Back-to-back Classic winner Admirals War Chest
is one of six defending champions and 10 past winners among 213 horses pre-entered in 11 stakes that comprise the 32nd annual Jim McKay Maryland Million Day program Saturday, Oct. 21 at Laurel Park.
Four of the 11 races are scheduled to be contested over Laurel’s world-class turf course. Entries close and post positions will be drawn Wednesday, Oct. 18.
First race post time on Maryland Million Day is 12:15 p.m.
Dr. Stephen Sinatra’s Maryland homebred Admirals War Chest returned from nearly 11 months between races to run fifth in a one-mile optional claiming allowance Oct. 8 at Laurel that was rained off the turf to a sloppy, sealed main track.
The 6-year-old gelding is one of just five horses to win successive editions of the Classic, along with Timely Warning (1990-91), Algar (1997-98), Docent (2002-03) and Eighttofasttocatch (2011, 2013-14). Admirals War Chest could become the first horse to win three consecutive years and only the second three-time champion, joining Eighttofasttocatch, who was also first in 2011.
Trainers Buddy Raines (1989-91), Tim Ritchey (2001-03) and Tim Keefe (2011, 2013-14) have all won the Classic three times, but an Admirals War Chest victory would make Corby Caiazzo the first to do it three straight years with the same horse. Raines-trained Timely Warning was second in his bid in 1992.
Flash McCaul, fifth in 2016, is the only other horse from last year’s race to pre-enter. The richest race on the Maryland Million program at $150,000, the 1 1/8-mile Classic for 3-year-old and up also attracted multiple stakes winners John Jones, fourth in a six-furlong turf sprint at Belmont Park Oct. 5 in his first start since Dec. 31, Talk Show Man and 2017 Parx Derby winner Bonus Points, one of two from the barn of New York-based trainer Todd Pletcher.
Talk Show Man (2014 Turf) is one of three past Maryland Million winners pre-entered this year along with Chapel of Chimes (2016 Distaff Starter), Item (2016 Lassie) and My Magician (2014 Lassie). Item and My Magician are each among 18 horses in the $100,000 Distaff for fillies and mares 3 and up at six furlongs, which will also that include defending champion Rockin Jojo, who upset last year’s running at odds of 31-1, and multiple stakes winner Crabcakes, first or second in eight of nine career starts.
Other defending champions pre-entered for 2017 are Nicaradalic Rocks in the $100,000 Sprint for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs; Devilish Love in the $125,000 Ladies for fillies and mares 3 and up at 1 1/8 miles on the grass; Chapel of Chimes in the $50,000 Distaff Starter Handicap; and Who Stole My Sock in the $50,000 Starter Handicap, a race he upset last year by a neck at nearly 41-1.
Joining Devilish Love among 16 Ladies pre-entrants are recent Mrs. Penney winner Great Soul, four-for-five lifetime in the money at Laurel with two wins, including the 2016 Wide Country; I’m Betty G, third by 1 ¼ lengths in the Commonwealth Oaks (G3) Sept. 30 at Laurel; Northern Smile and Rocky Policy, third and fifth, respectively, in last year’s Ladies; and stakes-placed Moon Virginia, My Sistersledge, Nickyrocksforpops and Wowwhatabrat.
The one-mile Turf, most popular among horsemen with 26 pre-entries, will be without two-time defending champion Phlash Phelps, sidelined for the rest of the year with bruising of the cannon bones. Spartianos and Grandiflora, who ran 2-3 last year, are pre-entered along with Graham Motion-trained Just Howard, a winner of four straight races, three in stakes including the Commonwealth Derby (G3) Sept. 30 at Laurel, and the cross-entered Admirals War Chest and John Jones.
John Jones is also one of 20 horses pre-entered in the $100,000 Sprint for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs, along with Nicaradalic Rocks; 2016 third-place finisher Easy River and Blu Moon Ace, winner of the Coalition Stakes Aug. 26 at Timonium most recently second by a neck in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) Sept. 16 at Laurel.
The $100,000 Lassie for 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs attracted 22 pre-entries led by Enchanted Star, Pikachu Princess and Buff’s in Love, the top three finishers from the Small Wonder Stakes Sept. 30 at Delaware Park and impressive two-time Laurel winner Limited View.
First State Dash winner Whereshetoldmetogo is the lone stakes winner among 21 horses pre-entered in the $100,000 Nursery for 2-year-olds at six furlongs. Also pre-entered are First Dash runner-up Jamaican Don and Stroll Smokin, third in the Strike Your Colors at 33-1 and second by a head in the Laurel Futurity on turf at 20-1.
New to the Maryland Million program this year are the $60,000 Turf Starter Handicap, which drew 22 pre-entries, and the $60,000 Turf Distaff Starter Handicap, whose 12 pre-entries include Chapel of Chimes. Both races are carded at 1 1/8 miles.
Dale Capuano, who leads all trainers with 11 Maryland Million victories, pre-entered five horses in seven races: Chapel of Chimes (Distaff Starter, Distaff Turf Starter), Cruise More (Turf Starter); Fly and Flutter (Distaff Turf Starter); Rocky Policy (Distaff, Ladies) and Tricky Lion (Turf, Sprint).
This year’s Maryland Million will be the first since 2009 without late Mid-Atlantic legend Ben’s Cat, the 26-time stakes-winning multi-millionaire euthanized July 18 following complications from colic surgery. His breeder, owner and trainer, Hall of Fame horseman King Leatherbury, will be represented by another 11-year-old gelding, Classic Wildcat, a winner of 25 of 90 career starts he pre-entered in the seven-furlong Starter Handicap.
Source: Maryland Jockey Club