Laurel Park will play host to Maryland Millions Day on Saturday. This year they will offer 11 stakes and handicap races that total over $1 million in purse money. The Maryland Million Classic is the race of the week. It will be race 10 on this full day of racing, and had drawn 14 horses to go 1 and 1/8 mile on the dirt for a $150,000 purse.
The 2018 Maryland Million Classic was won by Saratoga Bob. Saratoga Bob returns to this race to defend his championship. He drew the rail, and will start 9-2 on the morning line. Jevian Toledo, one of the leading jockey at Laurel Park, will get the mount this year.
Fastest Winning Time: 1:50:26 by Sumacha’hot (2009)
Most Wins by a Horse: Eighttofasttocatch – 3 wins (2011, 2013, 2014)
Most Wins by a Jockey: 3 – Edgar Prado (jockey of Saratoga Bob in 2018)
Trainer Katy Voss had much to say about Saratoga Bob in the lead up to this race: “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.”
“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.”
Trainer Rodolfo Sanchez-Salomon had this to say about favorite Clubman: “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.”
“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.”
Jason Servis had this to say about Forest Fire: “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.”
“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.
The 34th Jim McKay Maryland Million, the first of the state-held championship cards inaugurated in 1986, returns to Laurel Park on Saturday in a celebration of all things Maryland. Sure, there will be crabcakes, but the feast also includes 7 stakes and total purses topping $1 million. The 12-race program gets underway at noon ET.
Maryland Million-accredited runners are given preference, which likely will keep those runners on the also-eligible list out of the action. Among the 11 expected to start, returning champion SARATOGA BOB has been racing in open company allowance races throughout 2019. The ’18 third-place finisher CLUBMAN has a pair of open company stakes wins this year. TRIFOR GOLD was runner-up in the Federico Tesio for open 3-year-olds at Pimlico. And PRENDIMI is a New Jersey-bred stakes winner (by Maryland Million-accredited sire Dance With Ravens, thus eligible). There’s not an overwhelming class edge anywhere here, so other handicapping elements are more in play.
At 1-1/8 miles, one lap around the expansive Laurel oval, you don’t expect anything wild early and you don’t expect an express train late. SARATOGA BOB pressed the leader throughout last year in victory and this race often is won on or near the front. PRENDIMI should be among the pace on the stretch-out in distance, as will sprinter TAPPIN CAT, shipper FOREST FIRE and the sophomore TRIFOR GOLD.
SARATOGA BOB benefits from the rail draw on a 9-furlong oval like Laurel Park even though statistically there’s not a discernible edge in the numbers. It’s not advantageous, per se, but you have to do a lot less to get where you want to go, and that helps over this long trip. The initial run to the first turn is where he’ll benefit most. He’s had a lighter campaign this year than last and hasn’t raced since June, trainer Katey Voss saying that SARATOGA BOB doesn’t respond well to intense heat. But he was unable to make an autumn prep for this, and the trainer has contemplated the Sprint or Turf at shorter trips. That’s not a rousing endorsement.
PRENDIMI is drawn well in post 3 while making his first start at Laurel Park. The 1-1/8 miles distance will be his hurdle as he’s done most of his best work sprinting. Monmouth shippers haven’t lit Laurel afire this year (4-30 heading into the weekend, winless in 12 races at a mile or more). While capable of just speed-popping this field and having winded chasers not good enough to close late over 9 furlongs, it’s plausible PRENDIMI wins this. But I’d have to see about 8-1 to get enticed.
Sire Not For Love was responsible for 3-time Maryland Million Classic winner Eighttofasttocatch and will be represented with a trio of contenders this year. CLUBMAN leads that triumvirate and will be finishing fastest of all. He’s earned big BRIS late pace figures in nearly every start regardless of distance, from the bullring at Timonium to 2-turns at Laurel and Delaware Park. TORCH OF TRUTH has to overcome post 11 after being defeated as the 3-5 favorite in a local allowance prep. He’s got a good late run if timed right and will need a masterful ride from local top pilot Trevor McCarthy. And longshot LEGEND’S HOPE appears overmatched.
FOREST FIRE ran well at Laurel in Spring 2018, winning an allowance and finishing second in the Private Terms on the local Preakness path. That Parx-based runner has been all-or-nothing of late for John Servis, winning 4 of his last 7. Aggressive gate jockey Paco Lopez rides and that means this speedster will be part of the early mix.
TRIFOR GOLD is the real X-factor in the field. He’s the 3-year-old vs. elders and the new face to the division. He’s 0-for-4 in allowance company against older horses and will be challenged by a likely quick pace. There’s definite talent here, but it seems like a very tall order in 2019. He could be the horse we talk about in the Maryland Million Classic at age 4 or 5, or be turned back to sprinting.
Most Certain Exotics Contender: CLUBMAN gets the pace set-up and will be running best at the end when others may be searching for more.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender: TATTOOED goes for a Tim Keefe barn that has to be respected and owns a 9-for-18 record in the exacta on the Laurel Park main track. This barn won the Maryland Million Classic 3 times with Eighttofasttocatch and this is a 4-year-old with some ceiling to grow.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll): $50 exacta CLUBMAN over PRENDIMI. $25 exacta part-wheel CLUBMAN over TATTOOED and TORCH OF TRUTH.