Forest Fire
Forest Fire narrowly proved best in the Maryland Million Classic. Photo by Laurie Asseo.

Four 2019 winners are among the pre-entries for major stakes in the 35th annual Maryland Million, which is slated to take place at Laurel Park October 24.

Maryland Million races are restricted to Maryland-sired horses, unless fewer than eight are entered; in that case, Maryland-breds draw in order to bring the field up to eight. The program includes four starter stakes, in addition to the eight major races.  

Of the champs, three will have the opportunity to defend their crowns, while the fourth, 2019 Maryland Million Lassie winner Hello Beautiful, will have to tackle her elders in the seven-furlong, $100,000 Distaff.

New to the roster this year is the revived $75,000 Maryland Million Turf Sprint. The Turf Sprint existed from 2004 through 2012.

Concerns about the state’s then-diminishing horse population led to its cancellation following the ’12 running, which also was the third consecutive year that the great Ben’s Cat had won the event. In races less well-suited to him – the Turf twice and the Sprint once – Ben’s Cat finished second the next three years, leaving him tied with five others, including the Hall of Famer Safely Kept, for the most Maryland Million wins by a runner.

The featured, $150,000 Maryland Million Classic at nine furlongs on the main track may also end up the most intriguing event when final entries are drawn.

The top pair from last year – winner Forest Fire, by Friesan Fire, and runner-up Prendimi, by Dance With Ravens – both are entered. Nine of the pre-entries are Maryland-sired, and if all go forward, it will shut out Harpers First Ride, who is a son of Paynter. He won the Grade 3 Pimlico Special last time out.

Among the likely contenders is one whose resume has been buffed up considerably in the last couple of weeks. Monday Morning Qb ran second in the Federico Tesio Stakes two back, beaten a length-and-a-half by Happy Saver, and while Monday Morning Qb gave the turf a try in his follow-up, Happy Saver came back to win the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup against older horses. Monday Morning Qb is a son of Imagining.

Defending champs also return in the $100,000 Sprint and the $100,000 Turf.

In fact, the Sprint, at six furlongs on the main track, may host the 2018 and 2019 winners, as both are pre-entered. Lewisfield won the ’18 edition of the Sprint and is pre-entered for this year. The Jeff Runco trainee is winless in two starts this year but did win the Howard and Sondra Bender Memorial late in 2019. That came two races after his third-place finish in the 2019 Million Sprint, won by the Damon Dilodovico-trained Taco Supream, who, after a banner 2019, is winless in five tries this year.

Mr. d’Angelo rallied from well out of it to win the 2019 Maryland Million Turf, contested at one mile. He was 17-1 and triggered boxcar payouts when followed home by 32-1 Somekindofmagician and 21-1 Pretty Good Year. Trained by Tim Woolley, Mr. d’Angelo is winless in three tries versus allowance company this year.

Hello Beautiful was an easy winner of the Lassie, for two-year-old fillies, in 2019 and is pre-entered to tackle her elders in the Distaff this year. The Brittany Russell trainee has had a bit of an up-and-down 2020 with a single win from four starts. That was an impressive one, though, an eight-length score in a first-level allowance at Laurel Park. Since, she’s been well beaten in a pair of open stakes, including, last out, the Grade 2 Prioress at Saratoga.

Entries close for all 12 Maryland Million races October 21, and the big day is October 24.