Md Million: Nursery, Lassie show glimpse of future

While several of the races for older horses may have taken center stage on the 37th edition of the Jim McKay Maryland Million Day card, a pair of events for two-year-olds perhaps gave an early glimpse into the future of the local runners with ties to Maryland stallions and breeding farms.

In the first of those two events, the $100,000 Maryland Million Nursery for two-year-olds, Johnyz From Albany (Jorge Ruiz) may have been billed as the slightly lesser half of the Dale Capuano-trained tandem in the six-furlong test for juveniles, but he proved today to be superior. When the gates opened in the Nursery, Johnyz From Albany broke very alertly to gain command down the backside and was never genuinely threatened en route to a five-length score.

A freshman son of Blofeld trained by Capuano for owner-breeder Charles “Chip” Reed, Johnyz From Albany recorded his second win in four starts and doubled his lifetime earnings past the $100,000 plateau by getting the six panels in 1:11.35 over a fast main track on Saturday. Capuano’s other trainee, Lost Weekend, failed to display his usual early speed and settled for sixth as Heldish (Sheldon Russell) and post time favorite Wildhunch filled out the exacta..

“I’m very happy with the way this horse ran,” Capuano said of Johnyz From Albany, who provided the conditioner with his 15th victory on Maryland Million Day, tops among all trainers.

“But I’m a little disappointed in the other one. I thought they would both run well. Johnyz From Albany has a lot of early speed and he usually breaks on top. Today he broke very well and cleared to the lead and really finished up nice. At some point down the road I would like to try him on turf. His mother (Monster Sleeping) was really good on the grass. He’s done well against the Maryland horses here and there’s a couple of more stakes for him coming up.”

“He broke really fast and once he made the lead he was going easy,” Ruiz said. “I knew he was good from the gate, but he really was quick out of there today. I still had a lot of horse turning for home. I didn’t really have to get after him in the lane. He was much the best today in there. I want to thank the owner and the trainer for giving me the chance to ride him.”

Capuano arrived on Saturday with 14 victories on Maryland Million Day, four more than King T. Leatherbury and five ahead of Mike Trombetta. One race prior to the Nursery, Trombetta sent out Sky’s Not Falling to a victory in the Maryland Million Turf Sprint, something that got Capuano’s attention before the Nursery.

“I had to get one win right away,” Capuano said. “Mike won that other race and was putting the pressure on me.”

Johnyz From Albany
Johnyz From Albany won the Maryland Million Nursery. Photo by Allison Janezic.

Johnyz From Albany is named for the late brother of Mike Zanella, owner-breeder Reed’s sometime partner in horses, and Reed pronounced himself especially pleased that The Racing Biz handicapper had not chosen his horse to win.

“I said, ‘I’m feeling good now,’” Reed laughed. “The Racing Biz didn’t pick us. I said, that’s good.”

While the Nursery provided a mild upset, the $100,000 Maryland Million Lassie for two-year-old fillies roughly 90 minutes later would prove to be even more formful. Chickiness (Jaime Rodriguez), a juvenile daughter of Blofeld trained by Jamie Ness and co-owned by Morris E. Kerman and breeder Jagger Inc., lived up to her billing as the 4-5 favorite when she rallied widest of all in the lane for a three-length score by stopping the timer in 1:12.58 for her first stakes tally.

“She broke good, but she stayed on her left lead the whole way down the backside and into the turn,” Rodriguez said of Chickieness, who had been second in each of her two previous stakes outings at Delaware Park after graduating there in her second start. “But once she changed to her right lead at the quarter pole she just went on. That was really all it took. She had stayed on her left lead both races at Delaware, but today she finally changed leads and that was the difference.”

“Those first two stakes at Delaware she tried hard but she would not change leads,” said Ness, also co-owner and breeder through Jagger Inc. “Maybe she’s starting to mature a little bit. When you breed them, you see how much time and work goes into it. But when you get up at 2 a.m. in the morning to check on them and then you see them win on Maryland Million Day, that’s what it all about.”

Chickieness notched her first stakes tally and second win from five starts overall and pushed her career earnings past $125,000 with her Lassie triumph. Her belated rally enabled her to overtake Skylar’s Sister and thwart trainer Dale Capuano’s bid to sweep both juvenile stakes on Saturday. Bosserati set the early fractions then was overtaken in the final furlong by Chickieness and Skylar’s Sister and outlasted the late surge from Cynergy’s Electra to garner the show spot.