`Grace' is apple of Dean's eye

Horse Racing

October 13, 2005|By SANDRA MCKEE | SANDRA MCKEE,SUN REPORTER

Don Dean was sitting at a table in the near-empty Terrace dining room after the redraw for Saturday's Maryland Million Day at Laurel Park yesterday afternoon. He was talking about his horse, Unbridled Grace, a long shot he has entered in the $150,000 Maryland Million Oaks for 3-year-old fillies.

He was one of barely a handful of owners and trainers who showed up for the redraw in which the number of entries dropped from 112 to 109, but the sparseness of the crowd did not curb Dean's enthusiasm.

Unbridled Grace, you see, is his first Maryland Million Day entry in 20 years of owning and breeding race horses.

The Maryland Million Day, a card of 12 races that celebrates the offspring of Maryland stallions, will be run for the 20th time Saturday after having been rescheduled from last Saturday because of the storm that dropped more than 7 inches of rain on Laurel's turf and dirt tracks.

Post time will be 12:15, or 20 minutes earlier than originally scheduled to assure there will be no trouble with daylight should the day be overcast.

"I'm a Marylander by choice," said Dean, who lives in Potomac. "I chose to breed and race in Maryland, and to race in the Maryland Million is kind of the epitome of breeding in this state. The purses are good and it's a wonderful day of racing. We have so many farms that stand stallions in Maryland and this is the day we get to show off our Maryland crop."

Dean speaks very well about the Maryland Million, so it is no surprise to learn that he has made his living by talking. He is a Capitol Hill lobbyist, campaigning for air traffic control modernization.

When asked if he had to lobby anyone to get into horse racing, Dean, 70, smiled a brief smile.

"You don't know what you just asked," he said. "My wife and daughter died in an auto accident in 1982. Afterward, Dr. Jim Stewart suggested I might want to buy a racehorse, that it might help me develop an interest. He helped me buy a 2-year-old filly, Mount Airy Mama.

"She was a very unsuccessful filly, but I did what you're not supposed to do and I kept her and bred her and all of her babies have run and won at some level. Getting into racing also introduced me to Race Track Chaplaincy of America, in which I have become very involved both nationally and here in Maryland."

His one horse has grown to seven mares and babies. No longer among them is Tax Dodge, the late stakes winner who 20 years later still holds the Aqueduct mile record for grass of 1:34.60. He bought her as a 19-year-old at the Fasig-Tipton Timonium sales and bred her to Country Life Farm's stallion Unbridled Jet.

The result is Unbridled Grace, who has run four times and produced a record of one win, two thirds and a ninth. Saturday, she will be ridden by Joe Rocco Jr., and will face tough competition from Sticky, who was the listed favorite last Saturday at 3-to-5.

The new pre-race odds are to be posted today.

"She's not necessarily a stakes horse yet," said Unbridled Grace's trainer, Robin Graham. "She's run just one long race [a mile at Laurel Park Sept. 7]. She had trouble out of the starting gate that day and ripped a shoe off."

But Graham likes her No. 3 starting position and Dean believes she is the best horse he has ever had.

"She's a special child," he said. "Her existence means my mares are getting better. Tax Dodge was a stakes horse with a track record and it's one of the truths of the breeding industry: You get what you breed to or from. She has yet to prove herself, but she does have the potential."

Turf's looking good

Maryland Jockey Club chief operating officer Lou Raffetto said Laurel's turf course will be ready Saturday. The turf is being used today and tomorrow and then the rail will be moved out to the Dahlia Course, providing a brand new course for the three turf races on Million Day.

Dominguez to ride 10

Ramon Dominguez leads all jockeys with 10 mounts Saturday. Ryan Fogelsonger and Stewart Elliott will each ride in eight races. Rookie A.R "Rose" Napravnik will ride five, down one from last week.

Raffetto optimistic

Raffetto said there will be a meeting between MJC officials and the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association and its "crisis committee" tomorrow afternoon to work on resolving racing date issues for 2006. "I'm sure this time these meetings will prove fruitful," Raffetto said. "We all want the same thing."

smm2me@aol.com

Maryland Million Day

WHAT

20th anniversary day of racing for Maryland-sired horses, with 12 races featuring 109 entries.

WHERE, WHEN; TV

Laurel Park, Saturday, first post 12:15 p.m.; Ch. 54 (4-6 p.m.)

PURSE

Totals $1.5 million, a national record for sire stakes events.

MARYLAND MILLION CLASSIC FIELD(Jockey, odds in parentheses) 1. Presidentialaffair (Stewart Elliott, 8-5 ) 2. Off The Glass (Horacio Karamanos, 20-1) 3. Play Bingo (Ryan Fogelsonger, 6-1 ) 4. Bruceybruceybrucey (Jeremy Rose, 12-1) 5. Cherokee's Boy (Travis Dunkelberger, 9-2) 6. Five Steps (Abel Castellano, 8-1) 7. Aggadan (Ramon Dominguez, 2-1)

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