09/07/2004 12:00AM

Turf sprint new stakes

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The 19th annual Maryland Million, expanded to include a turf sprint this year, highlights the fall meeting, which begins Thursday at Pimlico Race Course.

Last year, when the event for the offspring of Maryland-based stallions was held at Laurel Park, a track-record $6.6 million was wagered.

Pimlico will be the site of the Maryland Million for the eighth time on Saturday, Oct. 9, because Laurel's turf course, undergoing renovations, might not be ready for the three $100,000 races scheduled for the grass.

Attendance at the Maryland Million has topped 20,000 15 times, including six of the seven previous years it has been held at Pimlico.

The 12-race Maryland Million program, with stakes worth a collective $1.125 million, now includes a turf sprint that will be worth $100,000 and contested at 5 1/2 furlongs.

Beyond the Maryland Million, the meet's highlights are two Grade 3 stakes for 3-year-old fillies: the Martha Washington, a 1 1/16-mile turf race on Sept. 25, and the Safely Kept, a six-furlong dirt sprint on Oct. 2. Both are worth $150,000.

The meet's top race for males is the $150,000 John D. Schapiro Memorial, a 1 1/8-mile turf stakes on Sept. 18.

The opening-day feature is a five-furlong second-level allowance with a $25,000 claiming option.

Dale Capuano, seeking his 10th straight training title at a Pimlico meet, has a strong hand with the uncoupled entry of Kentucky J B and Scotch Cap.

Erick Rodriguez, whose 16 wins enabled him to tie for leading rider at Pimlico's summer meet with apprentice Chip Van Hassel, rides an interesting 8-1 longshot, Awad of Bills.

At a glance

RACING SCHEDULE: 20 days, Sept. 9 through Oct. 11. Live racing Thursday through Sunday. No racing Thursday, Oct 7; open Monday, Oct. 11 (Columbus Day).

POST TIME: 1:10 p.m. Eastern

HIGHLIGHTS: Maryland Million Day, Oct. 9, 12 races for offspring of Maryland based stallions.

ADMISSIONS: Grandstand and clubhouse, $3.

PARKING: General, free; clubhouse preferred, $2; valet, $3.

LOCATION: 5201 Park Heights Ave., Baltimore

SIMULCASTING: Daily

PHONE: (410) 542-9400

INTERNET: www.marylandracing.com