Bingo pays with victory in Classic

Aggadan second

Favorite Presidentialaffair fades to fourth

Maryland Million

horse racing


Play Bingo, a 4-year-old colt with bad feet, lagged so far behind the field for most of the $250,000 Maryland Million Classic on Saturday that he appeared to have no chance to win the centerpiece of Maryland Million Day at Laurel Park.

When the six runners in the race turned for home, however, Play Bingo, under jockey Ryan Fogelsonger, closed with a tremendous rush, racing by leaders Aggadan and Five Steps to score the biggest victory of his career.

The powerful performance was a fitting climax to the 12-race Maryland Million Day, the second most important day of racing in the state after Preakness Day and a showcase for the Maryland breeding industry.

A crowd of 18,887 turned out at Laurel Park and all-source wagering was a record $5,049,426.

Trainer John R.S. Fisher, who conditions Play Bingo at the Fair Hill training center, worried during the race his horse was too far back as even-money favorite Presidentialaffair opened up a six-length lead after six furlongs. Fogelsonger, however, didn't mind being 17 lengths behind.

"He was nice and relaxed," Fogelsonger said after Play Bingo won the 1 3/16-mile race in a time of 1:59.08. "I waited, waited, waited, then we took off. At the half-mile pole I kissed him a little. At the three-eighths pole we were moving by them. This horse has a tremendous turn of foot. He's as classy as any of the other horses in this race."

Play Bingo won for the sixth time in 15 career starts. He was bred by Dark Hollow Farm in Maryland and is a son of the late stallion Polish Numbers.

Presidentialaffair, who won the race in 2004, faded to fourth.

The Maryland Million was dominated by the offspring of the stallions of Country Life Farm in Bel Air. Joe Pons, the patriarch of the oldest thoroughbred family farm in the state, died last Wednesday at age 83.

A victory by the Country Life filly Surf Light in the $150,000 Maryland Million Ladies, a turf race for fillies and mares, led to an emotional celebration in the winner's circle for Joe Pons' sons, Michael and Josh, as well as a throng of friends and family.

"That filly had a couple thousand pounds on her back the last 50 years," Michael Pons said. "I don't know how she won with all of us riding her."

In the $150,000 Maryland Million Turf, La Reine's Terms became at age 10 the oldest horse to win a race in the 20 years of the event. The winner of the 2002 Maryland Million Turf returned from a year layoff to take the 1 1/8-mile grass race in 1:51.60 for owners Howard and Sondra Bender of Bethesda and trainer Larry Murray.

Originally published October 15, 2005, 8:53 PM EDT

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