Jockey Kent Desormeaux is guarding his optimism, but one of the co-owners, Matt Kane, is feeling confident about the horse's chances.
That is the pre-race outlook surrounding Reputed Testamony, the defending champion of the $150,000 Classic, tomorrow's feature on the eighth Maryland Million card at Laurel Race Course.
Desormeaux, the multiple Eclipse Award winner who first gained national attention in Maryland, is coming in from California for the state's showcase program, which is limited to horses sired by Maryland stallions.
He said by telephone yesterday that "I don't know" about Reputed Testamony, who rallied to win last year's Classic by a head over now-retired Timely Warning in a three-horse duel also involving Frugal Doc. "That horse got beat in an allowance race the other day."
The son of Preakness winner Deputed Testamony was second, a length behind Ameri Valay over 1 1/16 miles, during his last start at Pimlico on Sept. 21.
But Kane is undeterred by that effort.
"The horse is feeling great and we like the post position [No. 5] right in the middle. He was second in that prep and this race is going a little farther. The longer the better," he said.
The Classic is being run this year at 1 3/16 miles, the distance of the Preakness.
"The horse had a good workout last week. We're anxiously awaiting showtime," said Kane, who said Reputed Testamony's connections prefer the weather to remain clear although showers are forecast for Million day.
Desormeaux is returning to ride for trainer Charlie Hadry, who has Grace Creek going in the Lassie, Military Look in what appears a highly competitive Sprint race and Ritchie Trail in the Distaff.
He is named on two mounts in the Lassie and Sprint, but is likely to be aboard the Hadry horses in addition to Lady Beware, the first Million Day entry of the De Francis family, in the Juvenile Turf race.
Desormeaux said he "really didn't have anything going" in California tomorrow. "So I'm coming in just for the day. I'll be back riding at Santa Anita Sunday."
He became convinced about returning when he rode Sir Wallston (entered in the Nursery) to a four-length victory at Belmont Park three weeks ago.
"That clinched it for me," said Desormeaux, who is scheduled to compete in seven races.
With six Million victories, Desormeaux is second to Julie Krone's eight in the lifetime jockey standings. Krone is recovering from a broken leg suffered in a spill at Saratoga and will not compete.
Desormeaux, a Louisiana native, is second in the national jockey standings. He set a single-year record in 1989 with 598 wins while on the Maryland circuit.
The only Grade I stakes winner on the Million program is Awad, a surprise winner of Arlington's Secretariat Stakes, who will be favored in the Turf race.
Owner Jim Ryan has pledged to donate whatever prize money Awad earns in the race toward expenses for a proposed backstretch dormitory complex if other owners and trainers or industry organizations match with their own gifts.
Maryland jockey club president Joe De Francis said at yesterday's post-position draw that the fields this year are "the deepest" and boast "the greatest quality in terms of horses."
He added that this is the event "the horse industry in Maryland enjoys the most. It brings everyone together. I liken the Maryland Million to Christmas in October."
NOTES: Edgar Prado captured the jockey title at the recent Pimlico meet by 10 victories and is off and flying at Laurel. He had three more wins yesterday, including both ends of the early Daily Double. . . . Laurel will be open only for simulcast racing Sunday, but will resume live Sunday racing the following week.