Thursday, Baze had won 300.

Aboard Algar in the 1 3/16-mile Classic, Prado rode his typical patient race, biding his time along the rail until the homestretch, when he angled Algar outside and gunned him home.

Algar prevailed by a nose, holding off a charging Warrenpeace, who languished much of the race in 11th and last place. Neither horse garnered great support at the windows. Algar went off at 8-1, Warrenpeace 39-1.

The third-place finisher, the 32-1 Waited, was disqualified to fifth for bumping Ayrton S in the stretch. That elevated 14-1 Testing into third, 19-1 Ayrton S into fourth and lighted up the toteboard: $456 exacta, $5,810 trifecta and $14,931 for a $1 superfecta ticket.

The 6-5 favorite, Testafly, finished ninth. His jockey, Greg Hutton, hustled him into the race early, but the 4-year-old colt fell back before ever threatening.

"My horse just didn't show up today," Hutton said.

Barbara Graham, who owns and bred Algar, is listed as trainer of the 6-year-old gelding. She breaks horses at the Middleburg Training Center in Virginia.

Algar resides in the Laurel Park barn of trainer Jimmy Murphy. He said Algar cut his ankle in April, forcing a summer layoff. Murphy was able to find only one race for Algar as a prep for the Classic: a one-mile turf race at Saratoga in which he finished eighth. That forced Murphy to prepare Algar for the Classic with a series of morning workouts.

Asked whether he considered not running the horse, Murphy, nodding toward Graham, said: "She did. But I told her he'd win."

Graham said she wanted to keep Algar on her farm for fox hunting. She rode him cross-country this summer as his ankle healed.

"Jimmy keeps telling me this horse gets younger with age, just like he does," Graham said.

Murphy, 72, said he'd like to keep Algar fit for a run at a third consecutive Maryland Million Classic win in 1999.

"If he's sound, we'll be back," Murphy said.

The winners

Steeplechase 'Cap: Aggro Crag

Distaff Starter/Handicap: Set the Pace

Lassie: Perfect Challenge

Distaff 'Cap: Weather Vane

Oaks: Maragold Princess

Ladies: Lonesome Sound

Nursery: Pulling Punches

Turf: Winsox

Sprint Handicap: Greenspring Willy

Classic: Algar

Starter Handicap: Main Quest

Pub Date: 10/18/98

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