`Player' bids for Sprint repeat

But tough field in Million Day race hurts his chances


My Poker Player, who won the Maryland Million Sprint a year ago, has been on a vacation, recovering from what humans might term burnout.

After 2 1/2 years of making his living pounding East Coast racetracks from here to New York, My Poker Player needed a breather.

Now, after three months of rest, he's back, and both owner Roddy Valente and trainer Bruce Levine say he is ready to run.

"We've freshened him up," said Valente, who owns a construction company in Albany, N.Y.

"He couldn't be any better," said Levine, who brings the 5-year-old son of Not For Love to Laurel Park today in hopes of a repeat win in the $150,000 Sprint.

The Sprint will be the sixth race on the card on Maryland Million Day, a celebration of Maryland-sired horses. And though the $250,000 Classic is the most prestigious of the races, the Sprint has what is considered the most competitive field.

A year ago, My Poker Player came from eight lengths back to score a rousing, 1 1/2 -length victory over Crossing Point, the multi-stakes-winning son of Allen's Prospect.

But last year's winner is not this year's early favorite. In fact, at 8-1, he is only the sixth favorite in a nine-horse field.

"It's what have you done for me lately," said trainer Gary Capuano, who has decided to run Cherokee's Boy in the Sprint instead of the $250,000 Classic. "My Poker Player hasn't done a whole lot since winning here, but that's not to say he can't ... we're all giving it our best shot."

Saay Mi Name is the 2-1 favorite, while Cherokee's Boy, a onetime Preakness competitor, is second choice at 3-1.

The Robert Cole Jr. entry of Senor Cielo Two, who has three straight wins, and American Proud, in his first race since being claimed by Howard Wolfendale, a trainer considered a wizard at turning claimers into winners, is third choice at 7-2.

Graze, stepping up in class after five straight claiming-race wins, is listed at 5-1. Love's Strong Hart, Lothar and Crossing Point are considered long shots.

"This could be a handicapper's dream," said Wayne Bailey, Saay Mi Name's owner/trainer. "A handicapper's dream is for every horse to hit the wire at the same time. If they do that, he has done his job exactly right. ... When you look at this lineup, you can find something in every horse's background that you could look back on and say `That's why he won.' "

Saay Mi Name, also sired by Not For Love, won two stakes in August and finished an impressive second in the $100,000 Charles Hadry Stakes in September. Bailey, who co-trains the horse with his wife, Kelly, said he is confident that Saay Mi Name is ready.

"[We've] gotten on the same page," said Bailey, who stables at the Bowie Training Center. "I know what it takes - or he does. He doesn't like too much training. He wants to take it easy and have his races spread out."

That lesson was learned in the MoBay Stakes at Delaware Park, where he finished behind four horses, including Lothar.

Lothar, an Allen's Prospect offspring, will be running in his first race since jockey Eric Camacho pulled him up and out of the gate at Timonium's State Fair meet Sept. 5. Trainer Steve Krebs continues to pursue sanctions against Camacho with the Maryland Racing Commission.

"I'd feel so vindicated if my horse won after that last start," Krebs said. "But this is a very competitive race. Saay Mi Name has been awful good lately, and Cherokee's Boy is coming in off a big race ... but Lothar is not going to embarrass himself."

Cherokee's Boy has not run a race of less than a mile since last May, and he will compete in this six-furlong sprint because Capuano said the $250,000 Classic field "didn't set up right for him.

"Basically, he wouldn't have been able to get his own way in the Classic," Capuano said. "In the Classic, he would have to get out front by himself to have a chance. ... I'm not crazy about this race, either, but we'll see what happens."


Maryland Million Day


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


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


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


(Jockey, odds in parentheses)

1. Presidentialaffair (Stewart Elliott, 3-2)

2. Off The Glass (Horacio Karamanos, 15-1)

3. Play Bingo (Ryan Fogelsonger, 5-1 )

4. Bruceybruceybrucey (Jeremy Rose, 10-1)

5. Five Steps (Abel Castellano, 6-1)

6. Aggadan (Ramon Dominguez, 9-5)

Maryland Million

Today, Laurel Park, 12:15 p.m.TV: Ch. 54 (4-6 p.m.)

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