Cuba is the 6-5 morning line favorite for the Maryland Million Classic.

Cuba is the 6-5 morning line favorite for the Maryland Million Classic.

Jessica Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

Cuba is Maryland Million Classic Choice

Third-place finisher in Mass Cap takes on first three finishers in last year's race.

(from Laurel Park release)

The $300,000 Maryland Million Classic, headline event of the 23rd annual showcase for the offspring of Maryland sires Oct. 4, drew the top three finishers from the race last year, including defending champion Evil Storm.

The 12-race program drew 113 entrants, although just five will face the starter in the Classic, a 1 3/16-mile main track event.

Cuba, who did not run in the Maryland Million Classic last year, was tabbed as the 6-5 morning line favorite off his third place finish in the $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs Sept. 20.

Defending champion Evil Storm is the 9-2 third shot. Trained by Michael Gorham at Delaware Park, Evil Storm upset the field in last year’s main event at odds of nearly 12-1. This year the son of Storm Broker is winless in five starts. Jeremy Rose will ride the 7-year-old gelding, who is 4-for-11 with eight in the money finishes at Laurel.

“He’s doing great, actually,” Gorham said. “He likes that Laurel track; that’s where he does his best running. It’s kind of hard to spot him throughout the year. He doesn’t seem to run as well at Delaware as at Laurel."

Five Steps (7-5) finished three lengths behind Evil Storm a year ago and comes into the race with three wins from four starts this year, including a victory in the Taking Risks Stakes at Timonium last month. Trained by Chris Grove at the Bowie Training Center, the son of Yarrow Brae has 15 first or second finishes in 19 lifetime starts. The 7-year-old finished third in the Classic three years ago after missing the entire 2006 campaign with injuries. J.D. Acosta has the mount.

“I’ve been happy with every step along the way except the Iselin (where he finished seventh of eight, 14 3/4 lengths behind the winner) which really wasn’t on the game plan,” said Grove, who will saddle seven horses Saturday. “The game plan was to run in Saratoga, but when Curlin stopped running on the grass and became a dirt horse again, we opted to go in the Iselin. We kind of rushed into that. I still have no excuse for that race.”

Diamond David (20-1) finished third a year ago with a career-best 91 Beyer Speed figure. Owned and trained by Nancy Alberts, the son of Jazema will have the riding services of Maryland’s all-time winningest rider Mario Pino. The duo teamed up Sept. 30 to produce a bullet five-furlong breeze, stopping the clock in 1:00, the fastest of 14 works at the distance.

Cuba, a son of Not For Love, finished 11 lengths ahead of Five Steps in the Iselin and has won six of 10 races this year. Regular rider Pedro Cotto will be aboard for trainer Bobby Dibona.

“This horse runs well with races spaced close together,” said Dibona. “He came out of the Mass Cap well, and this is a restricted race so we have to take a shot. I knew I wasn’t going to beat Commentator that day. It was a race for second or third, and we ran well. We thought he could have won the Iselin with a better trip. This horse is push button, and we’ve had a nice year with him.”

Blue’s Baby Boy (20-1) rounds out the field. The three-year-old finished fourth in the Deputed Testamony Stakes at Laurel two weeks ago. Luis Garcia has the mount for trainer Billy Campbell.

The Classic is the 11th race on the twelve race card with a post time of 6:03 p.m.

HRTV will air the entire card.

Learn more about the origins of the Maryland Millions by watching McKay's Maryland.

Following is a brief look at some of the other races on the program.

$150,000 Sprint (2nd race): Out-of-towners Grand Champion and Lemons of Love, the 1-2 finishers from a year ago, look to be the horses to beat in the six-furlong test which drew six sprinters.

$200,000 Turf (4th race): Seven turf specialists will compete, including the 2-3 finishers from a year ago (Dr Rico and Broadway Producer) and 2006 runner-up D.J.’s Hero.

$150,000 Nursery (5th race): Eleven 2-year-olds will start, including stakes winners Juke Joint and Mr. Keeper.

$100,000 Turf Sprint (6th race): Seven are entered including Natural Seven, the 3-5 morning line choice from the Benny Feliciano barn.

$200,000 Ladies (7th race): Defending champion Maddy’s Heart and 2006 winner Debbie Sue top the 12 fillies and mares who will run on the turf.

$150,000 Lassie (8th race): A pair of undefeated stakes winners (Onearmedbandit and Miss Charm City) and the impressive Fools In Love headline the seven-furlong test that will feature 10 2-year-old fillies.

$150,000 Oaks (9th race): Sweet Goodbye, a winner of three straight, and 2007 Maryland Million Lassie winner Love for Not are among the nine 3-year-old fillies entered.

$150,000 Distaff (10th race): The best race on the card. The nine runners have combined for 68 wins (19 stakes) for more than $3.1 million. Among the heavy hitters are Lexi Star, who has won five stakes and earned more than $575,000; Jet Away Jane, who also has five stakes wins on her resume; and Talkin About Love, who has earned more than a half-million dollars in her career.

$300,000 Maryland Million Classic (Race 11, 5:38), 3 & Up for Progeny of Maryland Stallions, 1 3/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Diamond David (MD), 119, Mario G. Pino
2. Cuba (NJ), 121, Pedro L. Cotto, Jr.
3. Five Steps (MD), 123, J. D. Acosta
4. Evil Storm (MD), 119, Jeremy Rose
5. Blue's Baby Boy (MD), 114, Luis Garcia