Maryland Million: Race and winner profiles
by Frank Vespe
Since the renovation of Laurel Park in the early 2000s, we’ve seen a dozen runnings of the Maryland Million take place at the track. That’s taught us a few things about which races are best to bet — and what sorts of horses win them.
Here’s what we’ve learned:
MARYLAND MILLION CLASSIC – $150,000, 3yo and up, 1 1/8 miles
- Average field size: 7.1 horses
- Average winner odds: 4.38-1
- Average exacta payoff: $66.50
- The Classic has tended towards short fields and relatively short prices. The favorite has won three of the last 12 editions, and the last seven straight (and 10 of 12) have gone to one of the top three horses according to bettors.
Who wins the Classic?
- The average Classic winner owns 2.25 stakes wins prior to winning here – the second-most of any Maryland Million race. Four Classic winners entered their Classic without a stakes win.
- Only five of 12 made their start prior to the Classic at Laurel.
- Five of 12 entered with a win in their prior race.
- Two horses – Eighttofasttocatch (2013-2014) and Admirals War Chest (2015-2016) – have repeated. The former also won in 2011, giving him three wins in this event in four years.
- Every Classic winner had made at least one start during the season prior to the Classic. Nine of 12 had at least one win.
MARYLAND MILLION DISTAFF – $100,000, fillies and mares 3yo and up, 7 furlongs
- Average field size: 7.8 horses
- Average winner odds: 5.61-1
- Average exacta payoff: $120.27
- The average odds and payoffs above are somewhat misleading for the Distaff, colored by 31-1 winner Rockin Jojo last year, who also topped the richest Maryland Million exacta in the last 12 years at $1006. Six of the last 12 Distaffs – including four of six – have gone to the favorite, and four others went to horses in the top three of wagering.
Who wins the Distaff?
- The average Distaff winner has 2.75 stakes wins prior to taking the Distaff, the most of any Maryland Million race. Only two runners entered the Distaff without a stakes win, while seven had at least two.
- Only four of 12 made their immediate prior start at Laurel.
- Only two of 12 won their prior race.
- No horse has repeated in the Distaff in the last 12 years.
- Every Distaff winner had made at least five starts in the season prior to the Distaff. Nine of 12 had at least one win.
MARYLAND MILLION LADIES — $100,000, fillies and mares 3yo and up, 1 1/8 miles (turf)
- Average field size: 8.7 horses
- Average winner odds: 15.03-1
- Average exacta payoff: $202.15
- It’s typically been “bombs away” in the Ladies; no favorite has won it in the last dozen years, and only five of 12 winners were in the bettors’ top three. In five of 12 years, the exacta has paid over $100, and in four of those five, it was $200-plus. The race has generated the two longest-shot Maryland Million winners in the last 12 years in the form of Bear Access (66-1 in 3014) and My Sweet Nenana (58-1, 2010).
Who wins the Ladies?
- The 12 winners of the Ladies have a combined total of just six stakes wins prior to their Ladies win – just 0.5 per horse.
- Five of the last seven made their immediate prior start at Laurel.
- Just two of 12 entered the Ladies with a win in their prior race.
- All 12 had made at least three starts in the season prior to the Ladies; nine of 12 had won at least once, though six of those had won only once.
- No horse has repeated in the Ladies in the last 12 years, though Monster Sleeping did win twice in three years, in 2013 and 2015.
- Notable: when the turf has been less than firm, winners’ odds have been: 16-1, 58-1, 9-2, 4-1, and 66-1.
MARYLAND MILLION LASSIE — $100,000, 2yo fillies, 6 furlongs
- Average field size: 9.3 horses
- Average winner odds: 6.21-1
- Average exacta payoff: $98.93
- Three of 12 Lassie winners were favored at post time, while only four of 12 were outside of the top three in betting action. However, three straight winners were outside of the top three, topped by 28-1 My Magician in 2014.
Who wins the Lassie?
- Of the last 12 Lassie winners, only one, Miss Charm City in 2008, had a stakes win prior to the Lassie.
