Admirals War Chest Seeks Third Maryland Million Classic

Profile Picture: Alastair Bull

Alastair Bull

October 19th, 2017

The annual race meeting celebrating the Maryland Thoroughbred industry is upon us again, with full fields carded for Jim McKay Maryland Million Day at Laurel Park Oct. 21.

Founded after broadcaster Jim McKay found inspiration from the inaugural Breeders’ Cup in 1984, the idea of a rich race day limited to horses sired by a stallion based in Maryland came to fruition two years later, and it’s been run every year since.

The 11-race card features seven “championship” races: two on turf – the one mile Maryland Million Turf Stakes and the 1 1/8-mile Maryland Million Ladies Stakes) – and the rest on dirt – the six-furlong Maryland Million Nursery Stakes, the six-furlong Maryland Million Lassie Stakes, the six-furlong Maryland Million Sprint, the seven-furlong Maryland Million Distaff, and the 1 1/8-mile Maryland Million Classic.

The primary interest in the $150,000 Maryland Millions Classic will be whether Admirals War Chest can become the first horse to win the race in three successive years, having won by a neck in 2015 and 3-1/2 lengths in 2016.

This year a few minor problems mean he’s only raced once this year – a fifth-place finish in an allowance at Laurel Park Oct. 8. But he should not be underestimated.

John Jones, by Smarty Jones, is likely to be well-backed. However, the winner of eight of his 21 starts is in the same boat as Admirals War Chest in that he’s only run once this year – a fourth-place finish at Belmont Park earlier this month.

Among the more seasoned contenders is the 3-year-old Clubman, the winner of his last three.

The day will seem unusual for fans as it will be the first since 2009 without the popular veteran Ben’s Cat. The 11-year-old was retired in June, but unfortunately died a month later due to complications related to colic surgery. He raced seven times on Maryland Million Day, winning the Turf Sprint from 2010-2012, finishing second in the same race the next two years, second in the Maryland Million Sprint Handicap on dirt in 2015, and sixth in that race last year.

Last year’s Sprint winner Nicaradalic Rocks and third-place finisher Easy River return this year, though the best-performed horse in the race is Blu Moon Ace, who beat Whitmore and Awesome Banner home when finishing second in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) at Laurel Park Sept. 16.

Playing the Maryland Million can be an interesting task, as it will bring together horses that have been contesting state-bred races with those that have raced in open events. When trying to measure the form, pay close attention to BRIS speed ratings, and the class of race the runners have been contesting.