Defending champs among Maryland Million pre-entries

More than 300 horses, including defending champions Prendimi, Air Token, and Grateful Bred, have been pre-entered in the eight stakes and four starter stakes slated for the 2022 Maryland Million. The 37th annual Maryland Million program will take place October 22 at Laurel Park, with a first post of 11:30 a.m.

Maryland Million stakes are restricted to horses bred in Maryland and by stallions standing in Maryland. The races open up to Maryland-breds by out of state sires when fewer than eight Maryland-sired horses are entered.

Prendimi and Tappin Cat were one-two throughout last year’s Maryland Million Classic, the nine-furlong, $150,000 test for three-year-olds and up that tops the card, and those two are both pre-entered. They could also be joined by 2020 Classic champ Monday Morning Qb, recently claimed by trainer Norman Cash for his Built Wright Stables.

In the six-furlong Sprint, 2021 winner Air Token will attempt to defend his title for trainer Jose Corrales and his Corrales Racing LLC. Air Token is one-for-six this season. One horse he’s like to see in the Sprint is 2020 winner Karan’s Notion; the Nancy Heil trainee has won once in 11 starts during a busy 2022 campaign and finished a disappointing fifth in last year’s Sprint.

Grateful Bred, winner of last year’s Turf Sprint, also is pre-entered to attempt to make a title defense. Trained by Madison Meyers for Gordon Keys, Grateful Bred is winless in six 2022 starts, all in stakes company, but has finished second four times. Among the runners he could see is last year’s runner-up, Sky’s Not Falling, who’s made only one start this year for trainer Michael Trombetta and co-owners R. Larry Johnson and R.D.M. Racing Stable.

Hello Beautiful made history last fall when she became just the seventh horse to win three Maryland Million races following a second straight triumph in the $100,000 Distaff. Her trainer, Brittany Russell, pre-entered three horses going for a title defense in the seven-furlong sprint for fillies and mares 3 and up – Gamestonks; Juror Number Four, third last out in the Sept. 30 Tax Free Distaff; and Jester Calls Nojoy, unraced since finishing second to Luna Belle in the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship last December.

Hello Beautiful won’t be back to defend that title, but 2021 runner-up Malibu Beauty is pre-entered to try her luck again this year. Trained by Gary Capuano for Non Stop Stable and ZWP Stable, Malibu Beauty has won a pair of off-the-turf stakes this year. Also potentially prominent is Fille d’Esprit, the John Robb trainee who has won three stakes this year.

Juveniles will be in the spotlight in the $100,000 Nursery for 2-year-olds and $100,000 Lassie for 2-year-old fillies, both sprinting six furlongs. The Nursery’s 26 pre-entries include stakes winners Bandits Heart and Paymengold along with stakes-placed Heldish, Lost Weekend and Riccio, while the Lassie attracted 30 pre-entries led by stakes-placed Chickieness.

The card also includes a pair of turf routes, one for fillies and mares and one for open company. Twenty-two horses have been nominated to the $125,000, nine-furlong Turf, including 2019 champ Mr D’Angelo, while 23 have been nominated to the Ladies at the same distance.