Race 3- Maryland Million Nursery
I’m going to end up picking the chalk in the third race. #2 Jamaican Don is 8-5 on the morning line and simply looks to be far superior to any other horse in the main field. He won his debut wire-to-wire by 9 1/4 lengths and was then second by half a length in a restricted stakes at Delaware behind #10 Whereshetoldmetogo, the first also-eligible who will draw into the field should there be a defection. If the main body of nine horses are the ones to break from the gate, however, I think the favorite will take them wire to wire.
The interesting horses in this race are unfortunately all on the AE list. In addition to the stakes-winning #10 Whereshetoldmetogo, who was disappointing behind Bal Harbour when trying a mile in the Sapling Stakes at Monmouth but has been very good in his other three races, there’s also Michael Trombetta’s second time starter #12 Oldies But Goodies, who broke his maiden for $40,000 at Laurel on October 7th and should improve further off that race. It is worth noting that Graham Motion will be running a first time starter in #1 Clever Mind. Motion isn’t known for being particularly aggressive when placing his horses, and with an 18% strike rate with debut runners, it’s likely that he thinks highly of this Maryland-bred son of Buffum. I’d watch the board to see what the public thinks of this horse’s chances, but he’s likely to make a good showing of himself, if not defeat the favorite.
Race 4- Maryland Million Sprint
As can often be expected in a sprint race, Laurel’s 4th is full of speed horses. #1 Pete’s Play Call will be my top pick in this race. It’s interesting to note that he was claimed out of his last race by Gary Gullo, but returns in this spot with Robertino Diodoro and MNM Stables, the same connections he had going into that $50k Claiming race at Saratoga. He’s quick enough early to keep himself in contention, but has the ability to stalk and pounce if necessary, which I believe it will be today. He hasn’t raced since August 18th, but he shows three works at Belmont coming into this race, and Robertino Diodoro is 21% with layoffs of 61-180 days. Additionally, the horse has two other layoff lines on his past performances, and ran competitively in both of his return showings.
#8 Blu Moon Ace is the morning line favorite at 9-5, and with good reason. The 4-year-old son of Malibu Moon came within a neck of a Grade 3 victory in his last race, when he was just overtaken by Chubilicious in the De Francis Memorial Dash (G3). He’s also posted a 99 Beyer in his last two races and is already a stakes winner. He is by and far the classiest horse in the race and the horse to beat. He is tactically flexible as well; in the Mister Diz Stakes, he closed from last to fourth, making up over 6 lengths to do so. He’s a tough favorite to poke holes in, and it will take a career best effort by another horse in the race to defeat him, but I do believe there are horses in this race that are on that path.
One of those is #11 Winplaceorshowono, a lightly raced 3-year-old son of Dance With Ravens. He’s already a stakes winner and has been very consistent in his 5-race career, where he’s won three races and placed third in the other two. He has a bullet workout coming into this race, as he did prior to his previous start and win in the New Castle Stakes at Delaware Park. He’s been on or near the lead in almost all of his races, but proved in his debut that he could pass other horses, as he made up more than four lengths to go from seventh to third. He has to step forward in order to be a serious contender for a win, but I think he has a lot of potential to do just that.
#12 Struth is a consistent and classy gelding by Curlin. Since taking a brief layoff from March until May in 2017, he has been a new horse. After winning the Hockessin Stakes, he was sent to Mountaineer for the R Byrd Memorial, where he was surprisingly empty, beating only one horse home. It is interesting to note that he wore front wraps on that day, when he had never done so before. He returned in his next race to be second to Blu Moon Ace in the Coalition Stakes at Timonium, so it seems the bad race can be forgiven, and he’s coming off of a similar layoff to the one he had prior to his form improvement earlier in the year. He’s absolutely a contender, and a requirement on any exactas and trifectas at 6-1.
