Saratoga Bob, who earned the biggest victory of his career in last year's Maryland Million, will make his first start in 20 weeks as he goes about defending his title in Saturday's $150,000 Classic at Laurel Park.
Run at 1 1/8 miles over the main track, the Classic for 3-year-olds and up serves to highlight the 34th annual Jim McKay Maryland Million Day program, one of seven stakes and four starter stakes worth $1.02 million in purses that help comprise `Maryland's Day at the Races,' named for the late Hall of Fame and 13-time Emmy Award-winning broadcaster who helped launch the groundbreaking concept in 1986.
Post time for the first of 12 races is noon.
||Jorge Vargas, Jr.
|Luis Carvajal, Jr.
|A. Allen, III
||Torch of Truth
||Top Line Growth
A total of 155 horses were entered on the program, an average of 12.9 per race. Five races are scheduled for Laurel's world-class turf course, attracting 68 entries, an average of 13.6 per race.
Bred by Manfuso and Voss, who also trains the 5-year-old Friesan Fire gelding, Saratoga Bob was third choice in a field of 10 for last year's Classic, prevailing by a half-length in 1:51.28. It was Voss' first Classic win and the third for jockey Edgar Prado, moving him past retired fellow Hall of Famer Ramon Dominguez for most Maryland Million wins with 18.
"That was fantastic. It was very special," Voss said. "I don't know how tough a race it was last year and I don't know that it'll be much tougher this year. I think we've got a shot, but we don't have any grand expectations with him not having a race under his belt for 4 ½ months. We'll just have to see."
Saratoga Bob has raced exclusively at Laurel, with four wins, three seconds and four thirds from 16 starts, and a lifetime bankroll of $231,832. This will be his first time back in stakes company and only his second try at 1 1/8 miles since the Classic.
This year, Saratoga Bob has one win from five starts, coming in his season opener Feb. 3. He last raced June 1 in a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance, finishing fifth in only his second career try on the turf. Voss pre-entered Saratoga Bob in both the $125,000 Maryland Million Turf and $100,000 Maryland Million Sprint, run at eight and seven furlongs, respectively.
"I actually considered running him in the Turf, just because it was a mile and he hasn't run in so long," Voss said. "He doesn't deal with the hot weather very well, so we had planned to give him the summer off. We had hoped to get him a prep race but he had a couple different things to deal with and then the prep race didn't go, so we're going into the Classic without it. But, he's doing good, knock on wood."
Without a prep, Voss adjusted Saratoga Bob's training to include two longer works, both from the gate, leading up to the Classic. He went seven furlongs in 1:26.60 Oct. 5 and one mile in 1:40.80 Oct. 12.
"A couple weeks ago I worked him gate to wire out of the starting gate and then, when it looked like we were heading to the Classic, I went ahead and worked him a mile last Saturday," Voss said. "He's doing well. He's a decent work horse, [but] getting a race under his belt would have made a big difference."
Saratoga Bob, 9-2 in the morning line, will see four familiar faces from last year's Classic - runner-up Dothat Dance, third-place finisher Clubman, Legend's Hope and Tattooed. Burning Daylight Farms' Dothat Dance will be making his third Maryland Million start, also having finished fifth in the 2017 Turf. His lone win this year came in a May 11 starter-optional claimer at Pimlico Race Course.
Caonabo Stable's multiple stakes winner Clubman, the 2-1 morning-line favorite, is back for his third straight try at the Classic but first for trainer Rodolfo Sanchez-Salomon. Last year and 2017, when he ran fourth, came for previous trainer Jonathan Maldonado.
"He has run great in this race the last two years," Sanchez-Salomon said. "He is doing great. We've got a really good shot in there. Hopefully, we get a little bit lucky and get a good trip and win the race."
A gelded 5-year-old son of Not For Love, the Maryland Million's all-time leading sire with 36 wins, Clubman exits a fourth behind Grade 3-placed Cordmaker in the DTHA Governors Day Handicap Sept. 28 at Delaware Park, which came off a string of bullet workouts at Laurel.
"The last race, he didn't grab the bridle for some reason. He likes to be ridden a certain way, and he didn't run that day," Sanchez-Salomon said. "When he runs here, he's a different horse. He's doing awesome right now."
Clubman owns six of his nine career wins from 25 starts at Laurel, though his two stakes wins have come out of town. He won the seven-furlong Russell Road April 20 at Charles Town and romped by 9 ½ lengths in the 6 ½-furlong Maryland Coalition at Timonium Aug. 24. Julian Pimentel, aboard for that win, gets the return call. Pimentel ranks fifth as one of only five jockeys with double-digit Maryland Million wins (13), but has never won the Classic.
"He won the Timonium race for fun. After the last race he ran at Delaware, he was kicking the stall down. He didn't get to run at all, and it was disappointing because he was doing awesome," Sanchez-Salomon said. "Julian came to two-minute lick him last Saturday, and he dragged him all the way around."
