Karan's Notion
Karan’s Notion won the Maryland Million Sprint. Photo by Allison Janezic.

While the Maryland Million Distaff for fillies and mares had produced a decisive, odds-on winner, the Maryland MIllion Sprint seemed a wide-open affair.

Onegreattime, Let’s Play Nine and 2018 champion Lewisfield would eventually occupy the top three spots in the wagering, with Onegreattime off at 9-5. But the results proved to be far less formful when 16-1 Karan’s Notion held off 22-1 outsider Baptize The Boy for a length score.

Unraced at age two, Karan’s Notion needed three starts to graduate and later recorded an allowance score for owner-breeder-trainer Nancy Heil. The Maryland Million Sprint would mark his stakes debut.

Oddly enough, it would also be the first Maryland Million starter for Heil, who has been training horses locally for over 50 years. Thirty years earlier, Heil had sent out Fighting Notion to a respectable fifth-place finish in the Preakness Stakes, being overhauled in the lane by Summer Squall and Unbridled. Fighting Notion would conclude his career with nine wins from 28 starts, including four stakes tallies.

“It seems surreal,” said Heil, who also notched the 150th training victory of her career in the Sprint. “I don’t think it’s real yet. I’ve been training 50-some years, but I’ve never had a horse [Maryland Million] eligible.

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Karan’s Notion made his career debut in June at Laurel before breaking through with a 13-length score against maiden $40,000 claimers in his third lifetime start for Heil. Two races later he topped allowance company.

He had been second and third against allowance foes in two subsequent starts leading up to the Sprint. Nevertheless, Heil remained confident that her first Maryland MIllion eligible would run well in his stakes debut.

“When he was a baby, he had long legs, like spider legs, and we said ‘I think he’s going to be the one,'” she recalled. “I never knew how fast he could run. When he won here by 13 lengths, I knew he had more in the tank. I tried to get the rider to believe in him and just go with him and trust yourself.”

Away very alertly to gain command in a brisk 22.49 opener, Karan’s Notion kept favored Onemoregreattime at bay down the backside and through the far turn, then disposed of that one. He then faced an inside challenge from fellow longshot Baptize The Boy at the head of the lane, as Lewisfield began to launch his bid down the center of the track.

Under vigorous urging from rider Yomar Ortiz, Karan’s Notion held safe the inside late bid of Baptize The Boy to prevail by one length in 1:09.15 for the six furlongs. Lewisfield rallied to finish third, another 1 1/2 lengths back.

Karan’s Notion, a son of Great Notion, now has three wins and nearly $130,000 banked from eight career outings. He paid $34.20 to win and topped an exacta that returned $291.10 for a buck.

He also gave Heil her first Maryland Million victory in her long-awaited debut on the track’s signature day. The conditioner gleefully accepted congratulations.

“Never give up,” Heil said as the crowd gathered around the winner’s circle cheered. “No matter what you do, you can never give up.”