05/20/2001 11:00PM

New inclusion in Grade 1 list


The exclusive club of Grade 1 winners gained a new member following the relentless charge of Include in the Pimlico Special Stakes on May 12. Include, owned by Robert E. Meyerhoff, got up by a neck over Albert the Great in the final strides, which placed him in rarefied company among Maryland racing's elite.

A son of Meyerhoff's star of the 1980's, multi-millionaire Broad Brush, Include is out of Illeria, by Stop the Music, and is a full brother to Magic Broad, who was Maryland-bred champion 2-year-old filly of 1998.

Approximately 4 percent of the stakes races run each year are Grade 1 caliber. Since 1990, Maryland-breds have taken their share, although there have been lean years. But in the mid-1990's, it was nearly an embarrassment of riches.

The best of the best was the incomparable Cigar. Fans grew giddy when Cigar, a charismatic bay horse owned by Allen Paulson, took to the track in 1995 and 1996 and won 15 races - including 10 Grade 1's - but his string actually began in November 1994 when, at nearly 9-1 odds, he demolished a field that included the previous year's champion handicap horse, Bertrando, and Devil His Due in winning in the NYRA Mile by seven lengths. Cigar retired in 1996 as the world's leading money winner with $9,999,815.

Another Meyerhoff horse, Concern, came along during those same years and, amazingly, for a horse who earned over $3 million, he was many times overshadowed. Concern was Maryland's first winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic in 1994, and he added the Grade 1 Californian Stakes the following year. His total stakes numbers - 18 wins or placings over three seasons - included nine at the highest level.

And if Concern was overshadowed, Awad was nearly obscured. A turf-loving son of Caveat, Awad won graded races five different years, starting in 1992 at age 2. Awad's first Grade 1 victory came during his 3-year-old season in Arlington's Secretariat Stakes. At age 5, he captured the Arlington Million Stakes, setting a course record of 1:58.60 for 1 1/4 miles, and took the Manhattan at the same distance in 1:58.40 at Belmont. Two years later, in 1997, Awad won Saratoga's Sword Dancer Invitational Handicap in 2:23.20, slashing more than a second off the 1 1/2-mile course record. He retired in 1998 with a record that included 30 stakes wins or placings, of which 11 were Grade 1's, and earnings of $3,270,818.

Cigar earned Eclipse Awards for Horse of the Year in 1995 and 1996. Concern was Maryland-bred horse of the year in 1994. Awad earned neither an Eclipse Award nor a Maryland-bred horse of the year title, but he was the state's turf champion four times.

Over the past 10 years, Maryland can boast 10 other Grade 1 stars - European runners Jet Sky Lady and Seattle Rhyme; turf females Corrazona and Tenski; the Citidancer fillies Urbane and Hookedonthefeelin; 2-year-old Smoke Glacken; turf horse Ops Smile, another son of Caveat; and handicap horses Taking Risks and Valley Crossing, a second millionaire bred and campaigned by Meyerhoff during the decade.

* Entries for the Maryland Horse Breeders Association's 67th annual yearling show close on May 25. This year's show, held at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium on June 24, will be judged by trainer Linda Rice. Entry forms may be downloaded off the MHBA website at www.mdhorsebreeders.com or call the office at 410-252-2100.