10/02/2010 5:48PM

Regal Solo soars from last to first to take Maryland Million Classic

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Regal Solo gives jockey Sheldon Russell his third stakes win of the day in the Maryland Million Classic.

A year ago, trainer Damon Dilodovico shelled out $40,000 to claim Regal Solo specifically to run him a month later in the Maryland Million Classic. Coming from far back, Regal Solo had to settle for third in the 2009 running, but he succeeded with  a last-to-first move on Saturday to win the biggest event on the 25th annual Jim McKay Maryland Million card for the offspring of Maryland stallions at Laurel Park.

Jockey Sheldon Russell completed a stakes triple when he guided Regal Solo ($13.40) to a 1 1/4-length victory over Not Aboard in the $150,000 Classic.

The 5-year-old Regal Solo, whose previous best race since joining Dilodovico’s barn was a victory in last November’s Jennings Handicap at the same 1 1/8-mile distance as the Classic, ran the nine furlongs in 1:51.43. He had prepped for Saturday's race, just his third start since the Jennings, with a pair of sprints in August and September. Dilodovico chose to run Regal Solo in the Classic rather than Turf, where he was cross-entered.


“We’ve been pointing for this race," said Dilodovico, who has now won five Maryhland Million races, four of them with horses off te claim. "Had a couple setbacks with this horse in the spring but he’s come on lately. We went back to last year when he ran third. I was happy with last year. We just needed to tweak a few things, although I was a little concerned with the distance. We didn’t know what to expect so we told Sheldon to be ready for anything. When he was settling, with a ton of horse, as close as he was, I felt good about it. If he had done anything careless early, the horse would have taken off with him.

The 3-year-old Regal Warrior finished third, finishing a head in front of even-money favorite In the Juice.

The 9-year-old Cuba, who won the Classic two years ago and was second in 2009, finished fifth.

Regal Solo was last of six through the first six furlongs in 1:13.14, but Russell swung him five-wide into the stretch and he closed well to draw even with In the Juice with a furlong remaining. In deep stretch, Regal Solo kicked clear to win for the seventh time in 24 overall starts.

“We had to go to plan B because he did not break sharply from the gate,” said Russell. “He gave me a particularly good race, though, and sat comfortably around the entire track. We had to be a bit cautionary going around because the ground had been somewhat wet all day. All I had to do was keep out of trouble and when I let out a notch, he really took off for me. He was a lot sharper at the end then I thought he might be.”

Russell also won the $100,000 Distaff with Blind Date and the $100,000 Sprint with Jack on the Rocks.

Ben's Cat improves to 6 for 6 by taking Turf Sprint

Ben’s Cat easily remained undefeated with a 4 1/2-length victory in the $100,000 Sprint.

A 4-year-old who did not make his racing debut until four months ago because he needed a long time to recuperate from a broken pelvis, Ben’s Cat ($4.60) is now 6 for 6, including back-to-back stakes victories in his first two tries on turf.

Ben’s Cat was bred by King Leatherbury, who is also his owner and trainer. It was Leatherbury’s eighth Maryland Million win – tying him for second all-time – but his first in nine years.

Julian Pimentel rode Ben’s Cat, collecting his second stakes win on the card.
Ben’s Cat ran 5 1/2 furlongs over yielding turf in 1:05.54.

Kosmo’s Buddy, who won the 2008 Turf Sprint, finished fourth, while defending champion Natural Seven was eighth of nine.

Celtic Innis foiled in bid to close out career with Sprint win

Jack on the Rocks ($8.20), overtaken in deep stretch by Celtic Innis, battled back to capture the $100,000 Sprint by a half-length.

The 8-year-old Celtic Innis, making his 45th and likely final start of his career, looked like a winner with a sixteenth of a mile remaining until Jack On the Rocks surged again under Russell to earn his first stakes victory while completing six furlongs in 1:09.85. Celtic Innis won the 2008 Sprint and was second in both 2006 and last year.

Jack on the Rocks, based in New York with trainer Gary Gullo, had prepped for the Sprint by finishing second to Classic favorite In the Juice two weeks ago at Laurel.

Roaring Lion, the defending champion, broke slowly and settled for third as the 1-2 favorite.

My Sweet Nenana connects for record $119 win payoff

My Sweet Nenana registered the biggest surprise of the day when she led wire to wire at 58-1 in the Ladies. The $119 win price for a $2 ticket was the largest in the 25-year history of the Maryland Million, $30 more than Missy White Oak paid in the 1991 Lassie.

Last year, My Sweet Nenana finished second in the Maryland Million Distaff Starter Handicap at odds of 67-1. This was just her second try on grass and second race under apprentice Christopher Ho, who rode his first stakes winner for trainer-owner Daniel O’Ryan.

O’Ryan, who saddled Toboggan Slide to victory in the 2009 Maryland Million Nursery, did not have a winner in Maryland this year until Matanuska Passion won Friday’s second race.

Defending champion Talkin About Love finished seventh.

Elsewhere on the all-stakes card:

• Blind Date ran down 1-5 favorite Love That Dance in deep stretch to win the $100,000 Distaff for fillies and mares by a half-length.
Blind Date, ridden by Russell for trainer Hamilton Smith, won four stakes during her 3-year-old campaign a year ago, including the Grade 3 Virginia Oaks, but was winless since taking the Pearl Necklace at Laurel in August 2009.

Defending champion All Giving finished sixth.

• Pocket Patch ($14), who sat an ideal trip just off the pace set by Eightofasttocatch, edged past the tiring leader at the top of the stretch and pulled away to a 3 1/2-length victory in the $100,000 Turf.

It was the first stakes victory for the 5-year-old Pocket Patch, ridden by Jonathan Joyce for trainer Flint Stites. Pocket Patch was fifth in this same race last year.
Pocket Patch ran the 1 1/8 miles on yielding turf in 1:52.30.

• Baltimore Belle ($8.60), returning to dirt for the first time since April after three recent good races on turf, found room along the rail under Vladimir Diaz to rally to a 3 1/4-length victory in the $100,000 Oaks for 3-year-old fillies.

It was the third straight win for Baltimore Belle, trained by John Secor. She ran one mile in 1:38.35 while defeating Lil Kiara, the 6-5 favorite.

• Doing Great ($23.60), who defeated maiden claimers at Monmouth Par in her only previous start, outdueled 1-5 favorite Twelve Park Shelly in the stretch to prevail by a half-length in the $100,000 Lassie for 2-year-old fillies.  Pimentel rode Doing Great for trainer Mike Trombetta. The winner ran the six furlongs in 1:12.06.

• Steady Warrior ($2.20) followed in the footsteps of his sire, Cherokee’s Boy, by easily winning the $100,000 Nursery for 2-year-olds. Cherokee’s Boy won the same stakes in 2002.

Trained by Gary Capuano and ridden by Travis Dunkelberger, Steady Warrior, now 2 for 2 in his career, cruised by 7 ¼ lengths while completing six furlongs in 1:11.18.

• Northpoint Costas ($4), scratched out of the Classic in favor of an easier spot, scored by three lengths in the $50,000 Starter Handicap, giving trainer Dale Capuano his record ninth victory in Maryland Million races.

*Silver Heart ($8), ridden by Dunkelberger, blew past defending champion Serenadia when her rider, Ricardo Chiappe, misjudged the finish line and stopped riding a furlong from the finish of the $100,000 Distaff Starter Handicap.

 A crowd of 23,367, ninth best in the history of the event, turned out for what is considered the second biggest day of racing in the state.