Md Million: Trainer Hamilton Smith readies for “big day”

Trainer Hamilton Smith has been at it a long time, amassing more than 2,100 winners and over $45 million in purse earnings in a career that began in 1977. His eight Maryland Million wins trail only Dale Capuano (14), King Leatherbury (10), and Michael Trombetta (9).

One race that’s eluded him to date, however, is the Maryland Million Classic. The $150,000, nine-furlong Classic tops Saturday’s 37th Maryland Million day festivities at Laurel Park.

Smith will make another bid at a Classic title Saturday when he sends out The Poser. The five-year-old Bandbox gelding was a late-running third in last year’s Classic and is slated to make his third Maryland Million start, having run fifth in the 2019 Nursery.

“He’s coming into it really good,” Smith said of The Poser, who has finished in the exacta in three consecutive starts. He is 8-1 on the morning line.

In last year’s Classic, The Poser closed willingly for third, just a length behind winner Prendimi on a day when speed was golden.

Yet as good an effort as it was, it also revealed something that has plagued The Poser throughout his career: call it seconditis. The Poser has just four wins from 30 lifetime outings but has finished second or third an additional dozen times while generating nearly $260,000 in purse earnings.

“Very frustrating,” Smith acknowledged of the frequent runner-up finishes. “But we’re proud of him, though. He always tries hard.”

The Poser arrives at the Classic in good form. He won a second-level allowance easily at Colonial Downs two back, and last out he was a near-miss second in a three-other-than at Timonium. The winner that day, Ain’t Da Beer Cold, also is slated to run in the Classic.

“[Ain’t Da Beer Cold] ran great,” Smith said. “He didn’t give it up; he kept digging. But we ran good over there; I was very pleased with it.”

Hamilton Smith
Hamilton Smith and Alex Cintron in the paddock at Laurel Park in 2016. Photo by Dottie Miller.

Smith will change jockeys for the Classic. Jevian Toledo, who rode The Poser to his win two back, will do the honors Saturday. Toledo’s 12 wins at the current meet are second only to the 18 recorded by apprentice Jeiron Barbosa.

“He fits him good,” Smith said of the jockey-horse combo. “Hopefully, they get a good trip. I like the post position and everything.”

Smith co-bred The Poser with Deborah Greene and her late father, Fred Greene, and co-owns him with Deborah Greene. Though The Poser, out of the Mojave Moon mare Heavenly Moon, has yet to record a stakes win, his little half-sister Luna Belle, a three-year-old filly by Great Notion, has more than made up for it. Luna Belle won five consecutive stakes late last year and early this year.

Additionally, Luna Belle has a two-year-old full brother named Run Bucky Run in training with Smith. He has not started yet.

“We hoped to have all three of them ready for the Maryland Million this year, but it didn’t work out,” Smith said.

Luna Belle, who has not raced since finishing a troubled 11th in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico May 20, suffered “some bone bruising,” Smith said, but is expected to return to the races in 2023. 

Though he won’t have Luna Belle or her little brother on Saturday, Smith will have four other runners in addition to The Poser. Only Dale Capuano, Mike Trombetta, and Tim Keefe will saddle more.

“It’s a big day, and I support it 100%,” Smith said. “I try to get all my owners to get Maryland-breds, go to the sale and try to buy Maryland-breds. It’s exciting, and everybody enjoys it, I think.”