Million sets records for crowd, handle


October 14, 2007|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN REPORTER

On a perfect October afternoon a record crowd of 26,788 jammed into Laurel Park for the 22nd annual Maryland Million Day program for the offspring of Maryland-based stallions.

The day is the second-biggest day in Maryland racing, and yesterday's attendance contributed to a record handle figure of $5,985,793 that shattered the previous high set in 2005 by more than $900,000.

"We hear from some people that racing is a dead sport," said Lou Raffetto, the Maryland Jockey Club president and chief operating officer. "Anyone that was in attendance [yesterday] at Laurel Park knows that is the farthest thing from the truth. We had a record crowd together with a record handle, almost a million dollars higher than ever before. The Maryland Million is a small sample of what Maryland racing is capable of when given the financial resources to compete."

Grove's nine

Trainer Chris Grove started the day with high hopes for his nine entries in the day's 12 races. But the first surprise came in the second race, when pre-race and betting favorite Silmaril finished second to Akronism in the $150,000 Distaff.

Lexi Star, the favorite in the $200,000 Ladies Turf, finished third behind Maddy's Heart and Beau's Trip. And $300,000 Classic favorite Five Star finished second to long-shot Evil Storm.

Grove's other best finishers were Loveyasister, who finished third in the $150,000 Oaks, and Princess Nyla, who was fourth in the $150,000 Lassie.

"Everybody came back sound," Grove said. "I'm not unhappy. A lot of trainers here today would like to go home with two seconds and a third. None of the nine raced bad. I can't cry. It was a good day, and we'll fight another day."

First time, first time

Eight sires had offspring in Million Day races for the first time yesterday. One of them, Louis Quatorze, had a winner. Owned by Allen and Audrey Murray at Murmur Farm, Louis Quatorze has a 2-year-old son, Regal Solo, who won in the $150,000 Nursery. The Murrays also own Regal Solo.

The winner's circle was the scene of a wild celebration - until the riders of second- and third-place finishers Smooth It Over and Izzy Speaking lodged objections. Then everyone but Regal Solo's jockey, Ryan Fogelsonger, went silent.

"I kept him in good position, right in the middle, between the outside horse and the inside horse," said Fogelsonger, as he watched the tape of the race being replayed for the crowd. "The outside horse, the 3-to-5 favorite [Izzy Speaking], came down on me a little there, but I'm allowed to hold my ground. I didn't do anything wrong, and he doesn't deserve to be taken down."

After a relatively long, look the stewards agreed.

"This feels wonderful," Audrey Murray said. "We bred the winner, and we own the winner. We've never won a Maryland Million race before."

Love, love, love

"All you need is love," the Beatles sang. Yesterday, it often seemed all you needed was an offspring from Not For Love to reach the winner's circle. The stallion, who stands at the Northview Stallion Station in Chesapeake City, had three winners - the most of any stallion yesterday: Love For Not in the $150,000 Lassie, whose owner Kathleen Willier, has been in the racing business 30 years and celebrated her first stakes win; Akronism in the $150,000 Distaff; and Forty Crowns in the $200,000 Turf.

The three wins give Not For Love multiple winners in each of the past six years and moves him into second place on the all-time leading stallions list with 14. Allen's Propect is tops with 21.

Other winners

The $150,000 Maryland Million Oaks was won by Moon Catcher, a Malibu Moon filly, ridden by Anthony Black and running for trainer and part owner Tim Ritchey. Moon Catcher won by 4 1/2 lengths over Paying Off, also a Malibu Moon production.

One of the closest races came in the $100,000 Turf Sprint, with Happy Surprise nipping Whata Monster at the wire.

Off the Glass, 8, who had won the $50,000 Starter Handicap last year after being claimed away from Nonsequitur Stables and trainer Linda Albert, won the race again yesterday.

Grand Champion, sired by Two Punch, won the $150,000 Sprint. Be Oh Be, sired by Diamond, earned the victory in the $30,000 Sprint Starter Handicap; and Swear To It, a daughter of Swear By Dixie, won the $50,000 Distaff Starter.

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