MD MILLION: MR. D’ANGELO BACK TO DEFEND TURF TITLE
More than 12 months after springing a 17-1 upset in the only other stakes attempt on his resume, Kevin P. Morgan’s homebred Mr. d’Angelo is one of the main contenders as he returns to defend his title in Saturday’s $100,000 Maryland Million Turf at Laurel Park.
Extended another furlong to 1 1/8 miles from 2019, the Turf for 3-year-olds and up is among eight stakes and four starter stakes on the 35th Jim McKay Maryland Million program, ‘Maryland’s Day at the Races’ celebrating the progeny of stallions standing in the state.
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A total of five races are scheduled for Laurel’s world-class turf course, set to be contested over the Bowl Game and Exceller layouts. First race post time is 11:25 a.m.
Like many horses this year, Mr. d’Angelo got a belated start to his 2020 campaign in part due to the coronavirus pandemic. He has gone winless in just three starts, but has shown a steady improvement in each one at distances from 1 1/8 to 1 1/16 to one mile.
“We’ve been kind of pointing this way pretty much all year. He appears to be doing very well at the moment,” trainer Tim Woolley said. “He was a little bit unlucky in his last race. He probably should have won his last race but he’s back together and the added distance of a mile an eighth this year is going to help, as well. We’re kind of excited and he seems to be coming into the race in really good shape.”
A gelded 4-year-old son of late stallion and Australian Group 1 winner Seville, Mr. d’Angelo exits an open one-mile allowance at Laurel Sept. 17 where he found himself in his customary trailing position for a half-mile before launching a determined bid that saw him fall a neck shy of King’s Honor.
“He’s just one of those horses that when you have to come from way off the pace, which seems like his style, there’s always going to be complications in running. That’s just the way his style is. He just likes to come from way out of it and we don’t try to change things up, we just hope that everything falls into place,” Woolley said. “That last race he probably should have won, he was just a little bit unlucky again. The horse that beat him kind of drifted out into his path a little bit and we kind of just lost that edge. Also, the last race was only a mile and I think he’ll really like the mile and an eighth distance this time around.”
Mr. d’Angelo employed a similar strategy to win last year’s Turf by 1 ¾ lengths, then went unraced until returning in a 1 1/8-mile optional claiming allowance July 18 at Laurel, running third by 2 ¼ lengths. Next out he was fourth, beaten less than a length, in an open 1 1/16-mile allowance, his first of two straight races over a turf course rated good.
Also returning for this year’s Turf are Somekindofmagician and Pretty Good Year, respectively second and third at 32-1 and 21-1 in 2019; Cannon’s Roar, Taxable Goods and No Bull Addiction.
“There’s a few of the horses that he raced against last year in the race again, and they are probably a bit more accomplished in some of the regular races but he’s certainly going to be one of the main challengers again this year,” Woolley said. “I think the mile and an eighth suits him and the turf having a little bit of softness in it is going to take the starch out of some of these horses where I think he really just likes that. He’ll like the distance and he’ll handle any turf course we give him.”
Jevian Toledo, up for the last four starts including last year’s Turf, rides back from Post 4 in a field of 12 plus also-eligibles Dundalk and Maryland-bred Hanalei’s Houdini.
Bell Gable Stable’s Somekindofmagician has yet to win a race in 2020, but has three seconds and two thirds from seven starts for trainer Jamie Ness. A six-length winner running for a $25,000 claiming tag Aug. 19 at Parx, the 6-year-old Street Magician gelding has run third in a pair of optional claiming allowances since, one rained off the turf.
Lead Off Stable’s Pretty Good Year has had a similar hard-luck season in seven starts with one win, one second and two thirds. He was beaten a half-length when runner-up to Confessor Sept. 7 then ran third behind Super John Sept. 26, both optional claiming allowance events at Delaware Park.
Taking Risks Stable’s Cannon’s Roar comes into the Turf in top form with three consecutive wins including a dead-heat triumph with Nick Papagiorgio last out, a second-level optional claiming allowance going 1 1/8 miles over the Pimlico Race Course turf Sept. 25. Prior to that, he won back-to-back allowance at Laurel going one and 1 1/16 miles.
Cannon’s Roar, a gelded 6-year-old son of Orientate, got his usual winter break before coming back but was unable to get started until June 6 amid the coronavirus pandemic. Jorge Ruiz has the return call from outside Post 12.
“He’s come back and had a good year so far. We always turn him out during the winter because he’s much better on the grass. He’s just come back and done well,” trainer Dale Capuano said. Capuano is the leading trainer in Maryland Million history with 11 wins among his 3,504 career victories.
“He’s been pretty versatile. He can go to the front or lay off the pace, it doesn’t really matter. It depends on the pace of the race, obviously, but he’s pretty versatile that way,” Capuano said. “He’s just been doing well so hopefully he has good luck in the race. Last year he clipped heels and almost went down, so hopefully we get good racing luck this year. He didn’t get beat by much last year despite that so, hopefully, with some luck he should be OK.”
Rounding out the field are Benny Havens, Nick Papgiorgio, Rising Perry, Seville Barber, Seville Row and Tommy Shelby.