Sumerset sticks neck out in Classic

Narrow win shocker in Maryland Million

`Minister' finishes 7th

October 14, 2001|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

As Maryland's day at the races, the Maryland Million has it over the Preakness because the crowd is smaller, congestion is less and the rewards are just as sweet.

By that criteria, no one had a better Maryland Million than Sumerset.

The 4-year-old colt from Delaware skimmed the rail for every step of 1 3/16 miles en route to a shocking upset yesterday in the $200,000 Maryland Million Classic at Pimlico.

Under the guidance of Jeremy Rose, the leading contender for an Eclipse Award as the nation's top apprentice jockey, Sumerset ran where the crowds were small and the congestion was less.

His sweet reward was a thrilling neck victory worth $110,000 to his Pennsylvania owners, who claimed him for $50,000 just 13 days ago out of a race at Delaware Park. For Sumerset's backers at the mutuel windows, the rewards were $63.60 to win and hefty returns for investments in exactas, trifectas and superfectas.

"We just claimed him to be part of the day," said Gregg Fral.

"We never expected this," said Eric Fral. "We'd have been happy just picking up the pieces."

The brothers from Pennsylvania form E & G Stables, familiar to Marylanders as former clients of Scott Lake, the nation's leading trainer in wins. Lake and the Frals combined last year to win more than $1 million in purses. But Lake and the Frals parted company, and the Frals recruited Tim Ritchey, based at Delaware Park, to train Sumserset.

Sumerset's victory in the Maryland Million's richest race showed once again what a regional event the series has become. The 11 races worth $1.05 million in purses are for horses sired by Maryland stallions, but the horses can be born anywhere.

Of yesterday's 11 races, only four were won by horses born in Maryland. Sumerset was one of four Maryland Million winners foaled in Pennsylvania. His owners live in Pennsylvania. His trainer works in Delaware.

Yet Sumerset's sire stands in Maryland. His father is Allen's Prospect, who brings a national perspective to the affair. The 19-year-old stallion at Country Life Farm near Bel Air not only leads the state and Maryland Million in winners, but also leads the country in wins by sons and daughters.

Sumerset was Allen's Prospect's 13th Maryland Million winner. His proud son earned the victory after stalking the trio of early leaders from Maryland (Lightning Paces, Big Becker and Concerned Minister). As one by one they faded, Sumerset surged with conserved energy and caught the most tenacious one, Lightning Paces, at the wire.

Concerned Minister, the 4-5 favorite, dropped back sharply and finished seventh. His trainer, Grover G. "Bud" Delp, offered no excuses.

He said that he and Mario Pino, the jockey, "messed up" by deciding beforehand that Concerned Minister might be better off stalking the pace instead of setting it because front-runners had been faltering all afternoon. In hindsight, Delp said, they should have let the colt roll.

NOTE: Tim Capps, executive director of Maryland Million Ltd., said that attendance yesterday at Maryland tracks and off-track-betting centers was down about 5 percent from last year, that betting in-state on Maryland Million races was down about 2.7 percent, but that betting overall (in-state and out-of-state) was up by about 6.7 percent.

Attendance at Pimlico and Laurel Park, where fans watched on TV, was 20,682. Capps estimated that nearly 17,000 came to Pimlico. Organizers had hoped for 25,000.

"Given the situation nationally, especially after all the mid-week warnings [of terrorist attacks] from the Justice Department," Capps said, "we had a pretty good day."

The Classic

Sumerset $63.60 $26.00 $11.20

Lightning Paces $13.60 $7.00

P Day $2.60

$2 Exacta (3-2) paid $769.20 $2 Trifecta (3-2-7) paid $3,681.40

$1 Superfecta (3-2-7-6) paid $12,040.30

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