09/17/2002 12:00AM

Duckhorn fresh and fit


Duckhorn, the likely favorite for Saturday's $200,000 Maryland Million Classic, worked a bullet five furlongs in 59.80 seconds on Tuesday at Churchill Downs.

The 1 3/16-mile Classic is one of 10 races at Pimlico on Saturday for the progeny of Maryland-based sires. Last week, 162 horses were pre-entered for the 17th Maryland Million, which offers total purses of $1 million. Post positions were to be drawn Wednesday.

Duckhorn, trained by Patrick Byrne, is scheduled to arrive at Pimlico on Friday morning. New York-based rider Richard Migliore has the mount.

Byrne said he was pleased with Duckhorn's work, which was completed over a track that was on the slow side. Duckhorn's move was the fastest of 51 at the distance.

"After his last race we freshened him in preparation for the Maryland race," Byrne said. "He's had a couple of bullet works and is on top of his game. He's a fresh horse and we expect a good effort."

Duckhorn, a 5-year-old son of Not for Love, hasn't raced since winning a money allowance race at Churchill Downs on June 23. Earlier in the season, he won the Grade 3 Ben Ali at Keeneland. Last year, Duckhorn posted an upset in the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup.

Byrne, who trains Duckhorn for Michael Tabor, said the main objective for the horse is to reach $1 million in earnings by the end of the year. His earnings are $744,392.

"He's a notch below the heavy heads, but is very tough around his own kind," Byrne said.

Other probables for the Classic are Big Becker, Get the Picture, Hay Getoutofmyway, and P Day, who finished third last year and in 2000. Among those listed as possible to start is Sumerset, last year's upset winner at 30-1, and Concerned Minister, the beaten favorite in the last two runnings of the Classic.

The other races on the Maryland Million card are the $100,000 Turf; $100,000 Distaff; $100,000 Lassie; $100,0000 Nursery; $100,000 Oaks; $100,000 Sprint; $100,000 Ladies; and a pair of $50,000 starter handicap events.

Earlier date increases entries

Since 1993, Maryland Million Day has been held in October. This year, a couple of factors were behind the event being moved to September, the month it was run in for six years, beginning in 1987.

Lou Raffetto, chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club, said the Maryland Million racing committee wanted to select a date that would give the event maximum exposure and draw the most runners.

Since the Maryland Million is not restricted to Maryland-breds, the races attract runners from out of state. Raffetto said Sept. 21 was picked because it isn't too close to regional showcase days in nearby states and there aren't an abundance of big races in the country that day.

"I think the end result is we'll have an outstanding card and handle more money," Raffetto said. "We have already had more pre-entries [162] for 10 races than we did last year with 120 for 11 races."

A $50,000 race for 3-year-old males who had never won a sweepstakes, was eliminated from this year's card.

Commemorating Pino's milestone

The MJC will honor Mario Pino for riding his 5,000th winner, a milestone he reached earlier this month, in a ceremony after the eighth race on Saturday.

Pino, a regular on the Maryland circuit, rode his 5,000th winner at Delaware Park on Sept. 8. The MJC will present Pino with a watch, leather jacket, and an artist's rendering of the win photo from his 5,000th winner.

* Two hours of live broadcasting on Maryland Million Day will be shown on a local Maryland television station, WNUV, between 4 and 6 p.m. Eastern. The final four Maryland Million races will be shown live, including the Classic, race 10.