09/13/2002 12:00AM

Four of last year's winners to return on Million Day


Maryland Million Day is on target for a successful 17th running next Saturday at Pimlico. A total of 162 horses - four of whom won races on last year's Maryland Million Day - were pre-entered by the Sept. 11 deadline, assuring large fields for the 10 races, which offer total purses of $1 million.

Multiple graded stakes winner Duckhorn (by Not for Love) looms as a formidable contender in the $200,000 Maryland Million Classic, to be run at 1 3/16 miles. But strong opposition may come from any of the 12 other nominees, including Sumerset, an Allen's Prospect gelding looking to repeat his victory in the 2001 Classic; Docent (Waquoit), a winner of two stakes in his last three outings; Marciano, winner of the Tesio and seventh in the Preakness in 2001; Final Table, winner of a Pennsylvania-bred stakes in June; and the hard-trying veterans P Day (Private Terms) and Big Becker (Becker).

Races drawing the largest numbers of pre-entries were the Sprint and Lassie, each with 24.

The speedy Ghostly Numbers (Polish Numbers), who threatened Laurel Park's 5 1/2-furlong turf record while winning the Aug. 18 Mister Diz Stakes last time out, may cut to the chase in the six-furlong Sprint. His toughest foes could include In C C's Honor (Allen's Prospect), the close runner-up in last year's Sprint; the always tough Danny E (Not for Love); He's a Knockout (Two Punch); Dr. Max (Dover Ridge); or the cross-entered P Day and Final Table.

The two six-furlong races for 2-year-olds, the Lassie and Nursery, will be a focal point for many local breeders. Eleven of the fillies pre-entered for the Lassie represent freshman sires. Partner's Hero has five, Yarrow Brae three, and Same Day Delivery, Storm Broker, and Swear by Dixie have one filly apiece among the pre-entries. The Nursery has 15 pre-entered, including two by Yarrow Brae.

The Turf, for 3-year-olds and up 1 1/8 miles, rarely fails to deliver excitement, and this year's 15 pre-entries are an exceptional group. Winners of each of the last three runnings have been nominated - Private Slip (1999), by Private Key; Cynics Beware (2000), by Caveat; and Elberton (2001), by Perfectin - along with La Reine's Terms (Private Terms), who started as the favorite in last year's Turf only to be severely compromised by traffic problems. She is undefeated in three starts, all on the grass, at age 7 this season.

The list for the Ladies, a 1 1/8-mile turf event for fillies and mares, features such headline performers as Your Out (Allen's Prospect), a Maryland-bred champion who just missed to top-flight mare Summer Colony in this year's Grade 3 Delaware Handicap; Supposedly (Polish Numbers), returning from a dominating score in Laurel's Aug. 17 Pearl Necklace Stakes; and Shiny Sheet (Press Card), seeking her fourth stakes win of the season.

Last year's winner, Case of the Blues (In Case), is among 18 pre-entries for the Distaff, a six-furlong race for fillies and mares. She will meet with classy company in the form of Willa on the Move (Two Punch), runner-up to You in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes last June. Other stakes stars pre-entered are Urban Dancer (Citidancer), Astrid (Concern), Golden Made (Allen's Prospect), and Two Times a Lady (Two Punch).

Eleven 3-year-old fillies are pre-entered for the Oaks, at 1 1/16 miles, and this race could mark the spot for Madame X Ski (Polish Numbers), who dead-heated for second in last year's Lassie. Opposition could come from Quoit Quick (Waquoit) and the ultra-consistent No Halos Here (Hay Halo), who both prepped for this race by finishing second and third in the Pearl Necklace.

Two starter handicaps complete the lineup of races. Blazing Colors (Valley Crossing), winner of last year's Maryland Million Starter Handicap, will attempt a repeat.

Two Punch outnumbers all other stallions by number of offspring pre-entered (17), and is closely followed by Not for Love (16) and Allen's Prospect (15). A total of 42 stallions are represented.