Sweet Goodbye will attempt to become the latest female to bowl over the boys when she takes her six-for-eight lifetime record into the $200,000 Jim McKay Maryland Million Classic at Laurel Park Sept. 26.
William R. Harris' 4-year-old homebred daughter of 1996 Preakness (gr. I) victor Louis Quatorze faces nine rivals in the 1 1/8-mile main track event, the headline feature on a 12-race program for progeny of stallions standing in Maryland. Total purse money for the entire card is $1.23 million and there were 114 entries. Among those Sweet Goodbye will be facing is Cuba, who won last year's Classic by four lengths.
Trained by Christopher Grove, the speedy Sweet Goodbye is coming off a front-running tally in the seven-furlong Pink Ribbon Stakes at Charles Town Aug. 15, her first start in eight months. Sweet Goodbye, who will be making her first start at nine furlongs, defeated males once before, capturing the Northern Dancer Stakes for state breds on a sloppy track at Laurel last November.
Since breaking her maiden at Charles Town in June 2008, Sweet Goodbye's only defeat in seven starts came in the 1 1/4-mile Ladies Handicap over Aqueduct's inner dirt track Dec. 14. She tired in that race after a wide trip and finished last of seven as the 7-5 favorite. She was given a long break before returning in last month's Pink Ribbon.
“This is the year of the fillies, so maybe its fate,” said Grove. “I felt good enough to put her in here. The sky is the limit with this filly. It’s hard to fault her.”
Regular rider J.D. Acosta will be aboard the bay filly who has earned $221,321 while winning three stakes, including last year's Maryland Million Oaks by three lengths. She drew the far outside post and will carry 116 pounds.
Eight-year-old Cuba, a son of Not For Love, seeks to add to his field-leading earnings total of $701,814 for Leo-Sag Stable and partners and trainer Bobby Dibona. The New Jersey-bred horse has won just one of seven starts this season but is coming off a third-place effort in the Charles Hess III Handicap at Monmouth Park Aug. 23.
“I think we’re doing great,” Dibona said. “He’s looks really, really good. We pointed to this race. We had a very hard campaign last year. We won one at Gulfstream in January, and then he got a little cranky so we backed off. We freshened him and it looks like he’s rounding into form at the right time.”
Cuba has captured 13 of 47 lifetime starts and will break from post 2 with Pablo Morales aboard.
Both Cuba and Sweet Goodbye are 8-1 on the morning line.
Former Maryland jockey stalwart Ramon Dominguez, now dominating the New York circuit, returns in the Classic aboard Broadway Producer for trainer John Terranova II. Broadway Producer is the 9-5 morning line favorite.
Owned by Sovereign Stables and Gatsas Thoroughbreds, the 6-year-old son of Not For Love has been splitting his time between Maryland and New York, with his last victory coming in a state-bred stakes race at Laurel in December. He also captured last year's Maryland Million Turf.
Broadway Producer has won just four of 27 lifetime races, but has been in the money 18 times with earnings of $325,025. He breaks from the rail.
“We’ve had this race in mind since the springtime when we decided to try to back off and freshen after a winter campaign in which he did very well,” Terranova said. “We kept him in New York and kind of had him in light training for a couple of months. We gave him a turf race as a prep and we’re going back to the dirt for the Classic. He’s in excellent shape. He’s in top shape -- real sharp. He’s rarin’ to go.”
Dominguez, who won six riding titles in Maryland earlier this decade, is also named on Beau's Trip (Ladies), Natural Seven (Turf Sprint), Blind Date (Oaks), Roaring Lion (Sprint), Izzy Speaking (Turf), Met A Miner (Distaff), Love Who (Nursery) and Ben's Boots (Lassie). Dominguez has 15 lifetime wins in the Maryland Million series, one fewer than all-time leaders Mario Pino and Edgar Prado.
The Venezuelan rider has captured all three of New York's riding titles so far this year (Aqueduct winter, Belmont Park spring, and Saratoga), his first full season on the circuit. He leads all-North American riders with more than $13.2 million in earnings and is second in wins, behind Russell Baze, with more than 300.
Rhythmn Master, a 6-year-old son of Two Punch, ran second in the DTHA Governor' Day Stakes at Delaware Park Sept. 12 in his first start for trainer Paul McClelland and Happy Hour Stable. McClelland claimed the gray/roan gelding for $35,000 from Anthony Dutrow at Delaware Aug. 3. Rhythmn Master, to be ridden by Jeremy Rose, has won four of eight starts this year.
Regal Solo was claimed by Damon Dilodovico from Linda Albert during the Laurel Park mini-meet in August for this spot. The 44-year-old conditioner has four Maryland Million victories on his resume, all off the claim. Regal Solo, a son of Louis Quatorze, won the 2007 Maryland Million Nursery as a 2-year-old.
Also on the Jim McKay Maryland Million program are four stakes worth $125,000 apiece -- the Distaff for fillies and mares at seven furlongs; the Ladies, for fillies and mares at nine furlongs on turf; the Sprint, at six furlongs; and the Turf, at 1 1/8 miles.
In the Ladies, defending champion Miss Lombardi returns for Graham Motion, who has seven Maryland Million scores. In the Distaff, multiple stakes winner All Giving is 12-for-34 lifetime with 22 in the money finishers. The Sprint looks contentious, with defending champion Celtic Innis, graded stakes winner Not for Silver and New York invader Roaring Lion among the contenders. The Turf features 10 evenly-matched grass specialists.
Four others are worth $100,000 apiece -- the Lassie, for 2-year-old fillies, and the Nursery, for 2-year-olds, both at six furlongs; the Oaks, for 3-year-old fillies at one mile; and the Turf Sprint, at 5 1/2 furlongs.
Fourteen are entered in the Lassie, and 11 juveniles are to line up in the Nursery, including Toboggan Slide, who is two-for-two. Defending champion Kosmo's Buddy, who beat the boys a year ago, as well as millionaire Heros Reward, head a field of 12 for the Turf Sprint. Multiple stakes winners Blind Date and Love That Dance head the field for the Oaks.
$200,000 Maryland Million Classic Stakes (Race 11, 6:12 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Broadway Producer (MD), R A Dominguez, 119, J P Terranova II
2. Cuba (NJ), P Morales, 119, B S Dibona
3. Sumacha'hot (MD), G Whitacre, 121, H L Cave
4. Love Abroad (NY), C Cedeno, 119, J O Hertler
5. Diamond David (MD), C VanHassel, 119, N H Alberts
6. Regal Solo (MD), A R Napravnik, 119, D R Dilodovico
7. Knight in Armour (MD), S Russell, 119, V W Moscarelli
8. Rhythmn Master (MD), J Rose, 119, P G McClelland
9. In the Juice (MD), M G Pino, 114, J J Robb
10. Sweet Goodbye (MD), J D Acosta, 116, C W Grove