The Dale Capuano trainee, a son of Partner’s Hero, ranks as the 15th all-time Maryland-bred money winner with $1,045,298. Capuano expects his star to compete in the Grade II Nearctic Stakes at Woodbine on October 17, a race he won two years ago and is hoping to make a return trip in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, a race in which he finished fifth in 2008, beaten just 2 ¼ lengths.
“He is doing really well and had a fabulous work last Saturday,” said Capuano, who is tied with Bill Boniface for most Maryland Million wins with eight. “I took it really easy on him leading up to the Mister Diz and since then we have started to crank it up for the final three starts of the year. He has a couple dances before the Breeders’ Cup. Hopefully he’ll do well.”
Other Maryland-bred millionaires to win Maryland Million races are Awad (’93 Turf), Safely Kept (’89-90-91 Distaff), Little Bold John (’87 Classic), Cherokee’s Boy (’02 Nursery), Silmaril (’04 Oaks & ’06 Distaff) and Urbane (’95 Oaks).
The Maryland Million program is restricted to horses sired by Maryland-based stallions, not necessarily Maryland-bred horses which means Cigar, Concern, Broad Brush and Include never competed in Maryland’s Day At The Races during their careers.
Eleven other turf specialists look to upset the 3-5 favorite, including defending champion Kosmo’s Buddy. Last year, the daughter of Outflanker upset the boys in the Turf Sprint. Unlike 2008 when she came into the race in peak form, the Tim Salzman trainee has just one on the board finish in five starts.
“Her last few races haven’t been as good as we wanted to prep up for it but we had some issues that we’ve straightened out so hopefully, you know she worked really good the other day (Tuesday morning working three-furlongs in 35.6 seconds),” Salzman said. “I think we’re all running for second but we are going to try. It’s a tough spot.”
Kosmo’s Buddy, a 20-1 longshot, is one of five defending champions on the 12-race card. None are the morning line favorites, established by Maryland Jockey Club handicapper Frank Carulli.
Multiple stakes winner Celtic Innis, with nearly $550,000 in career earnings, is the 7-2 third choice in the $125,000 Sprint, behind Roaring Lion (2-1) and graded stakes winner Not for Silver (5-2). Celtic Innis, a seven-year-old son of Yarrow Brae, is eight-for 29 with 21 in the money finishes at the six-furlong distance, including a second place finish in this race in 2006.
“The race looks tougher this year but we point towards it every year,” said trainer Tim Keefe. “Last year we gave him some time over the winter, brought him back, ran him a few times in the spring and summer and here we are again. He’s doing great, just as well as the past couple years. Hopefully he’ll give us a good effort this year as he did the last couple years.”
Miss Lombardi is the 4-1 third choice in the $125,000 Ladies behind Talkin About Love (3-1) and Ziggly (7-2). Trained by Graham Motion at the Fair Hill Training Center, Miss Lombardi comes into the Ladies off an allowance victory, just like 2008. The daughter of Unbridled Jet will have the services of Jeremy Rose.
“Her schedule is revolved around getting her to the Maryland Million in the best way possible,” said Motion, who has seven Maryland Million wins on his resume. “I am not surprised she is not the favorite. It is a solid group of horses. She has become one of the barn favorites. She is just a tough old mare and these warriors are few and far between. We are pretty partial to her.”
Swear Allegiance is the 4-1 second choice in the $50,000 Distaff Starter Handicap behind the well traveled Scheing E Jet (7-5), who for years played bridesmaid to Silmaril. Trainer by Damon Dilodovico at the Bowie Training Center, Swear Allegiance has won back-to-back claiming races at Penn National heading into her title defense. The daughter of Swear by Dixie is six-for-18 lifetime with 14 on the board finishes.
“Wouldn’t it be great if we could come back and win it again,” Dilodovico said. “We were trying to knock out an allowance win for her all year but just couldn’t get it done. We then made sure she was eligible for this spot and the last two races have gone well.”
Cuba, who won the $200,000 Classic a year ago in dominating fashion, has been made the co-fourth choice at 8-1. Trained by Bobby Dibona at Monmouth Park, the son of Not For Love won the 2008 Classic by four lengths as the favorite. This year the eight-year-old has won one time in seven tries but Dibona believes he is peaking at the right time.
“I think we’re coming into this thing where we want to be,” Dibona said. “I don’t’ know how much tougher the race is from last year. I hear a horse that Ramon Dominguez is going to ride (Broadway Producer) is tough and we may vie for favoritism. Other than that, I don’t know what new characters we got.”
The Classic features three others who have tasted victory on Maryland’s Day At The Races: Broadway producer, the 9-5 favorite, who is looking to become the second horse in Maryland Million history to win the Turf and Classic in back to back years, joining Master Speaker (1988-89), Sweet Goodbye, who won the 2008 Oaks and is taking on the boys and Regal Solo, who took the 2007 Nursery during his two-year-old campaign.
Introduced in 1986, the day has been officially designated as Jim McKay Maryland Million after the Maryland General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in support during the 2009 Legislative Session. The Hall of Fame broadcaster originally proposed the concept and remained the Chairman of the Board until his death on June 7, 2008. There will be a special presentation to the McKay family prior to the third race.
The first 4,000 full-paid admissions and Maryland-licensed owners and trainers will each receive a free Jim McKay Maryland Million Sport Cap. On track entertainment will feature retired racehorses showcasing talents in new careers and Goshen hounds
Country music sensation Chris Young will hold a special concert in-between the sixth and seventh races. The 24-year-old will be performing his top ten hit “Getting’ You Home” (The Black Dress Song).