Maryland Million draw takes place under cloud

Attacks, stable issue take edge off spirits

Horse Racing

October 11, 2001|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Year in and year out, the post-position draw for Maryland Million Day is an uplifting affair. As the name of each horse is announced for each race, the prospect for glory in the winner's circle runs hot.

Yesterday, the ceremonial draw in the Triple Crown room at Pimlico was subdued. Underlying the 11 races Saturday for horses sired by Maryland stallions were two issues -- one inside racing, one outside the sport -- tempering the usual Maryland Million zeal.

Pimlico will provide reminders Saturday of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as track management and thoroughbred horsemen and breeders attempt to raise money for the Pentagon relief fund.

They hope to raise $200,000 to $250,000 for Pentagon relief efforts, especially for families and children of victims.

The issue inside racing involves the closing of barns at Pimlico for the winter and management's reassignment of stalls at Bowie and Laurel Park.

Trainers are unhappy with the forced exodus from Pimlico, cited by management as a cost-cutting measure, and the loss or relocation of stalls at the Maryland Jockey Club's other two training centers.

Dale Capuano, a board member of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and the leading trainer in Maryland, said the mood of horsemen at this usual jovial time is sour.

"The horsemen are pretty upset, definitely," Capuano said. "Times are tough as it is without having to worry about how many stalls you're going to have or where you're going to be or whether you're going to be able to find help."

Said A. Ferris Allen III, vice president of the board of directors of the horsemen's group: "Here we are, the second-biggest week in Maryland racing. It's supposed to be a big, positive thing, but it's not."

If anything can cure the ills of the local industry, at least temporarily, it is the Maryland Million. Appropriately billed as "Maryland's day at the races," it features 11 races for the offspring of Maryland stallions as well as entertainment ranging from rock bands in the infield to Jack Russell terrier races on the track.

Ninety-eight horses were entered for the 16th running of the Maryland Million, being held at Pimlico for the first time since 1992 because of structural problems at Laurel Park. Panels of glass in the grandstand at Laurel overlooking the track have cracked, forcing the Maryland Million back to Pimlico.

The 11 races offer purses of $1.05 million and the prestige of winning races coveted most by local owners, breeders and horsemen. The highlight is the $200,000 Maryland Million Classic at the classic Preakness distance of 1 3/16 miles.

P Day, a 6-year-old gelding who finished third in last year's Classic, is the morning-line favorite. But Concerned Minister, a 4-year-old from the powerful barn of Grover G. "Bud" Delp, will likely be favored.

The Classic also features last year's winner, Testing. Since winning the Classic at odds of 6-1, Testing has lost four straight races, finishing no better than fourth.

Maryland Million

What: Maryland Million, 11 races for horses sired by Maryland stallions

When: Saturday, first race 12:35 p.m.

Where: Pimlico Race Course

Purses: $1.05 million

Highlight: $200,000 Classic, post time 5:15 p.m.

TV: Ch. 54, 4-6 p.m.

Gates open: 10:30 a.m.

Also featured: Infield open, bands, giveaways, trick-riding exhibition, jumping demonstration, Jack Russell terrier races, children's activities.

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