Updated on 09/18/2011 2:21AM

Variation on a familiar Million theme

Email

The names Capuano and Leatherbury have been associated with many Maryland Million Day winners since the event's inception in 1986. But Due's surprising victory in the $250,000 Maryland Million Classic, the feature on the 12-race Maryland Million day card held at Laurel Park on Oct. 14, provided a bit of a twist.

This year's Classic was expected to be a stroll in the park for Cherokee's Boy, a millionaire trained by Gary Capuano for ZWP Stable. Off as the odds-on-favorite, Cherokee's Boy sought to cap off his fine career on one of the Maryland racing's biggest days, before heading off to stud at Maryland Stallion Station to create more runners for the Maryland Million. But Cherokee's Boy threw in a clunker and finished fifth, and it was Due, trained by Dale Capuano - Gary's brother - who picked up the pieces.

Dale earned his eighth Maryland Million victory, tying him with Bill Boniface atop the list of Maryland Million-winning trainers. Third on that list is Maryland legend King T. Leatherbury, who has also bred a number of stakes winners over the years and can now add Due to that total. Owned by Robert Haynes's Rob Ry Farm, Due is a 5-year-old half-brother to Leatherbury's current star, Ah Day, a 3-year-old who one week earlier scored his fifth stakes victory by capturing the Sonny Hine Stakes at Laurel Park.

Leatherbury, 73, purchased the granddam of Due and Ah Day, Dronette (by Drone), in partnership with Hermen Greenberg in 1982, while the mare was carrying her first foal. An unraced full sister to graded stakes winner Sunny Winters, Dronette produced 10 foals, four of them stakes performers, including graded winners Notches Trace and Thirty Eight Go Go. When Thirty Eight Go Go captured the 1987 Maryland Million Lassie, she became the first of seven Leatherbury-trained Maryland Million winners.

The final foal out of Dronette was Endette, by the Leatherbury-trained Thirty Eight Paces. She managed only two second-place finishes in 14 career starts, but has excelled as a producer, with two stakes winners from her first three foals.

When Leatherbury first retired Endette, money was tight and he didn't want to spend much on stud fees. The choice of Rinka Das, a son of Nureyev who at the time stood at Corbett Farm in Monkton, Md., was suggested by pedigree consultant Anne Peters. Due, Endette's second foal, was the result.

After Leatherbury bred Endette to Malibu Moon, he chose not to nominate the foal, Ah Day, to the Maryland Million, because he wanted to save money. Every time Ah Day wins a stakes race with a Maryland Million bonus attached, Leatherbury is reminded of the gaffe.

"I'm trying to teach others a lesson," he said jokingly. "I'm allowing others an opportunity to earn more money."

Leatherbury has a 2-year-old filly out of Endette named Dixiette (by Swear by Dixie) at the track. He also has Endette's yearling filly by Crowd Pleaser and weanling filly by Parker's Storm Cat. Endette is in foal to first-year sire Dance With Ravens.

While Leatherbury no longer owns Due, he said he was nonetheless thrilled with the Classic outcome.

"I was proud of Due," he said. "I know the owner, and of course I know Dale. I was seriously thrilled and found myself in the winner's circle to get my picture taken."

Maryland Million notes

The dozen Maryland Million races attracted 107 runners. Three of those horses scored their second Maryland Million victories: Silmaril (by Diamond), winner of the 2004 Oaks, won the Distaff Handicap; Smart and Fancy (Not for Love), winner of the 2005 Lassie, won the Oaks; and Hunca Munca (Yarrow Brae), winner of the 2004 Distaff Starter Handicap, repeated in this year's renewal.

Not for Love led all sires with three winners: Smart and Fancy, Private Scandal (Turf) and Ironton (Sprint). Ironton became the fourth consecutive winner of the Sprint for his sire. Not for Love, who stands at the Northview Stallion Station, has sired the winners of 11 Maryland Million races since 2002, moving into a tie for second with Deputed Testamony on the leading sires list.

Allen's Prospect, a deceased Country Life Farm stallion, padded his lead among sires with two winners on the card, pushing his total to 21. Busy Prospect took the first race, the Sprint Starter Handicap, and Clifton Park, a colt from Allen's Prospect's final crop, led every step to win this year's Nursery. Clifton Park became Allen's Prospect's ninth Maryland Million juvenile winner.