This year marks the first time the Maryland Million will be run without legendary broadcaster Jim McKay, the man who was raised in Baltimore and dreamed up the event that started in 1986.
But in all likelihood, the event will bear his name starting next year, making certain his contributions to horse racing - and his love of the Sport of Kings - will not be forgotten.
Del.Sandy Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat, said yesterday he plans to propose a resolution in the state Legislature during the 2009 session that renames the event the Jim McKay Maryland Million and the trophy awarded to the winner of the Classic Race the Jim McKay trophy.
"I came up with the idea to honor a person who meant so much to racing and to whom racing meant so much," Rosenberg said. "The chances that the legislation gets passed, I think it's safe to say, is an even-money bet."
McKay, who died in June at age 86, was responsible for creating the Maryland Million, modeling it after the Breeders' Cup, which ran for the first time in 1984. The next year, he lobbied everyone from sponsors, breeders, owners and racetrack managers to make it happen. He remained chairman until he died. The Maryland Million was imitated by racing parks all over the country after its inception.
"Margaret, Jim's wife, was tough," said Joe Kelly, a longtime racing writer for The Sun and one of McKay's close friends. "She insisted that once he got the idea, he carry it through. He carried it through all right. … I'm sure he's happy we're carrying it on without him."
Rosenberg said one of his favorite moments of McKay's was the day one of McKay's horses, named Sean's Ferrari in honor of his son Sean, won the Business Express Maryland Million Nursery at Pimlico Race Course.
McKay was speechless in the winner's circle.
"[Sean's Ferrari] was a long shot that day, so I know I didn't have him," Rosenberg said.
The announcement was made at the Baltimore Museum of Art in the Woodward Gallery, where most of the state's most important horse racing trophies are displayed. One of them - the Annapolis Subscription Plate - was made by Annapolis silversmith John Inch in 1743, and it is the second-oldest horse racing trophy in the country.
It was Kelly's idea to bring out the silver bowl and place it next to one of the Waterford crystal trophies awarded to Maryland Million winners to illustrate the state's storied horse racing history.
"You have to realize that trophy was given 30-plus years before the Revolutionary War," Kelly said. "George Washington was a regular attendee at races in Annapolis."
Kelly smiled as he mulled over the question of how McKay might have felt about having a news conference to add his name to the Maryland Million.
"I think Jim probably wouldn't have shown up," Kelly said. "He wasn't into self-promotion. That just wasn't his modus operandi."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun