A Million Reasons: Maryland’s day delivers again

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Where to start. The Maryland Million delivered again – with Eighttofasttocatch and Roadhog taking the big ones. Results like that are why people go to the races.

Laurel Park packed in 18,000 fans on Maryland’s day at the races. It’s a long way from Kelso and the International back in the day, but you couldn’t stand there and not think about history, about impact, about a Thoroughbred community. Trainers congratulated each other. Breeders randomly showed up in winner’s circle photos. Full-brothers ran. Sisters trained winners. An unsung hero received an award.

On the track, two races provided a fitting climax late in the day. First, three regional gladiators met in the $125,000 Turf at a mile. Ben’s Cat brought his $1.6 million bankroll and turf-sprinting excellence. Change Of Command brought his 17-2 (and a half) sculpted frame and 1:33.33 mile time. Roadhog brought his 2012 win in the Turf, eight career victories and run-anybody-down determination.

Roadhog put that effort to good use as he wore down a game but out of his element Ben’s Cat in the final yards to repeat for owner/breeder Ellendale Racing and trainer Lizzie Merryman. The 6-year-old chestnut, named by his breeders because of his attitude at home on the farm as a baby, sat behind Capital Fellow and Ben’s Cat early, moved out in the stretch and rolled home. Ben’s Cat, making his first start beyond 6 furlongs since 2011, ran a winning race and dug in late but could not hold of the winner’s surge. Roadhog won by a neck with Target Sighted nearly 3 lengths back in third. Change Of Command threw in a rare dull try and finished eighth of nine.

Proud of her horse, Merryman spoke for many when she said, “I feel bad that I beat Ben’s Cat.”

She’s a fan, too.

One race later, 2011 Classic winner Eighttofasttocatch won like a 1-5 shot should – shooting right to the front from the inside post and dominating from there. Forest Boyce rode the 7-year-old for trainer Tim Keefe and produced fractions of :24.97 and :49.26. From there it was a formality, as the son of Not For Love won by 3 1/4 lengths over Romancing The Gold and Wild Louis.

Owner Arnie Heft, a former minor-league baseball player and NBA referee (who wound up owning a piece of the Washington Bullets and Capitals), saw it all from just behind the winner’s circle. His daughter Barbara watched it with him, and the scene was magic.

Keefe bought Eighttofasttocatch as a yearling at Fasig-Tipton in Tominium. The chestnut, bred by Dark Hollow Farm and Herringswell Stable, became the trainer’s best horse – pushing $800,000 in lifetime earnings and winning 11 times at his home track Laurel.

The Rest of the Story

It’s A Bang won the Nursery to start the day, winning for Walter Viesser, trainer Donald Barr and jockey Richard Monterrey. The son of Great Notion is 2-for-2.

Denied in the opener, trainer Jerry Robb picked up a win in the second with Jonesin For Jerry in the Lassie. Abel Castellano rode the heavy favorite, who gave sire Great Notion the double.

Mimi and Tom Voss won the first of two new $50,000 maiden races (Maryland Million or Maryland-bred) with homebred Mavourneen. The 3-year-old filly is a daughter of Langfuhr and former Voss runner Rowdy. Horacio Karamanos was aboard. Michael Harrison and trainer Mike Trombetta won a $50,000 maiden with Love Me Du, a homebred son of E Dubai with Carlos Marquez aboard.

Mr. Amore Stable’s Rico Bobo won his ninth consecutive race for trainer Jason Servis – roaring around (way around) the turn in the Sprint. Julian Pimentel rode the son of Louis Quatorze, who has been claimed three times (twice by Mr. Amore) this year.

Vianney Lane won the Distaff Starter Handicap for Taking Risks Stable, Benny Feliciano and Pimentel. Tooth N Claw closed the day with a rush, swooping from far back to win the finale – a starter handicap – for Richard Blue Jr. and trainer Ann Merryman. Apprentice Chesley Keiser was aboard for her first stakes win.

Chip Reed’s Monster Sleeping won the $125,000 Ladies on the turf for trainer Dale Capuano and jockey J.D. Acosta. The daughter of Oratory and granddaughter of Norquestor is the first stakes-winner bred by longtime participants Ken and Mary Holt. They lost her via the claim box this year, but reveled in the victory anyway.

Trainer John Rigattieri said he “took a shot” when he entered Maddy’s Dance in the Distaff, a 7-furlong sprint for fillies and mares. The 3-year-old daughter of Dance With Ravens got last run and nailed Ann’s Smart Dancer and Ju Ju Eyeballs for jockey Daniel Centeno and owner/breeder Dennis Federico.


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