Among the newcomers is Shirley Lojeski's homebred Forest Fire, looking to give Friesan Fire his second straight Classic win as a sire. The 4-year-old gelding comes in on a two-race win streak, both by a neck in optional claiming allowance spots at Parx going one mile and a mile and 70 yards.
"He's doing really good," Kentucky Derby (G1)-winning trainer John Servis said. "He breezed the other day and went really good. I couldn't be happier with him. He's shown us that he deserves a shot."
Forest Fire raced twice at Laurel last winter, winning an optional claiming allowance in the mud and finishing second to V.I.P. Code, beaten less than a length in the 1 1/16-mile Private Terms Stakes. He missed some time after that race and again this year, but Servis said the horse has put those issues behind him.
"He came up with a little issue last year and we had to stop on him. Then we brought him back and just thought that maybe he didn't come back the same, but actually there was another issue that we had to address," Servis said. "We got that straightened out and he came back and knocked out two wins, back to back. He's back on track and doing good."
Servis also pre-entered Forest Fire in the Turf. Six-for-12 lifetime, he has always shown Servis the same kind of heart he displayed in each of his last two wins.
"He loves to fight. He loves it. In the morning, even before he ever ran, he'd put a neck in front and then he'd throw his ears up and get to waiting on horses, and as soon as horses would come to him he'd jump right back in the bridle again. He's always been a horse that's been real game like that, Servis said.
"When we first tried him in the [Private Terms], he got beat and he ran really game. He dug in and ran hard. And the race before that was the same kind of race. A horse hooked him, he looked like he was beat and he dug back in again," he added. "He's sitting on go. He's ready."
Rounding out the field are Crouchelli; Prendemi, Monmouth Park stakes winner this spring and summer; Tappin Cat, second by a half-length in the Star de Naskra Stakes Aug. 17 at Laurel; Torch of Truth, racing third off the claim for trainer Jamie Ness; and Trifor Gold, a distant second to Alwaysmining in the Federico Tesio Stakes April 20.
Maryland-breds on the also-eligible list, and only able to draw in if the main body of the race drops below eight Maryland Million-certified horses, are, in order: multiple stakes winner Cordmaker, third by two necks in the Pimlico Special (G3) in May; Top Line Growth, this summer's promoted winner of the Iowa Derby who ran third in the Sept. 2 Smarty Jones (G3); and 2017 Classic winner Bonus Points.
Saratoga Bob & My Sistersledge Top Maryland Million Pre-Entries
My Sistersledge, already a two-time Maryland Million winner, and 2018 Classic winner Saratoga Bob top five defending champions and nine past winners among 244 pre-entries in 11 stakes on the 34th annual Jim McKay Maryland Million Day program Saturday, Oct. 19 at Laurel Park.
Four of the 12 races on the Maryland Million program, which also attracted four past Maryland-bred champions led by 2017 Horse of the Year Just Howard, are scheduled to be contested over Laurel's world-class turf course. Entries and post positions will be drawn Wednesday, Oct. 16.
First race post time on Maryland Million Day is noon.
Bob Manfuso, Wayne Harrison and trainer Katy Voss' Saratoga Bob came back after losing the lead at the top of the stretch for a half-length triumph in last year's $150,000 Classic for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/8 miles, the Maryland Million's richest race. Bred by Manfuso and Voss, the 5-year-old Friesan Fire gelding has not faced stakes company in seven subsequent starts, with one win.
Also among the 22 Classic nominees are Dothat Dance and Clubman, second and third, respectively, in last year's race; 2017 Classic winner Bonus Points; multiple stakes winner Cordmaker, third by two necks in the 2019 Pimlico Special (G3); and Top Line Growth, promoted winner of the Iowa Derby July 5.
John and Cheryl Banner's homebred mare My Sistersledge can join Countus In (1989-91) and Mz. Zill Bear (1993-95) as the only three-time winners of the $125,000 Ladies for fillies and mares 3 and up at 1 1/8 miles on the grass.
The 5-year-old daughter of Etched, winner of the All Brandy Stakes Aug. 17 at Laurel, can also become just the seventh horse to win three career Maryland Million races, along with Hall of Famer Safely Kept, late Mid-Atlantic legend Ben's Cat, Countus In, Docent, Eighttofasttocatch and Mz. Zill Bear.
Jameela Stakes winner Ghoul's Night Out, second by a half-length in the All Brandy; Goodonehoney, winner of the 2018 Weber City Miss on Laurel's main track; and My Vixen and Penitence, second and fourth in last year's Ladies, are also nominated.
Along with Saratoga Bob and My Sistersledge, other defending champions among Maryland Million pre-entries are Lewisfield in the $100,000 Sprint for 3-year-olds and up going six furlongs; Barin in the $60,000 Turf Starter Handicap; and Hashtag Selfie in the $50,000 Distaff Starter Handicap.
