Which Maryland Million champs may defend their titles?
by Frank Vespe
Saturday’s 32nd edition of the Maryland Million figures to present plenty of familiar faces and defending champs. Tops among nominees to the five major races for older horses is Admirals War Chest, the two-time defending champ in the $150,000 Classic.
Here are the former champs nominated to those five major races and what they’ve been up to of late:
- Admirals War Chest (nominated to Classic and Turf): This six-year-old Elusive Charlie gelding has won both of his Classics in front-running fashion, last year cruising to a three-length win in 1:51.99 for nine furlongs. But he’s made just a single start thus far in 2017, his comeback plans foiled by minor issues and difficulties finding races for him. His lone start to date was a fifth-place finish in an off-the-turf allowance at Laurel Park in which he dueled for the lead with the speedy Warrioroftheroses before backing out. Since Laurel Park’s renovation, only one horse has won the Classic off just a single start. He’s also cross-nominated to the Turf.
- Devilish Love (Ladies): This now-seven-year-old PA-bred Not for Love mare provided trainer Anthony Dutrow’s only Maryland Million win in the dozen years since Laurel Park’s renovation – though his eighth overall – when she won last year’s Maryland Million Ladies. This year she’s made just two starts, running fourth in the six-furlong Jameela over the strip in June and then last in the off-the-turf Mrs. Penny at Parx Racing in early September. Since Laurel’s renovation, no horse has defended her Ladies title, though Monster Sleeping did win it twice non-consecutively, in 2013 and 2015.
MARYLAND MILLION RETURNING CHAMPS GALLERY
- Item (Distaff): This Orientate filly took the Lassie, for two-year-old fillies, last year on Maryland Million day and is nominated to attempt to graduate to defeating older horses in the seven-furlong Distaff Saturday. While her follow-up stakes tries have mostly been disastrous – she hasn’t been better than fifth in four attempts – she has two wins in four starts overall this season. Item provided trainer Rodrigo Madrigal’s only Maryland Million victory with her win last year.
- My Magician (Distaff): This five-year-old Street Magician mare was 28-1 when she broke her maiden by a neck in the 2014 Maryland Million Lassie, and she’s gone on to have a useful career. This season she’s won three times from nine starts and posted her second stakes win, taking the Dashing Beauty at Delaware Park in July. She also was claimed in mid-May by trainer Claudio Gonzalez and has gone on to win two of four starts in his barn.
- Nicaradalic Rocks (Classic and Sprint): Post-Maryland Million Sprint victory life hasn’t been all that kind to Nicaradalic Rocks. The Kieron Magee-trained Rock Slide gelding has lost all 10 of his starts since taking last year’s Sprint. His best effort since may have come in the Maryland-bred Not for Love Stakes in March, when he ran third at 17-1 odds behind the talented Laki. His win last year was Magee’s first Maryland Million win as a trainer.
- Rockin Jojo (Distaff): This daughter of Street Magician scored the second stakes win of her career when she rallied to take last year’s Distaff at 31-1 odds. That made her the longest-price Distaff winner in the last dozen years and only the second to have double-digit odds. It also triggered a $1006 exacta payout that was more than five times the size of any other exacta in this event in the last twelve runnings. The Guadalupe Preciado trainee is winless in four tries this year and has yet to finish better than fifth.
- Talk Show Man (Classic and Turf): Back in 2014, then-four-year-old Talk Show Man ran down defending champ Roadhog and fan (and betting) favorite Ben’s Cat to win the Turf by a half-length at 9-2 odds. His career since has been something of a mixed bag, with just three wins, one in stakes company, from 17 subsequent starts. He ran fourth in the 2015 Maryland Million Classic and then missed the entire ’16 season with injuries. Since returning, he’s kept some pretty salty company this year, with a single win from six starts. All five of the Ham Smith trainee’s defeats this season have come in stakes company.