10/11/2006 11:00PM

Cherokee's Boy odds-on to go out in glory

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Cherokee's Boy, a winner of 19 races from 47 career starts, is the deserving 1-2 morning-line favorite in Saturday's $250,000 Maryland Million Classic, the highlight of Laurel Park's 12-race card restricted to horses sired by Maryland stallions.

Cherokee's Boy, who will retire after the Classic to stand at the Maryland Stallion Station, will face six rivals in the 1 3/16-mile race. Cherokee Boy's career earnings of $1,170,446 exceed the career earnings of all his opponents combined.

A 6-year-old son of Citidancer trained by Dale Capuano, Cherokee's Boy first made his mark on the Maryland circuit as a 2-year-old, winning the Maryland Million Nursery Stakes in 2002. He is owned by Fred Wilgis and Dave Picarello, and will carry high weight of 123 pounds including jockey Travis Dunkelberger.

"He's a hard hitter," said Wilgis on Wednesday at the post-position draw. "He goes out every time. You know he's going to run. What more can you ask for?"

The Classic is the richest race on a card that begins at 12:35 p.m. Eastern. This year's edition is the 21st running of the Maryland Million, an event pushed by state breeders to highlight the state's breeding program in a format that has been copied by nearly every other major racing and breeding state in the U.S. A total of 115 horses are scheduled to race on Saturday.

The Classic will be immediately preceded by the $150,000 Turf at 1 1/8 miles on Laurel's turf course. Private Scandal, Orlop, Rubi Echo, and Prep School will vie for favoritism in a highly competitive 14-horse field.

The other two turf races on the card - the $150,000 Ladies Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles and the $100,000 Turf Sprint at five furlongs - also drew competitive fields.

The Ladies will have eight horses, including the top three finishers from last year's running: Surf Light, Sassy Lady, and Rowdy. Those three will face a serious challenge from Sticky, the winner of last year's Maryland Million Oaks.

The Turf Sprint drew 10 horses, including the winner of the 2004 event, Namequest. Bingobear, a last-out winner of a $60,000, five-furlong turf handicap at Laurel, will be the likely favorite in a type of race that frequently results in surprises.

The $150,000 Sprint at six furlongs on the main track attracted only six horses, perhaps in part because of the presence of Celtic Innis, a winner of $319,484 with the field's top Beyer Speed Figure of 105, earned in his last start. The Sprint is lacking in legitimate early pace, so the speedster Ironton, trained by Scott Lake, should be considered.

Another heavy favorite will go in the $150,000 Distaff at seven furlongs for fillies and mares. Yolanda B. Too, who has placed in several graded stakes but was trounced in her last start, the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga, looks for redemption against five rivals. Immune to Gloom and Silmaril are the most likely candidates to fill out the trifecta.

Eleven 3-year-old fillies will face off in the $150,000, one-mile Oaks, led by Smart and Fancy, winner of last year's Maryland Million Lassie Stakes for

2-year-old fillies. Rinella Storm, For Kisses, and Christmas Stocking are her principal competition.

The two $125,000 races for 2-year-olds - the Nursery and the Lassie - will both be run on dirt at seven furlongs. The Nursery drew eight colts, including the top two finishers from the restricted Oliver's Twist Stakes at Laurel on

Sept. 16, Six String and Clifton Park. They are listed as co-favorites.

The Lassie drew 13 fillies, including two first-out winners from trainer Michael Trombetta, What Time It Is and Spectacular Malibu. A handful of other horses look ready to challenge and improve, including Akronism, Morgan's Bailey, and Second Marriage.

Three starter handicaps fill out the card, with two to open the event and one to close.