If the race falls apart, look for #2 Rockinn On Bye to be the one coming at the end. He hasn’t been able to find the winner’s circle yet in 2017, but his speed figures have been comparable to most of the field, and he has hit the board in five of them, so this isn’t a horse without talent. He with third behind Blu Moon Ace and Struth in the Coalition, and making up 7 3/4 lengths in the process. Blu Moon Ace was alone on the lead that day, up by as many as four lengths through most of the race, and closing into a winner like that is noteworthy. In a race with so many dedicated speed horses, I think it’s likely that Rockinn On Bye gets a piece of the purse here. Also noteworthy about this son of Rock Hard Ten is that Taylor Hole is back aboard. In the twelve races shown in his past performances, Hole has been aboard for 9 of them, and other jockeys in the other three. Rockinn On Bye has placed second or third in all nine races with Hole, and has failed to come within 5 lengths of the winner in the other three. This pair clearly work well together, and I think a faster pace will work in favor of this horse today.
Race 5- Maryland Million Lassie
This race seems fairly straightforward, in my estimation: #10 Margie’s Money goes to the lead and doesn’t get passed. Honestly, I think this horse is a potential single in horizontal wagers. The top three finishers from Delaware Park’s Small Wonder Stakes are all entered in this race, although winner #12 Enchanted Star is an also-eligible. If Enchanted Star does draw into the race, she would probably be my top pick, as although Margie’s Money defeated this foe when they met in their mutual debut, Enchanted Star’s Beyers have improved dramatically since then, whereas Margie’s Money actually regressed from a 65 Beyer on debut to a 61 in her optional claiming win for $50,000 on October 1st.
#11 Limited View is the morning line favorite in this race. She is a fast filly, but I believe Margie’s Money is faster. I don’t think a repeat of either of her last two races has her hitting the board here, even though her last race was a daylight win against optional claiming $50,000 company on September 8th. Any chance of her winning this relies on her returning to her debut on June 17th, when she established a clear lead and proceeded to widen the margin in a maiden special weight at Laurel. I think she’s a very vulnerable favorite here and offers terrible value at her 2-1 morning line odds.
To complete the exacta, I like #8 Pikachu Princess. This filly was beaten three lengths by Enchanted Star when finishing second in the Small Wonder last time out. Trainer Gina Rosenthal adds blinkers today, and an improved effort by the daughter of Redeemed puts her in a good spot to try and engage Margie’s Money, and I think that those two fillies could go one-two around the track if the blinkers encourage early speed from Pikachu Princess.
The only other horse I find notable in this race for vertical wagers is #3 Pearl Gem, a second-time starter for Mary Eppler who won her debut by 2 3/4 lengths after being bumped at the start and closing from sixth. It was a very promising debut win at this track and distance, and if she moves forward off of that race, she should be coming late.
Race 7- Maryland Million Distaff
The odds-on morning line favorite in this race is the aptly-named #9 Crabcakes. It’s hard to knock the 3-year-old daughter of Great Notion. Her only bad race was when she broke awkwardly when trying Grade 3 company in the Miss Preakness Stakes (G3). She’s the fastest speed horse in the race, although if #6 She Rolls is sent for the lead, she’s already demonstrated the ability to relax off of other horses. Her Beyer numbers are superior to every other horse in the race except #4 Rocky Policy, who I think has a chance to defeat the 3-5 favorite.
#4 Rocky Policy is coming out of a third-place effort in the Sensible Lady Turf Distaff at Laurel, so it seems a bit odd to see her in this dirt race. Her best Beyer figures have been on the turf – even though she’s never actually won a race over the surface, – and the only dirt race on her form is also a race in which she wore blinkers, so the dull 6th-place effort is difficult to gauge. I think this is now simply a better mare than she was when she last tried dirt in March of 2016, and if she runs back to her Sensible Lady, she wins this.
Race 8- Maryland Million Turf
The runner-up in this race last year makes a return appearance this year, and I think #5 Spartianos could very well take the victory this time around. He posted a career-best 90 Beyer in this race last year, which is also the only time he’s ever run a mile on the turf. Trainer Michael Pino is 38% with horses going from a sprint to a route, so expect marked improvement from a horse whose recent form alone is enough to make him competitive in this race. He’s also the fastest horse in the race early on, and of his rivals, only #8 Jerandson has ever shown committed speed, and he’s removing blinkers for this effort, an indication his connections are trying to get him to relax more in his races.
#2 Talk Show Man is the 2-1 favorite in the main field on the morning line, although #10 Just Howard is listed at 8-5 if he were to draw into the race. I like Talk Show Man cutting back to a mile after a poor showing in the 1 1/2 Laurel Turf Cup on September 16th, and a repeat of his last effort at a mile – an allowance win at Laurel – could absolutely win this, but I don’t think he will have the kind of pace he will be able to effectively close into.
