Regal Solo returns to run different Maryland Million race

If Regal Solo, a 6-year-old gelding, wins the Maryland Million Sprint Saturday afternoon at Laurel Park, he would become the first horse to win three different Million races.

"He's versatile," his trainer Damon Dilodovico said Wednesday. "He's push-button when his feet are good. And I've always thought he was better at short distances than long."

In 2007 the son of 1996 Preakness winner Louis Quatorze won the Million Nursery for 2-year-olds over 6-furlongs. Last year, he won the 1 1/8th-mile Million Classic. This year, he's entered in the Sprint with nine other horses, who will compete over a 6-furlong distance.

"I'm glad to see him back," said Allen Murray, who bred the horse and won nearly $170,000 with him, before losing him in a $40,000 claiming race to Alvin Lapidus. "My trainer had thought he wasn't quite as good as he had been, and we put him in the claimer to get him some work. We didn’t want him to be claimed and we didn’t think he would be for a $40,000 tag."

But he was, because Lapidus and his trainer Damon Dilodovico had had their eyes on him for some time.

"We were looking at him for these Maryland Million races," said Dilodovico, who claimed the horse in August 2009. "He was in our cross hairs. And though he has been lightly raced, he's done well for us."

And he comes into Saturday's race well respected, despite being sidelined for 12 months. The Morning Line odds have Regal Solo (3-1) third in a tight battle with favorite Jack On the Rocks (5-2) and Sloane Ranger (7-2).

Murray said people ask him about losing Regal Solo in a claiming race, and said he always has his reply ready.

"I point out Regal Solo won the race from which he was claimed and that paid $20,000," said Murray, who will have Regal Solo's full brother Sun Song in Saturday's Nursery. "We got that $20,000 and then we got $40,000 from the claim. Sixty thousand dollars is a lot of money to put in your bank account. I was sorry I lost him and glad to have the money. Afterward, I was glad he continued to do well for his new owner."

Regal Solo has won about $200,000 since going to Dilodovico's barn. He won three times after being claimed and finished out of the money just once. Included in his wins were Laurel's Jennings Handicap in 2009 and the Classic last October. Then came the foot trouble.

"We've had him close to being ready to come back a number of times, including just before Preakness week," Dilodovico said. "But something always showed up, like a quarter-crack. We had a hard time getting in front of his problems. We even took him to see Ian McKinlay."

McKinlay, who worked with Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown during his Triple Crown season, is recognized as the industry's foremost foot specialist.  

"We're finally in a period now where we're in front of the problem," Dilodovico said. "I'm not saying it’s all behind him. We're not past it, because these kinds of issues stick around. But we're happy where he is now. He's had a good month coming in."

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