Lineups stacked for Md. Million

Four defending champs among full-size fields

September 19, 2002|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Full-size fields, four defending champions and the temporary return of jockey sensation Horacio Karamanos will headline the 17th Maryland Million card Saturday at Pimlico Race Course.

The 10-race offering has attracted 124 offspring of Maryland stallions, 26 more runners than last fall when 11 races were conducted.

"I only wish we could start 14 in every race," said Joe De Francis, president and chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club. "This is probably the biggest number of horses in the gate in quite a few years."

Said Georganne Hale, racing secretary: "I think we got everybody we possibly could have. I'm not sure if we would've gotten Magic Weisner if he wasn't ill."

Owner/trainer Nancy Alberts was debating the entry of her storybook horse into the Million Classic, but her decision was made when Magic Weisner contracted West Nile virus and was scratched from the Pennsylvania Derby. He is still recovering.

Alberts said yesterday that she had planned to run Magic Weisner on the state's second biggest day and that her horse "is so happy to be home. He's eating and dragging me around the barn and doing a little better each day."

Only one race, the Million Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, drew fewer than double-digit entries.

The $200,000 Classic has a lineup of 10, including last year's winner, Sumerset, who prevailed at 30-to-1 odds. Marciano, who ran well in the 2001 Preakness, and Docent, another strong runner from trainer Tim Ritchey's stable, are also entered.

But the overwhelming overnight favorite is Duckhorn, a two-time graded stakes winner who dwarfs the field with $747,812 in earnings.

Owned by Michael Tabor and trained by Patrick Byrne, Duckhorn is based in Kentucky, but was sired by Not For Love and is out of a Deputed Testamony mare. In his most recent visit to Maryland, Duckhorn crushed a field of six in the H.E. Johnson Memorial Handicap at Laurel in March 2001.

The Classic, run at the Preakness distance of 1 3/16th miles, is scheduled for a 5:44 p.m. post.

Also back to defend titles are Blazing Colors, a Valley Crossing gelding who took the Starter Handicap last year; Case of the Blues, the diminutive mare with the big heart who captured the 2001 Distaff, and Elberton, whose victims in the Turf included La Reine's Terms (seventh), who is unbeaten in four starts since.

Your Out, the 2-year-old Maryland Filly of the Year, heads the field in the Ladies. The always-tough Sprint - which is limited to 12 runners - has five stakes winners.

Karamanos has been idle since the Timonium meeting because of a series of suspensions for riding violations, but has been granted permission by the stewards to compete on Million Day. He has been named on eight mounts, including Carney's Prospect in the Classic.

The Million card is being conducted in September for the first time since 1992 and three weeks earlier than last year.

"It is a paradox," De Francis said. "September is probably our best month for putting horses on the track. Monmouth is closed, Delaware Park's turf is chewed up, the weather is great and we're coming back to Pimlico.

"But normally, September is a slow month for business because school has started again, baseball is into the pennant races and football is underway. Crowds are usually modest in this month, but we expect a very good day for the Million."

NOTES: The track will present the Maryland Million Horse Fair, which will include events on the main track and an infield party called the Kids' Corral. Admission to the infield will be $3 for adults, with children 12 and under entering free. The first 5,000 fans receive a Maryland Million tote bag.

Facts, figures

What:17th Maryland Million, 10 races for horses sired by Maryland stallions

When:Saturday. Gates open at 11 a.m. First race 1:05 p.m.

Where:Pimlico Race Course

Purses:$1 million

Highlight:$200,000 Classic, post time 5:44 p.m.

TV:Ch. 54, 4-6 p.m. (last four races live, first six races tape)

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