The $300,000 Maryland Million Classic, feature of the 22nd Maryland Million Day at Laurel Park Oct. 13, has drawn a field of 10, including the champions from the previous two years.
Due, a 6-year-old gelding by Rinka Das, won the 1 3/16-mile event in 2006 in upset fashion, taking down favorite Cherokee’s Boy at odds of 10-1. But Due has not won a race since scoring in the Classic last year, going zero-for-four since then, including a fourth-place finish in an allowance test at Laurel Sept. 21.
Trained by Dale Capuano, Due will get jockey Ramon Dominguez for the first time and leave from post three. Out of Thirty Eight Paces mare Endette, Due has won eight of 37 career starts.
Also in contention is 2005 champion Play Bingo, a lightly raced 6-year-old gelding who has started just five times since winning the Classic. One of those starts produced a victory in the Sussex Stakes at Delaware Park in June 2006. Owner/trainer John Fisher has sent the son of Polish Numbers--Poised to Pounce to the starting gate just once this year, which resulted in a fifth-place finish.
The favorite is William Harris' homebred Five Steps, who took third in the 2005 Classic. Since that time, the 6-year-old son of Yarrow Brae--Thirty Eight Steps was sidelined with injuries for the entire 2006 campaign but has bounced back in style this year.
Trained by Christopher Grove, Five Steps is three-for-three in 2007, his last two stakes victories. Most recently, Five Steps stalked the pace and delivered a 1 3/4-length score in the Formal Gold Stakes at Meadowlands Sept. 15. The 2-1 morning line favorite drew the rail and will be ridden by J.D. Acosta.
“Two years ago, I really thought he should have won that race,” Grove said. “He didn’t get lucky that day. Hopefully, this is our year to win it. He’s doing excellent coming off the layoff. He’s going to be fine for the distance. He’s a much more relaxed, much more mature horse this time around.”
Also likely to be a factor is Frank the Barber, one of two starters not bred in Maryland. Bred in New Jersey by Trident Stables, Frank the Barber is coming off a victory in the Pomona Derby at Fairplex Sept. 22. The 3-year-old Malibu Moon gelding has done all his racing in California this year, placing in six of 10 starts for trainer Gary Stute.
The Pomona victory, which came after a second-place finish in the El Cajon Stakes at Del Mar, was only Frank the Barber’s fourth career start on dirt. But he is the only Classic contender to have tried a graded stakes this year; on Aug. 19 he finished ninth in the Del Mar Mile Handicap (gr. IIT). David Cohen will ride.
The Classic is the 11th race on a 12-race all-stakes program.
$300,000 Maryland Million Classic (Race 11, 5:40 p.m.), 3-year-olds & up, 1 3/16 miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Five Steps, 123, J. D. Acosta
2. Putonyerdancinshuz, 119, Julian Pimentel
3. Due, 119, Ramon A. Dominguez
4. Play Bingo, 119, Ryan Fogelsonger
5. Rhythmn Master, 119, Hiram G. Rivera
6. Lord Eric, 119, Horacio Karamanos
7. Evil Storm, 119, Jeremy Rose
8. Diamond David, 119, Dane Kobiskie
9. Frank the Barber, 118, David Cohen
10. Broadway Producer, 119, Mario G. Pino