09/24/2009 11:00PM

Cuba looks for repeat at price

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Cuba has gone just 1 for 8 since winning last year's Maryland Million Classic. The 8-year-old is listed at 8-1 on Laurel's morning line for the Classic.

As part of a season in which he won seven races and finished third behind Commentator in the $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap, Cuba went off as the 6-5 favorite when he coasted to a four-length win in last fall's Maryland Million Classic.

But those past accomplishments don't carry as much weight because Cuba has done little recently, and the 8-year-old could be close to double-digit odds when he defends his title Saturday against a solid lineup of 10 that includes two winners from last year's Maryland Million card.

The $200,000 Classic goes as race 11 on a 12-race all-stakes card worth a collective $1.23 million dedicated to the offspring of Maryland sires. Billed as the Jim McKay Maryland Million, in tribute to the broadcaster who developed the concept, the 24th edition of Maryland's showcase day for local horses has a special first post time of 12:15 p.m. Eastern.

Since his win against just four rivals in last year's Classic, Cuba has gone 1 for 8 and he's winless in six starts since taking a $25,000 starter allowance at Gulfstream Park in January. That's one reason why the connections of Broadway Producer, who could have gone back to seek a repeat in the Maryland Million Turf, and the 4-year-old filly Sweet Goodbye, who has made just one start since taking last fall's Maryland Million Oaks, are taking a shot in the 1 1/8-mile Classic.

Nevertheless, trainer Bobby Dibona is optimistic the Monmouth Park-based Cuba, an 8-1 outsider on Laurel's morning line, will run better than his recent past performance lines might indicate.

"He's looks really, really good," Dibona said. "We pointed to this race. We had a very hard campaign last year. We won one at Gulfstream in January, and then he got a little cranky so we backed off. We freshened him, and it looks like he's rounding into form at the right time."

Broadway Producer has raced just once since March and is 1 for 8 lifetime on fast dirt. But that victory was worth a career-best 101 Beyer Speed Figure in the Jennings Handicap locally last December. He also gets Ramon Dominguez, the nation's leading rider based on earnings.

"We've had this race in mind since the springtime when we decided to try to back off and freshen after a winter campaign in which he did very well," trainer John Terranova said. "We kept him in New York and kind of had him in light training for a couple of months. We gave him a turf race as a prep and we're going back to the dirt for the Classic. He's in excellent shape."

Sweet Goodbye, 6 for 8 lifetime, went wire to wire in her only start this year, the $75,000 Pink Ribbon, a two-turn, seven-furlong race at Charles Town last month. She must overcome a short run into the first turn from post 10.

Two others who could be dangerous, given their sharp recent form, are Rhythmn Master and Regal Solo. Both were claimed over the summer out of a win.

The 6-year-old Regal Solo, taken for $40,000 on Aug. 21, fits a successful angle for trainer Damon Dilodovico. He has four Maryland Million victories - all with horses first time off the claim.

Rhythmn Master, second in the restricted $75,000 Govenor's Day at Delaware Park two weeks ago, will be ridden by Jeremy Rose, who has won the Classic three times since 2001.

Elsewhere on the card:

* The 3-year-old Not for Silver, winner of the Grade 2 Carry Back at Calder two starts ago, faces Roaring Lion, a winner in his only two races this year, and defending champion Celtic Innis in the six-furlong, $125,000 Sprint (race 9).

* Izzy Speaking, who has not been worse than third in three starts since trainer Hamilton Smith sent him long on the grass, merits a slight edge over recent second-level allowance victor Pocket Patch in a field of 10 for the $125,000 Turf at 1 1/8 miles (race 10).

* All Giving, a multiple stakes winner, can surpass the $500,000 earnings milestone with a victory in the $125,000 Distaff Handicap at seven furlongs (race 7). He was second in this race last year.

* Defending champion Miss Lombardi, whose trainer, Graham Motion, has won seven Maryland Million races, heads a group of seven filly and mare turf specialists in the 1 1/8-mile, $125,000 Ladies (race 4).

* The millionaire 7-year-old Heros Reward, who has two Grade 3 victories since June 2008, heads a field of 12 that includes the filly who won this event last year, Kosmo's Buddy, in the 5 1/2-furlong, $100,000 Turf Sprint (race 6).

* Blind Date, whose 6-for-8 lifetime record includes a win in the Grade 3 Virginia Oaks on turf, faces Love That Dance, first or second in four stakes since last November, in the one-mile, $100,000 Oaks (race 3).

* In a pair of six-furlong sprints for 2-year-olds worth $100,000 apiece, Toboggan Slide, easy winner over nine rivals in the First State Dash at Delaware Park, looks like a standout in the Nursery (race 5) and the Todd Pletcher-trained For Royalty, winner of the Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies, appears formidable in the Lassie (race 8).

* There also are three starter handicaps, including the one-mile Distaff (race 12), where Swear Allegiance will attempt to repeat her 12-1 upset of last year's event.

HRTV will provide on-site coverage of the Maryland Million, with Scott Hazelton and Caton Bredar.