- Of those 12, 10 had at least one win during the season.
- Five of 12 – including the last three – made their prior start at Laurel; eight of 12 entered the Lassie off a win, and all 12 had finished third or better in their prior start.
- The race changed from seven furlongs to six beginning with the 2009 edition; the longest winning odds of any horses in the four years prior to the change were 4.20-1. Since the change to six furlongs, six of eight have been longer than 4.20-1.
- Lassie winners present a fairly clear profile: horses who have made a prior start, most likely won, and certainly performed well – a top-three finish – in their start prior to the Lassie.
MARYLAND MILLION NURSERY — $100,000, Two-year-olds, 6 furlongs
- Average field size: 9.5 horses
- Average winner odds: 6.06-1
- Average exacta payoff: $102.60
- Six of 12 Nursery winners – exactly half – were favored at post time, while three others went to the second or third betting choice. Five of 12 exacta payoffs were less than $41, with three of them coming in at less than $10. There’s been no particular discernible change since the race went from seven furlongs to six in 2009.
Who wins the Nursery?
- Four Nursery winners entered with a prior career stakes win.
- Five of 12 had made their prior start at Laurel; nine entered with a win in their prior race.
- Two Nursery winners were making their career debuts (Keep Momma Happy, 2012, and Corvus, 2015). Not surprisingly, they are the two longest-priced Nursery winners at 23-1 and 25-1, respectively.
- The typical Nursery winner enters with a last-out win; the only exception among horses who’d started previously was Greatbullsoffire (2016), who ran third in his start prior to the Nursery but was already a stakes winner. Not surprisingly, bettors have generally been right on it: outside of the two firsters to win, no horse has gone off longer than 9-1.
MARYLAND MILLION SPRINT — $100,000, 3yo and up, 6 furlongs
- Average field size: 6.75 horses
- Average winner odds: 3.37-1
- Average exacta payoff: $34.95
- Not unlike the Classic, the Sprint has generally been characterized by shortish fields and payoffs. Five of 12 runnings have been won by the post-time favorite, and five others have gone to a horse that was one of the bettors’ top three. The longest odds of any winner have been 6.50-1, and the longest-priced exacta in those 12 years was good for just $84.60; that’s shorter than the average exacta of all the other Million races outside of the Classic.
Who wins the Sprint?
- The average Sprint winner has 1.3 stakes wins prior to the Sprint. Five of 12 entered without a prior stakes win.
- Eight of 12 made their start prior to the Sprint at Laurel.
- Five of 12 entered the Spring with a win, and five others were second in their prior start.
- No horse has repeated in the Sprint since it moved to Laurel.
- Of the 12 most recent winners, 11 had made at least six starts, and 11 entered with at least one win on the year. Seven entered with at least two wins. The only horse to enter without a win during the season had made six starts; the only to have made fewer than six starts was two-for-two on the season entering the Sprint.
MARYLAND MILLION TURF — $125,000, 3yo and up, 1 mile (turf)
- Average field size: 10 horses
- Average winner odds: 4.36-1
- Average exacta payoff: $106.47
- Unlike the Ladies, the Turf has largely played to expectations. The favorite has won four of the last 12, and second and third choices have won four more. The longest-priced winner in the last 12 years was 13-1 (Forty Crowns, 2007). In spite of all that, the exacta has paid $125 or more five times in the last 12 years, suggesting the bettor look for obvious players on top and longshots underneath. The last five exactas, however, have all been $35 or less.
Who wins the Turf?
- The average Turf winner has 2.1 career stakes wins prior to winning the Turf. Nine of 12 had at least one prior stakes win.
- Eight of 12 made their immediate prior start at Laurel.
- Three entered the Turf with a win in their prior start, while three others finished in the money.
- Three horses – Pocket Patch (2010-11), Roadhog (2012-13), and Phlash Phelps (2015-16) – have repeated in the Turf.
- Every Turf winner but one – La Reine’s Terms (2005) – had made at least three starts in the season prior to the Turf. Four horses entered the Turf without a win during the year, and three others had a single win.