10/12/2005 11:00PM

Million's one-week delay doesn't have Ciresa thrilled


LAUREL, Md. - Last Saturday, Presidentialaffair seemed perfect. Now, trainer Martin Ciresa hopes the glue hasn't dried on his project.

For all the trainers in the rescheduled Maryland Million, waiting a week has been a hassle. For Ciresa, it's been torture. That's because Classic favorite walks a fine line between boil and burn. His physical problems and difficult behavior turn every day into a question. Ship him to the races, turn around, wait a week, and do it all over again - go ahead and grab that dragon by its tail.

"It will be a huge disadvantage," Ciresa said Thursday from his base at Philadelphia Park. "With him, you try to get him right for a day. You just hope you have him right because he's so tough to deal with.

"I trained him into the race to have him win last Saturday. When you're doing that, you're also getting him on the muscle. When he ships, he knows what he's doing. He'll be as sharp as all get out come Saturday. I wouldn't want to run with him early - you're dying, and it's whether he's holding on or not."

The 20th Maryland Million was postponed last week after 7 1/2 inches of rain fell on Laurel Park. A week later, 109 horses were entered for the 12-race card that is restricted to horses sired by Maryland stallions. Seven horses were again entered for the $250,000 Classic at 1 3/16 miles, with defending champ Presidentialaffair at the top of the list.

One Classic entrant, Cherokee's Boy, will instead run in the Sprint six days after setting a track record for 1 1/8 miles at Charles Town.

"I think he has a better shot of winning or picking up a piece of the purse," trainer Dale Capuano explained. "Going 1 3/16 miles, it's likely he would run three-quarters then quit. If he breaks four to five lengths behind the field and makes a late run, he would have a better chance of winning the Sprint."

Thanks to the postponement, Ciresa knows this year will mark Presidentialaffair's sternest test in the Maryland Million Classic, a race he won in 2004 and finished secon in two years ago. For the last week, the son of Not for Love has jogged two miles each day, with one gallop snuck into his schedule.

"For stakes races, you build a horse up to peak and you want to run on that day," Ciresa said. "He's a high-strung horse; you don't want to do too much before a race. Then you miss a day of training. The next day, he's pretty high because he was ready to run and didn't, so you have to settle him down.

"I didn't want to work him because I have him so high for the race that he'll go too fast and ruin his race," Ciresa said. "You have to ease him into the race and hope he's fit enough. I guess with him, I value soundness over fitness."

Presidentialaffair is one of six defending champions returning for the Maryland Million. Drum Roll Please makes his seventh start since winning last year's Sprint Starter Handicap. Dixie Colony, after being claimed three times, returns for the Starter Handicap. ships in from New York to defend his Sprint title. Namequest, a 9-year-old, won the 2004 Turf Sprint Handicap but hasn't won since. Last year's upset winner of the Maryland Million Turf, Dr. Detroit, comes in off three losing efforts this year and takes on 10 rivals.

Ben Feliciano Jr. trains Namequest and four others, the most of any trainer. Based at Laurel, Feliciano hasn't felt the stress that Ciresa has dealt with since the rescheduling.

"Last week I was pretty excited because I thought I had some good chances," Feliciano said. "But with the weather, I was glad they made that decision. It was a nasty day. Training-wise, I went ahead and breezed a couple of them, but I figure if they were going to win last week, they'll win this week."

Feliciano breezed Summer Carnival, Crossing Point, Name-quest, and My Pretty Woman on Monday. The trainer used the extra week to put stamina into Ladies contender Kiss Me Katie, who tries a distance for the first time this year.

"I won't use it as an excuse - it could work to my advantage and it could work to my disadvantage," Feliciano said of the rescheduling. "I could have had all losers last week. You never know. I'm not going to look back on that. I've thought horses were going to lose and they win, and I've thought horses looked real good and they've run bad. You never know. I take this business as it comes."