Once again, the other interesting horses are all also-eligibles. Just Howard is coming off of a G3 win in the Commonwealth Derby, and is undefeated since adding blinkers two starts back. If he does make it into the race, he could be a potential single. #11 Tizarunner ran a 91 Beyer last time out over this course and distance, and a repeat of that effort would put him right in the mix, although he is a deep closer who I don’t think will appreciate the race shape in this spot.
#12 Ghost Bay was beaten only a neck by Just Howard when finishing second in the Find Stakes at Laurel. He hasn’t raced since then, which could be a concern as trainer Robert Bailes is 0-for-6 with layoffs of this length, but he has proven he fits with the group. I think you could also make a very solid case for #13 John Jones, #15 Enough is Enough, and #16 Team Tim.
Race 9- Maryland Million Ladies
There are some fun and talented fillies and mares in this race, and I think it’s tough to separate the favorites. #8 Great Soul is the morning line favorite at 3-1, but I’m concerned about her poor effort last time out. While turf is clearly her better surface, this Thomas Proctor trainee is a stakes winner on fast ground and is 3-for-3 on an off dirt track, so it’s tough to so easily forgive a 43-length defeat. Prior to that puzzling effort, this filly had never been off the board in nine career starts, so she’s a deserving favorite and I think 3-1 is about fair. I think she’s a “don’t trust, but must use” type of horse.
#2 Barrel of Dreams is another one with a big shot. She’s a need-the-lead type of horse and should be able to make the front, although she won’t be on her own. There are other fast horses in here who will be able to keep her from running off while remaining fairly relaxed themselves. #7 Rocky Policy is one of those mares. She hasn’t run this far since an attempt in this race last year, where she finished 5th by 3 3/4 lengths. She’s cross-entered in the Maryland Million Distaff and while I like her there, I prefer her in this spot on a surface where she’s not a question mark.
The horse that defeated Rocky Policy in this race last year is #9 Devilish Love. She runs Beyers very consistently in the mid-to-high 70s when on the turf, and was close to the pace on a speed-favoring track that day, where she normally sits a few lengths off the leaders. I don’t think she has the kind of speed to compete with Barrel of Dreams, and doubt she will score a repeat victory in this race.
#10 Northern Smile is one I would consider using underneath. She has legitimate excuses for the bad races on her form, and despite finishing seventh of eight in her most recent race, the All Along Stakes at Laurel, she ran an 84 Beyer, which puts her in the mix here and is a number she has run up to in the past under the right circumstances. I’m not sure that the circumstances will be ideal for her today, but she should be making a run at the finish and could very well hit the board.
Race 10- Maryland Million Classic
The 1 1/8 mile Maryland Million Classic looks to be #2 John Jones’ for the taking. The Lacey Gaudet trainee was an average fourth in his last start, but that was a very salty $100k optional claiming race at Belmont Park – Grade 1 winner Undrafted was second in the race, and routing on the dirt is his real game. I think he should be able to get the lead here, as trainer Todd Pletcher is removing blinkers from #3 Jerandson and #6 Nicaradalic Rocks is simply not as classy as 2-1 morning line favorite.
If John Jones gets caught in the stretch, I think the most likely to do so is #5 Bonus Points. The Todd Pletcher trainee is dropping out of graded stakes company and into the state-bred ranks off a 4th-place finish in the Smarty Jones behind Pavel and Talk Logistics in his last start. It was the second time this 3-year-old son of Majestic Warrior had worn blinkers, and it resulted in a career-best 92 Beyer figure. They had been trying turf with this colt, and I think that staying on the dirt will produce the kind of effort the horse showed in winning the Parx Derby in May.
#11 Ghost Bay is a switching from turf to dirt, but the 5-year-old son of Ghostzapper can run on both surfaces fine, so that isn’t a concern for me. He has been fairly consistent from a figures standpoint and was only beaten a neck by Just Howard in the Find Stakes on the turf in his last start. Horacio Karamanos, who rode him in that effort, is back aboard for this one, and if he can get his mount to sit relatively close to the lead and still kick on, he has a shot for the win. However, I don’t see the kind of pace that will lead to the front-runners tiring, so he will have to work hard to run down the likes of John Jones.