Saratoga Bob heads familiar Md. Million Classic field
Edgar Prado waves to the crowd after Saratoga Bob’s 2018 Maryland Million Classic win. Photo by Dottie Miller for The Racing Biz.
Yogi Berra would love Saturday’s $150,000 Maryland Million Classic, the centerpiece of the 12-race card for Maryland-sired horses.
Back from the 2018 edition are the top three finishers, five of the first six across the wire, and six of last year’s 10 runners.
It is, as Yogi might have observed, deja vu all over again.
Yet while the same runners are back, they’re arriving at the nine-furlong fixture from different directions.
Defending champ Saratoga Bob has lost four straight and hasn’t run since a June turf allowance. Runner-up Dothat Dance, who was 35-1 in last year’s Classic, has been claimed twice since then and now races for trainer Ferris Allen and Burning Daylight Farm. And show horse Clubman has switched barns to that of Rodolfo Sanchez-Salomon and blossomed into the best of the trio, and the favorite in the Classic.
Clubman is the 2-1 morning line favorite and has two stakes wins among his four 2019 victories. He was much the best two back in the 6 1/2-furlong Maryland Coalition at Timonium but last out had no answers when finishing fourth in the Governor’s Day at Delaware Park.
The winner of that latter race, Cordmaker, is on the also-eligible list for this one but is unlikely to draw in — much to the presumed relief of Clubman’s connections. Clubman has finished behind Cordmaker in four of his last five starts.
Saratoga Bob has a single win, in allowance company, from five starts this year and overall has four wins, and $231,000 in earnings, from 16 career outings. But he hasn’t raced in more than four months, and that gives trainer Katy Voss pause.
“A mile-and-an-eighth I think is a stretch for him anyway and without a race under his belt for 4 ½ months…” said Voss, her voice trailing off.
In his last start, on the turf, Saratoga Bob, who is owned by Voss in partnership with Wayne Harrison and Bob Manfuso, was up close for three-quarters of a mile before fading off the scene. But Voss said the son of Friesan Fire came back with an ulcer on one of his arytenoids.
“He’s had that once before and it was after he didn’t run that well,” Voss said. “They really bother a horse; it’s like having a bad sore throat. I think that’s why he didn’t finish any better in that race. I was going to take him home and give him time off anyway. So we just treated the throat.”
Saratoga Bob has been training steadily since early September towards his return, and Voss had hoped to get a prep race into the five-year-old. But the hoped-for race didn’t fill, and Saratoga Bob arrives with his last two works at seven furlongs, in 1:26 3/5, and a mile, in 1:40 4/5.
“When the race didn’t go, I went ahead and worked him out of the gate, and he had company for part of the way, so he went gate to wire,” Voss said of a horse she describes as “not the best work horse,” adding, “That was a decent work.”
While recency is the concern for Saratoga Bob, that’s not likely to be an issue for Dothat Dance, who is 20-1 on the morning line. The Louis Quatorze gelding, now six years old, has made a dozen starts this season, including two in September. He’s also been claimed twice since last year’s Classic, first by Phil Schoenthal in April and then, two starts back, by Ferris Allen.
“We claimed his with this race in mind thinking that he wouldn’t be a misfit,” Allen said. “I don’t think he is a misfit.”
Despite the long odds, Dothat Dance has intermittent big efforts, and a return to them would put him in the mix in this spot.
Horacio Karamanos will have the mount, and though Dothat Dance will break from the 10-hole, Allen says he’s not concerned by the wide post.
“It doesn’t really matter that much in a race at that distance,” he said. “We’re going to come from behind, and Horacio is good at saving ground.”
Also back from last year’s Classic are fifth-place finisher Crouchelli (20-1), sixth-place finisher Legend’s Hope (30-1), and Tattooed (15-1), who finished last in last year’s event. All figure to be longshots in the Classic.
Allen, for one, is philosophical about his Classic entrant.
“We’re just taking our shot,” he explained. “If it works it, works; and if not, he was worth the $25,000 we paid for him. And we love the horse; he’s fun to be around.”
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