Is Tesio Preakness path for Millions

Now healthy, colt looks to prove he belongs

April 17, 1999|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Leon Blusiewicz is down to Plan C.

Plan A called for Millions to race twice this year in Maryland, once in New York and then proceed directly to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby. But Millions got sick, and Plan A died.

Plan B called for Millions to race only once in Maryland, once in New York and still proceed directly to the Kentucky Derby. But Millions finished seventh in Maryland, and Plan B fell flat.

Plan C, which begins unfolding today during the Maryland Spring Challenge at Pimlico, calls for Millions to redeem himself in the Federico Tesio Stakes and then, his reputation restored, bypass the Derby and race in the Preakness.

"Everything's good," Blusiewicz said. "He's ready to go. We don't have any excuses."

Millions had one in the Private Terms Stakes three weeks ago at Laurel Park, Blusiewicz said. After the colt's seventh-place finish, the worst of his six-race career, a veterinarian discovered an infection and mucus in Millions' lungs, according to the trainer.

That's been cleared up with antibiotics, Blusiewicz said. And Millions will be fitted with blinkers, which limit a horse's peripheral vision and, in many cases, focuses his attention on racing. Trainers have credited blinkers with sharply improving the performances of several of this year's 3-year-olds, including General Challenge, Prime Timber, Three Ring and Adonis.

Blusiewicz, an East Baltimore native who has trained horses nearly three decades, has never run one in the Kentucky Derby or Preakness. Still, he has taken recent setbacks in stride.

"It happens," he said. "It's part of the game. I'm just glad I've got a horse who's all right. He's only had one race in four months, so you can't knock him too hard."

Millions' quest for redemption may be the main attraction of the Maryland Spring Challenge, but it is far from the only one. The featured race of NTRA 2Day at the Races, the Federico Tesio Stakes attracted a field of 11 as well as jockey Julie Krone.

She recently announced her retirement, and today is the next-to-last day of her riding career. She will pilot one of trainer Richard Small's horses in the Tesio, Stellar Brush or Rushing Brush, and his horses in the other four stakes.

The Tesio is for 3-year-olds born anywhere, but the other stakes of the Maryland Spring Challenge are for Maryland-born horses.

In the Jennings Handicap, Fred Bear Claw will seek his seventh victory in his last nine starts. In the Geisha Handicap, Merengue will put her four-race win streak on the line. And in the Caesar's Wish Stakes, Potomac Bend would have sought her fifth straight victory if a late injury had not knocked her out of the race.

Spring Challenge

What: Maryland Spring ChallengeWhere: Pimlico

When: Today, post time 1: 05 p.m.

Featured races: $200,000 Federico Tesio Stakes, $60,000 Star de Naskra Stakes, $75,000 Caesar's Wish Stakes, $100,000 Geisha Handicap, $100,000 Jennings Handicap

TV: ESPN2 will televise Federico Tesio Stakes; show starts at 5 p.m.

Other attractions: Final appearance in Maryland of jockey Julie Krone; Federico Tesio Stakes kicks off MATCH series; prize giveaways; Stevie and the Satellites perform on the grandstand apron.

Tomorrow: For a Sunday feature in Maryland, the $60,000 Fire Plug Stakes attracted a stellar group of hard-knocking stakes winners. Peter Angelos' Jove Stone set a track record in his most recent start, the six-furlong Mr. Nickerson Handicap at Philadelphia Park. Greenspring Willy, now 4, was honored Thursday by the state's breeders as the outstanding Maryland-bred 3-year-old male of 1998.

Pub Date: 4/17/99

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