Ournationonparade aims for second Maryland Million Classic

Morris Kernan Jr., Yo Berbs and Jagger Inc.’s Ournationonparade will be chasing history in more ways than one when the 6-year-old gelding returns to make a title defense in the $150,000 Classic on the 38th Jim McKay Maryland Million Day program Saturday, Oct. 14 at Laurel Park.

The 1 1/8-mile Classic for 3-year-olds and up is the richest on a 12-race card featuring eight stakes and four starter stakes that comprise ‘Maryland’s Day at the Races,’ celebrating the progeny of stallions standing in the state. Doors will open at 10 a.m. EST Saturday, with a special first race post time of 11:30 a.m.

Ournationonparade, co-owned and trained by Jamie Ness, can become just the sixth horse to win the Classic in back-to-back years and the first since Admirals War Chest in 2015-16. Other multiple winners are Timely Warning (1990-91), Algar (1997-98), Docent (2002-03) and Eighttofasttocatch (2011, 2013-14).

Bred in Maryland by John Williamson III, the son of Cal Nation won the 2019 Nursery in his second lifetime start and can join late legendary gelding Ben’s Cat, Countus In, Docent, Eighttofasttocatch, Hello Beautiful, Mz Zill Bear and Hall of Fame mare Safely Kept as the only horses to win three Maryland Million races since the program was launched in 1986.

Claimed for $50,000 out of his previous start in Kentucky in 2022 with an eye on the Classic, Ournationonparade stretched out around two turns for just the second time in 10 starts and first going nine furlongs to win by 5 ¾ lengths as the favorite. He ended 2022 with two additional stakes starts, running second by a half-length in the 1 1/8-mile Richard W. Small and third in the 1 1/16-mile Robert T. Manfuso, also at Laurel.

“We claimed him last year with this race in mind and everything worked out great. He ran well,” Ness said. “This year, we’re coming in good. We’ve kept him kind of fresh for this race. This is the race we’ve been pointing for all year, so we’ll let him rip.”

Ournationonparade has one win in seven starts this year, a popular three-quarter-length allowance triumph going 1 1/16 miles April 14 at Laurel, but has also placed five times, four of those in stakes. Most recently he ran fifth to Double Crown in the 1 1/16-mile Polynesian Sept. 10 at Pimlico Race Course, his first time in 13 races finishing worse than third.

“He fires every time, this horse,” Ness said. “We caught that one nice horse a few times that we couldn’t beat, Nimitz Class, but he’s not in there this Saturday. We’re ready to go. I think it’s a good spot. The mile and an eighth is a good distance for him.”

Ournationonparade cruised home in the Maryland Million Classic. Photo by Allison Janezic.

Ournationonparade, rated at 3-1 on the morning line, will have Jaime Rodriguez aboard from Post 4.

Ness also entered Gregory Gordon’s Market Maven, a 5-year-old Super Ninety Nine gelding that comes in having run third in the 1 1/16-mile Alphabet Soup Handicap against fellow Pennsylvania-breds Sept. 23 at Parx. It was the second start after joining Ness, also running fourth in the one-mile, 70-yard Storm Cat Aug. 21.

“I picked him up this summer. He’s Maryland-sired and the owner wanted to take a shot, so here we are,” Ness said. “He’s run well in some nice stakes and been right there. He’s going to be formidable. He’s a nice horse.”

Market Maven (4-1) will break from the rail.

Built Wright Stables’ Double Crown, fourth in last year’s Classic and second as the favorite behind Air Token in the 2021 Sprint, is back in the Maryland Million for a third straight year. The Polynesian was his second win in four starts, both around two turns, making him 2-for-13 this year and 8-for-39 lifetime with a bankroll of $738,520. He is the 9-5 morning line favorite.