Maryland's stallions rate Million in tribute

Presidentialaffair favored in Classic as today's program celebrates sires

October 09, 2004|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Maryland stallions have produced horses who recently won major stakes around the country. Love of Money, Park Avenue Ball, Perfect Moon and Declan's Moon - all sired by stallions in Maryland - captured stakes from California to New York.

Today, Maryland stallions will produce 12 more winners in the Maryland Million at Pimlico. That's a sure bet. The 12 races are limited to horses sired by Maryland stallions.

Jim McKay, sports broadcaster and Monkton resident, conceived of the Maryland Million in the mid-1980s as a way of promoting the state's sires and celebrating its racing industry. This is the 19th Maryland Million, billed as the most-imitated event in racing. After the inaugural Maryland Million in 1986, 18 other states came up with similar racing festivals.

Appropriately, the best horse racing in the Maryland Million is a product of the state's best sire. Presidentialaffair, 4-5 morning-line favorite in the $200,000 Maryland Million Classic, is a son of Not For Love, whose starters have earned an average of $77,564 during their careers.

Presidentialaffair has surpassed that, earning $385,970 in 20 starts. He's won eight, including three stakes, two of which were Grade III. He has finished second six times.

Despite being conceived at Northview Stallion Station in Chesapeake City, Presidentialaffair was born in Pennsylvania and is based at Philadelphia Park. His trainer and part-owner, Marty Ciresa, bought him as a yearling for $25,000 at the 2000 fall yearling sale at Timonium.

"He was a gorgeous horse," said Ciresa, 43, a trainer for 15 years. "I was hoping he could run like he looked."

He could, but Ciresa found out Presidentialaffair was "so crazy we couldn't get him to go around the racetrack. He's a lunatic."

Ciresa had him gelded at 2, hoping that would calm him. Then Ciresa discovered that Presidentialaffair is a free spirit. He doesn't like to be rubbed or to wear blinkers or to feel bandages around his legs or even to be ridden.

He would be tied to the wall in his stall and, when anyone tried to groom him, he would rear and spin, lashing out with his front feet.

Predictably, Presidentialaffair hurt himself. He's sustained a series of injuries: broken shin, torn ligament, muscle soreness, foot ailments.

But when he's sound, he's fast. He's tied and broken track records at Monmouth Park. After Presidentialaffair finished second to Ghostzapper, the nation's No. 2-ranked horse, in the Iselin Handicap in August at Monmouth, Ciresa ran him in the Grade I Woodward Stakes last month at Belmont Park.

The race was a "total debacle," Ciresa said. He discovered an abscess in his horse's left front foot a couple of days later. After the Iselin, he had discovered an abscess in the horse's right front foot. It's always something, the trainer said.

Presidentialaffair seems fine now, and he's primed for the Classic, Ciresa said. Stewart Elliott, his jockey - and the jockey of Smarty Jones - breezed him Monday, and he was "phenomenal," Ciresa said. Plus, he added, "there's no Ghostzapper in there."

NOTES: Forty stallions are represented by Maryland Million entrants. Allen's Prospect, the leading Maryland Million sire with 15 winners, heads the list with 15 entrants. He died last year at age 21 at Country Life Farm near Bel Air ... . Ben Feliciano Jr., the 39-year-old trainer with an abundance of speedsters, trains Crossing Point, the likely favorite in the Sprint, as well as the top three morning-line choices in the Turf Sprint (Nortouch at 5-2, Quest Of Fate at 4-1 and Namequest at 9-2) ... . Mario Pino, the veteran jockey who's been riding this year primarily at Delaware Park, has eight mounts, including the likely favorites in three straight races: Bronze Abe in the Distaff, Crossing Point in the Sprint and Hail Hillary in the Ladies.

Maryland Million

What: Twelve races for horses sired by Maryland stallions

When: Today

Where: Pimlico Race Course

First race: 12:35 p.m.

Purses: $1,125,000

Richest race: $200,000 Maryland Million Classic

Post time for Classic: 5:42 p.m.

TV: Channel 54, 4-6 p.m. (four races live, eight on tape)

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