For the second straight year, Maryland jockey Jeremy Rose and Delaware-based trainer Tim Ritchey combined to capture the Maryland Million Classic at Pimlico with a late-running Pennsylvania-bred.
Last year, it was Sumerset. Yesterday, it was Docent who earned the winner's share of the $200,000 purse in the premier race on one of Maryland's premier days of racing.
Created in 1986 as a showcase for Maryland stallions, the Maryland Million and its 10 races worth $1 million attracted 15,252 patrons to Pimlico and another 3,879 to Laurel Park.
The annual series features horses sired by Maryland stallions, but the horses can be born anywhere. Of yesterday's 10 winners, six were born in Maryland and one each in Kentucky, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Although Docent was born in Pennsylvania, he was raised in Maryland at Elberton Hill Farm in Darlington. The 4-year-old son of Waquoit apparently feels at home with feet on Maryland soil. He won his first stakes, the Maryland Million Sweepstakes, last year on Maryland Million day. One year later, he returned to claim his greatest prize.
"Unfortunately, I have to come to Maryland to win a big race," said Bernard J. Daney, Docent's breeder and the husband of Docent's owner, Arlene Daney.
Bernard Daney is chairman of the Delaware Racing Commission, and Delaware laws prohibits racing commissioners and their family members from racing horses or betting on them at state tracks.
So the Daneys target the Maryland Million for their gray colt, and the colt keeps hitting the bull's eye.
Docent inherited the favorite's role in the Classic after Kentucky speedster Duckhorn was scratched because of a cracked hoof. Bettors sent Docent to the post at 3-2, and he apparently relished the top billing.
As Carney's Prospect set a brisk pace, Docent and Rose settled into seventh for the 1 3/16-mile journey. They launched their bid around the far turn, barreling three-wide between horses, and took command at the head of the stretch.
Docent charged home a two-length winner over Hay Getoutofmyway. If the runner-up shouted his own name racing for home, Docent must have been too far in front to hear.
"Once I found out that Duckhorn was scratched, I knew that if my horse fired, he'd win," said Rose.
"Well, he fired. When I asked him to go, he went through the hole. Once he got in front, he just kept going."
Docent paid $5 to win and headed a $32.60 exacta. Concerned Minister, usually a front-runner, broke last in the nine-horse field and rallied for third. Carney's Prospect faded to fourth. The trifecta paid $213.20, and the superfecta (for a $1 bet) returned $817.80.
The victory by Docent represented the fifth win of the afternoon for Northview Stallion Station in Cecil County.
Waquoit, Docent's sire, stands at Northview. So does Partner's Hero, sire of Object Of Virtue, winner of the Maryland Million Lassie, and Not For Love, sire of Shopping For Love, winner of the Maryland Million Ladies, as well as Blinded By Love, winner of the Maryland Million Distaff.
Private Terms, sire of La Reine's Term, winner of the Maryland Million Turf, stood at Northview until 1995. Although he now stands in Kentucky, Northview manages his stud career.
Four winners represented stallions at Country Life Farm near Bel Air.