Twelve Pack Shelly sets the bar in the Lassie

Classic draws eight contenders

September 29, 2010|By Sandra McKee, The Baltimore Sun

LAUREL — — Trainer John Salzman Jr. didn't set out to buy a horse for 25th annual Maryland Million Day, but this year, unlike some others, he has a filly that looks like the class of the Maryland Million Lassie field for two-year-olds and possibly one of the best horses on the card.

But don't tell Salzman his horse looks like a synch to win. He'll look at you with dismay.

"We might have a shot to win a race," he said after Wednesday's draw at Laurel Park where his filly was one of 111 horses who learned which gate they'll be starting from for Saturday's Maryland Million Day. "I'd never say we were a synch. I've had people come up to me before races and ask if they can come into the winner's circle and have their pictures taken with the horse. I'll let anyone get their picture taken with my horse, but please don't ask before the race. Please don't say she looks like a sure winner. That just seems like bad luck to me."

Twelve Pack Shelly, who will start from post No. 2 in the first race at 12:35 Saturday, has had little bad luck to this point of her young career. The daughter of Deputy Storm set a track record in her maiden race at Laurel Park in April. She went to Churchill Downs for her second start and finished third in the Grade III Kentucky Juvenile, losing by 1 3/4ths length to the boys. She stumbled at Delaware in her third outing but hasn't lost since, running off three straight wins, the last two being stakes races at Monmouth Park, N.J. and Charles Town, W.Va.

"I'm looking for an easy race for her, but I haven't found one yet," said Salzman, who points to trainer Rodney Jenkins' Love's Reason and Mike Trombetta's Doing Great as two strong challengers on Saturday.

Every race on this year's card, that will have purses totaling $1.05 million, has strong competition.

A field of eight will compete in the $150,000 Maryland Million Classic. Though last year's winner Sumacha'hot won't be here due to a minor leg injury, 2008 champion Cuba and Regal Solo, who finished second and third respectively a year ago, will be.

And five of last year's champions will defend their titles: All Giving ($100,000 Distaff), Roaring Lion ($100,000 Sprint), Natural Seven ($100,000 Sprint Turf), Talkin About Love ($100,000 Ladies) and Serenadia ($50,000 Distaff Starter Handicap).

"The hardest part is behind us," said David DiPietro, president of the Maryland Million board. "We've got a very strong card. The smallest field has seven horses and that's only because of a really prohibitive favorite, Twelve Park Shelly. She's beaten boys and set a track record here. But we've got one full field of 14 (The Distaff Starter Handicap) and a number of double digits. That's good for the track and good for the Maryland Million because bettors like large fields."

Overall 13 previous winners will be running, including the last three in the Sprint Turf: Kosmo's Buddy (2007), millionaire Heros Reward (2008) and Natural Seven (2009). In that field will also be the undefeated Ben's Cat, trained by King Leatherbury.

Wednesday, Maryland Million, Ltd., also honored the leading breeders, owners, trainers and riders in the history of Maryland's Day at the Races. Awards were presented to jockey Ramon Dominguez-17 wins; trainers Bill Boniface and Dale Capuano-eight wins; owners Sondra Bender and Mea Culpa Stables-five wins and breeders Bonita Farm, Hal C.B. Clagett, Glade Valley Farms, Barbara Cross Graham and Mr. & Mrs. Charles McGinnes-five wins.

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

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