Defending champion Prendimi, 2020 winner Monday Morning Qb and Ournationonparade, who tasted Maryland Million success as a 2-year-old in 2019, will be among a strong field of contenders for the $150,000 Classic on the 37th Jim McKay Maryland Million Day program Saturday at Laurel Park.
The 1 1/8-mile Classic for 3-year-olds and up is the richest on a 12-race card featuring eight stakes and four starter stakes that comprise ‘Maryland’s Day at the Races,’ celebrating the progeny of stallions standing in the state. Carded as Race 11, the Classic will have an approximate post time of 5 p.m. EST.
Doors will open at Laurel Park at 10 a.m. EST Saturday, with a first race post time Saturday of 11:30 a.m.
G.J. Stable’s Prendimi, making his fourth straight appearance in the Classic, is looking to become the first repeat winner since Admirals War Chest in 2015 and 2016. He and Monday Morning Qb can also become just the sixth horse to win it twice joining Timely Warning (1990-91), Algar (1997-98), Docent (2002-03) and Eighttofasttocatch (2011, 2013-14), the only three-time winner.
Luis Carvajal Jr. continues to hold last year’s Classic win in high regard, coming four years after Imperial Hint gave the trainer his first graded-stakes victory over the same racetrack in the 2017 General George (G3) before going on to become a four-time Grade 1-winning multi-millionaire.
Prendimi was beaten a half-length when second to Forest Fire in 2019 and ran seventh behind Monday Morning Qb in 2020 prior to his front-running neck triumph over favored Tappin Cat at odds of 12-1.
“It was very special because he had finished second before and he had run well in it the year before,” Carvajal said. “I really like Laurel because that’s where I got my first graded-stakes win with Imperial Hint and then we got this one.
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“I’m happy to go and compete there and know that I have good horse to compete in that race,” he added. “I’m already excited. It’s horse racing and as long as you take a horse there that you know has a chance, it’s always good.”
A 7-year-old Dances With Ravens gelding whose mare, Cigno d’Oro, Carvajal used to gallop, Prendimi has gone winless in just three starts this year. He ran seventh in the one-mile Sunny Ridge June 12 at Monmouth Park upon return from his usual winter vacation, then finished sixth in an open seven-furlong allowance July 19 at Parx.
In his most recent start, Prendimi set the pace before tiring to be fourth, beaten less than five lengths, in the 1 1/16-mile Charles Hesse III Aug. 28 at Monmouth. His only tries at 1 1/8 miles have come in his three Classic attempts.
“He’s doing good. It’s been a pretty slow year, but this year it’s been tougher to get him fit because he’s older and he’s a big horse,” Carvajal said. “It seems like he’s there now. He looks great and I think he’s going to peak at the right moment, so that’s always good news.
“I’ve had him since he was 2 years old and now he’s pushing 8. To have the horse from a young age is great. He doesn’t run a lot but he always tries. Last year was very special, very emotional for everyone. It always feels good. Last year I was really impressed with Prendimi,” he added. “It’s a tough race but you have to run the race. Just to be there and go back in the same race, it’s great.”
Listed at 20-1 on the morning line, Prendimi will break from Post 10 of 11 with Paco Lopez up.
Monday Morning Qb won the 2019 Heft at Laurel as a 2-year-old and came off the bench to run second in the 2020 Federico Tesio, delayed from April to September amid the coronavirus pandemic. Two starts later he sprung his own 6-1 upset in the Classic, beating historic Pimlico Special (G3) winner Harpers First Ride by 3 ¼ lengths.
The now 5-year-old son of Imagining went to the sidelines soon after and didn’t race again for nearly 19 months until running sixth in a 6 ½-furlong allowance June 21 at Parx. He finished third in two subsequent starts – beating Prendimi July 19 – and was claimed for $62,500 Aug. 24 at Delaware Park.
Monday Morning Qb faded to be last of seven after setting the pace in the first start for his new connections, the one-mile, 70-yard Governors Day Handicap Oct. 1 at Delaware, but owner-trainer Norman ‘Lynn’ Cash is excited about bringing both he and multiple stakes-winning stablemate Double Crown – second in the 2021 Sprint – back to the Maryland Million.