10/18/2001 11:00PM

Million Day winners came from all over

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True or false: The Maryland Million is an event for Maryland-breds. The answer is false.

The Maryland Million, an annual event that has become the state's the second-biggest day of racing behind the Preakness, is restricted to Maryland-sired runners. Both the stallion and the prospective runner must be nominated, but the runner's birthplace is irrelevant.

The 16th running of the Maryland Million, on Oct. 13 at Pimlico, was dominated by horses foaled outside of Maryland. Non-Maryland-breds won seven of the 11 races, including the $200,000 Classic, which went to longshot Sumerset, a Pennsylvania-bred son of Allen's Prospect. Trainer Tim Ritchey, who claimed Sumerset for $50,000 in his previous start on Sept. 30 at Delaware Park for brothers Eric and Gregg Fral, is wise to the ways of the Maryland Million.

"The Fral brothers and I liked this horse, especially because he was a Pennsylvania-bred by a Maryland stallion, and eligible for the Maryland Million," said Ritchey, who is based at Delaware Park. "I try to pick up horses specifically for the Maryland Million - I bought six yearlings this year and all are eligible."

Ritchey, who makes his home in Elkton, Md., is also a breeder, and he takes advantage of programs in both Maryland and Pennsylvania. "If I foal a mare in Pennsylvania, I try to make sure the foal is by a Maryland Million stallion," he noted. That reasoning reaped Ritchey a second Maryland Million award last Saturday.

Belle Visage, a daughter of recently retired Thornmar stallion Horatius, was bred by Ritchey in Pennsylvania and campaigned by her breeder until claimed away two years ago. The mare has been quite popular - in her 14 starts this year, her name has been pulled from the claim box four times, for prices ranging from $7,500 to $14,000.

Ritchey got word to Belle Visage's current trainer, Tanya Boulmetis, that the mare was eligible for a Maryland Million race, the $50,000 Distaff Starter Handicap, which Belle Visage promptly won. Ritchey will now receive a nominator's award, worth 2 percent of the purse.

Belle Visage was one of two foals out of Ritchey's broodmare Urban Girl (by Maudlin) to campaign on Maryland Million Day. The second, Maryland-bred filly Urban Dancer, was sent off as the overwhelming favorite in the Oaks.

After setting the pace, however, Urban Dancer faltered in the later stages and finished fifth, as Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Nielsen's homebred Along Came Mary rallied for the victory. A daughter of Citidancer, Along Came Mary was foaled in New York.

Five other winners on the day were also homebreds, including Docent, the first winner on the card. A Pennsylvania-bred son of Waquoit campaigned by the chairman of the Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission, Bernard Daney, and his wife, Arlene, Docent captured Maryland Million's newest event, the Sweepstakes.

Joe Allbritton's Lazy Lane Farm bred and races 2-year-old filly Night Breeze, a stylish chestnut Two Punch filly foaled in Virginia. Night Breeze remained undefeated in three starts after winning the Lassie.

Walter and Cynthia Reese sent out their own Pal's Partner, under the name of Timber Creek Farm, to take the colt counterpart, the Juvenile. A son of Rakeen, Pal's Partner was one of four winners bred in Pennsylvania.

Maryland-breds provided two of the most joyful winner's circle celebrations: Turf winner Elberton, a 4-year-old colt owned and bred by C. Frank Hopkins, by Hopkins's own stallion Perfecting, who stands at the family's Elberton Hill Farm; and James Glenn's Sprint winner Jorgie Stover, a son of Press Card co-bred by Glenn and Country Life Farm.

Unlike last year, when Allen's Prospect dominated the day with four winners, no stallion had more than one winner. The 11 stallions represented seven Maryland farms, led by the three winners each for Northview Stallion Station (Two Punch, Waquoit, and former resident Rakeen, who returned to South Africa in 1999) and Country Life Farm (Allen's Prospect, Citidancer and former resident Press Card, who was sold to Australia in 2000).

Other farms boasting Maryland Million victories were: Bonita Farm, home to Valley Crossing, the sire of Virginia-bred Blazing Colors, winner of the Handicap; Murmur Farm, where Norquestor, sire of Ladies winner Stal Quest, stood before his death in 1999; and Green Willow Farms, which stands In Case, sire of Distaff winner Case of the Blues.