Most popular among horsemen with 34 nominations was the $125,000 Turf for 3-year-olds and up at one mile. Prominent among nominees are Just Howard, also Maryland's champion grass horse and 3-year-old in 2017; Maryland's 2016 champion older male John Jones, a stakes winner on turf and dirt; 2017 Turf runner-up Somekindofmagician; 2019 Find Stakes winner English Minister, whose four-race win streak was snapped last out in the Japan Turf Cup Sept. 28; and Saratoga Bob, who has a third in two career tries on grass.
No Guts No Glory Farm's multiple stakes winner Anna's Bandit, third in last year's race, is among 28 fillies and mares 3 and up nominated to the $100,000 Distaff, a seven-furlong sprint on the main track. Other nominees include Goodonehoney; 2017 Nursery winner Limited View, the Maryland-bred champion juvenile filly of 2017; 2016 Distaff runner-up Cee Bee Gee Bee; and 2016 Lassie runner-up She's Achance Too.
Linda Zang's homebred Lewisfield was a popular 8 ¾-length winner of last year's Sprint, then opened his 2019 campaign with a win in Laurel's March 19 Not For Love Stakes, named for the Maryland Million's all-time leading sire. Also prominent among nominees are 2019 Swale (G3) and 2018 Saratoga Special (G2) winner Call Paul, who took the New Castle Stakes Sept. 28 at Delaware Park; and multiple stakes winner Laki, Maryland's champion older male of 2018.
Howard County Stakes winner So Street; California-based Capote Stakes winner Raging Whiskey, third in the July 13 Sanford (G3) at Saratoga; First Dash Stakes runner-up Tommy Shelby and debut winners D C Fireman, Double Crown and Imagine Winning top 23 nominees to the $100,000 Nursery for 2-year-olds.
Miss J McKay, impressive winner of the Anne Arundel County Stakes named for the late Hall of Fame broadcaster who founded the Maryland Million in 1986; and stakes-placed Gifted Heart, Leaky Cauldron and Rising Bella are among 23 horses nominated to the $100,000 Lassie for 2-year-old fillies. Both the Lassie and Nursery are run at six furlongs.
Back for the third straight year are the $60,000 Turf Starter Handicap for 3-year-olds and up, which drew 20 nominations including defending champion Barin, and $60,000 Turf Distaff Starter handicap for fillies and mares 3 and older, both at 1 1/8 miles on the grass.
Hashtag Selfie is pre-entered to defend her title in the $50,000 Distaff Starter Handicap for females 3 and older, while past winners Helloitsme (2017) and Stolen Love (2015) are among 26 3-year-olds and up nominated to the $50,000 Starter Handicap, each contested at seven furlongs.
Edgar Prado became the Maryland Million's all-time leading jockey in last year's Classic, giving him 17 wins and moving him out of a tie with retired fellow Hall of Famer Ramon Dominguez. Dale Capuano, a winner of 3,451 career races, tops all trainers with 11 Maryland Million victories, one more than Hall of Famer King Leatherbury.
The 34th Maryland Million Classic - October 19
Laurel Park has begun gearing up for the 34th edition of the Jim McKay Maryland Million Day program Saturday, October 19.
A total of 246 horses were pre-entered for `Maryland's Day at the Races,' which features seven stakes and four starter stakes worth $1.02 million as part of a 12-race program that serves to showcase the state's rich horse industry which dates back to the founding of the Maryland Jockey Club in 1743.
Entries will be taken and post positions drawn Wednesday, Oct. 16 in the Laurel Park clubhouse.
The Maryland Million Gala Reception and Auction takes place Friday, Oct. 18 from 6:30 to 10 p.m. at The Maryland Club in downtown Baltimore, to benefit the Maryland Horse Industry Foundation. The MHIF was chartered in 1988 by the Maryland Horse Breeders Association to serve various educational and charitable needs of the Maryland horse industry.
Since 1986, Maryland Million Ltd. has paid more than $33 million in purses and awards. It was founded by the late Hall of Fame and 13-time Emmy Award-winning broadcaster Jim McKay as a Breeders' Cup-style event to spotlight the stallions of his adopted home.
The richest race of the day is the $150,000 Classic for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles, where Saratoga Bob was pre-entered to defend his 2018 victory. Dothat Dance and Clubman, second and third, respectively, last year were also pre-entered, along with 2017 winner Bonus Points.
My Sistersledge can become just the seventh horse in event history to capture three Maryland Million races with a third straight triumph in the $125,000 Ladies for fillies and mares 3 and up going 1 1/8 miles over Laurel's world-class turf course.
The $125,000 Turf for 3-year-olds and up going one mile figures to be a wide-open affair with the recent retirement of two-time winners Phlash Phelps and Talk Show Man. Multiple Grade 3 winner Call Paul and defending champion Lewisfield are each pre-entered in the $100,000 Sprint for 3-year-olds and up at seven furlongs.