The $100,000 Maryland Million Sprint figured as the most competitive race of the state's showcase card yesterday at Laurel. It didn't disappoint.
But the bettors pulled a rarity. They overlooked Kent Desormeaux's mount.
Sent off at 11-to-1 odds on Military Look, Desormeaux rallied from 10th in the 11-horse field to beat Jest Punching by a neck, with Who Wouldn't third another nose behind in a three-horse drive.
It was the only win of the day for Desormeaux and his seventh on Million day, second to the eight by Julie Krone, who is idled by a fractured leg.
"My colt broke well, but we had a good ways to go to catch the leaders down the backstretch," said Desormeaux. "This is the type of horse you have to sit back on and buy some time. He really started to roll, and inside of the 16th pole, I knew we had it won, although it might have looked close."
A torrid early pace (the fractions were 21 4/5, 44 1/5 and 56 3/5 seconds) by Longest Drive and Coolin It on the lead set it up for the closers.
The winning time was 1 minute, 9 2/5 seconds for six furlongs, a full second faster than Military Look's best previous time at the distance.
Trainer Charlie Hadry, for whom Desormeaux rode regularly in Maryland, expected as much. "He came up to this race real well, and I knew he was going to run big," said Hadry of Military Look, 4-for-16 lifetime.
It was the only highlight for Desormeaux, a three-time Eclipse Award winner who flew in from California to ride at a track where he first became nationally known during a record-setting 1989 year.
Thirds on Frigid Coed in the Lassie and Auntienan'sbrother in the Starter Handicap marked the only other appearances on the board for Desormeaux, who had seven mounts.
He retired for the day after a spill in the Classic aboard Reputed Testamony, who clipped heels with Root Boy and went down. Desormeaux was uninjured.
But the development was a disappointment because the jockey thought the defending Classic champion "had been running good. Warming up, he was dragging me around the track and he seemed to be on top of his game."
The record crowd of 24,304 at all the Maryland outlets had justification for overlooking Military Look.
The field included the fastest of the state's fast, including last year's winner, Charlie You Know, One Tuff Oop and Smart Alec in addition to the top three and Coolin It.
Pace too slow for repeat
Speaking of pace, Asserche was a victim of a leisurely one and could not repeat in the Maryland You Are Beautiful Handicap. He finished fourth to Gayquare, one of three winners for trainer Ron Cartwright.
"We needed a little more pace," said jockey Mike Luzzi. "I rode him every step of the way, and he still couldn't get there."
Miller falls, is unhurt
Blythe Miller fell aboard highly regarded Dum Crambo in the Million Steeplechase. She took a precautionary trip to the first aid room, but was unharmed.
"I'm fine and the horse is OK, too," she said. "I just asked him for too big a jump."
Former champs honored
Two of Maryland's all-time favorites, Timely Warning and Little Bold John, received warm applause when they were brought to the winner's circle before the feature.
Little Bold John is retiring after earning $1,956,405, third all-time among Maryland breds.
Timely Warning, a two-time winner of the Million Classic and runner-up by a head last year, may continue to race. He has earned nearly $850,000.
Wood So 2nd in her finale
The pregnant mare Wood So ran a gallant second (beaten by a half-length) to Star Minister in the Distaff.
It was a major disappointment to trainer Katy Voss, who wanted the horse to retire with a victory. "Star Minister is too good to give that much ground and weight to," said Voss.
"She ran a good race, but the outside post wasn't good," jockey Mario Pino said of Wood So. "She's not quite as good as she was last year. She's a little calmer, doesn't quite have that zoom. But she's a nice horse. She carried me and the foal."
When Andrea Seefeldt on the temperamental Star Minister defeated Pino on Wood So in the Maryland Million Distaff Handicap, she became the second female jockey to win a Maryland Million race.
Seefeldt's handling of Star Minister is unique. She cannot whip ,, the filly because the horse sulks when beaten. "I heard the other horses coming and was just praying for the wire to come up fast," Seefeldt said. Star Minister hung on by a half-length.
When heavily favored Awad won the Maryland Million Turf by a narrow neck margin over Dancing Douglas, jockey Jorge Velasquez said the horse had moved to the lead too soon and loafed when he got to the front.
Trainer David Donk plans to run Awad next Sunday in the $1 million Rothmanns International at Woodbine Race Course in Toronto.