By Joe Clancy
Maryland Million Day 2012 turned out to be a family affair as brothers Nick and Mike Petro teamed up to win the Jim McKay Maryland Million Classic with Not Abroad and siblings Edwin and Lizzie Merryman won races as trainers.
Beyond them, growing Maryland-bred legend Ben’s Cat won the Turf Sprint for the third consecutive year and Bold Affair ran away to a 13 ¼-length laugher in the Distaff. All-time leading Maryland Million stallion Not For Love added two winners – Not Abroad and Lassie winner Classy Coco – to push his total to 27.
The $150,000 Classic headlined a full card of 11 races for runners sired by Maryland-based stallions. Total purses on the day reached $1.05 million and 18,420 fans attended the 27th annual event.
A short list of superlatives from the 11-race card, which will be covered completely in the December edition of Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred:
Best Performance: Bold Affair. Dominant, dazzling, destructive, whatever you want to call it, she was good. Bred and owned by Chip Reed and Mike Zanella, the 4-year-old filly made light work of the $100,000 Distaff to get her first Maryland Million win. She improved to 8-for-14 lifetime and gave trainer Howard Wolfendale his third Maryland Million win.
Best Detail-Sweater: As his son Louis stood and cheered next to him, Edwin Merryman sat stone still in front of the television monitor as Jazzy Idea drew off in the $100,000 Oaks. Leaving the paddock, the breeder/owner/trainer fretted over his filly’s first start beyond 7 furlongs and the tricky “second-wire mile” distance at Laurel. Turned out he had nothing to worry about – Jazzy Idea won by 6 ¾ lengths.
Best Race: The Turf Sprint. Ben’s Cat and King T. Leatherbury never get old. The horse won the race for the third time and picked up the 18th victory of his career – but he had to work as 10-year-old warrior Heros Reward made a late run in the stretch that fell less than a length short. Sent off a 2-5, Ben’s Cat provided another textbook turf sprint under Julian Pimentel – sitting just off the pace in the three path and kicking clear late.
Best Sister: Lizzie Merryman joined sisters Katy Voss, Ann Merryman and her brother Edwin as a Maryland Million-winning trainer when Roadhog took the $100,000 Turf. The 5-year-old son of Bowman’s Band reeled in Change of Command in the stretch to erase a seventh in the race (over soft turf) a year earlier.
Biggest Surprise: Keep Momma Happy in the Nursery. The first-time starter was on the also-eligible list until almost noon, drew in with a scratch, flipped on the horsepath between the paddock and the track, took the post parade alone and then roared past the field in the stretch to win the Nursery by a neck at better than 23-1.
Welcome Back Award: Trainer Bernie Houghton, who once held down posts as the horse identifier and other racing official titles at Laurel, won the opener with Classy Coco. Now based at Penn National, Houghton collected his first Maryland Million win in his first try. Matt Rispoli rode the winner, and completed the early double aboard Motherload Hipster in the second.
With two more wins, Not For Love padded his all-time lead with 27, but he didn’t dominate as he did in 2011 (when the Northview Stallion Station resident had four winners).
The winning sires in 2012:
Not For Love (27 career wins): Classy Coco (Nursery), Not Abroad (Classic).
Dance With Ravens (1): Motherload Hipster (Distaff Starter Handicap).
Oratory (1): Pagan Princess (Ladies Turf).
Two Punch (13): Bold Affair (Distaff).
Great Notion (3): Jazzy Idea (Oaks).
Parker’s Storm Cat (4): Ben’s Cat (Turf Sprint).
Scipion (1): Keep Momma Happy (Nursery).
Gators N Bears (1): Action Andy (Sprint).
Bowman’s Band (4): Roadhog (Turf).
Outflanker (3): Varborough (Starter Handicap).