Mz. Zill Bear's march toward the Maryland Million continued on a predictable note yesterday when the workmanlike 6-year-old mare made her customary late run through the stretch of Pimlico Race Course and won the $55,150 Sensational Stakes.
Gail's Brush, a stand-in for stablemate Smart n' Noble, who skipped the race, almost pulled off a notable upset, staging a surprising late rally under Mario Pino that came up a half-length short of catching Mz. Zill Bear.
"I was closing on her real good," Pino said. "But, even after the finish, I didn't get past her."
Steve Hamilton rode Mz. Zill Bear, the 6-5 Sensational favorite, who is on schedule to become the third three-time Maryland Million winner, joining Safely Kept and Countus In. She'll start Oct. 14 in the Maryland Million Ladies Stakes, which she has won the past two years.
Hamilton recounted only one anxious moment yesterday, when second choice Circus Music was lapped on the outside of him rounding the final turn. But the jockey said he had little trouble sprinting clear of that filly, who unexpectedly dropped back and finished last in the eight-horse field.
Mz. Zill Bear likely will make her next start in the Chrysanthemum Handicap, normally a fixture at Laurel Park, but run for the first time this year at Pimlico. The Chrysanthemum is set for Sept. 24.
"That will then give her three weeks to get ready for the Maryland Million," said Bill Dixon, the mare's owner.
Dick Delp, trainer of Gail's Brush, said he was encouraged enough by his filly's effort to try Mz. Zill Bear again in the Chrysanthemum.
"We've found out now that she's strictly turf," he said about the daughter of Broad Brush, who was purchased privately as yearling for $20,000 by Steve and Marcella Dellis from her Monkton breeder, Bonsal White.
White was at Pimlico yesterday to cheer on the filly. He owns a couple of her younger siblings sired by Opening Verse and Polish Numbers, which he plans to keep and send to Dick Small to train.
Who Wouldn't back at work
Who Wouldn't, who hasn't raced since he won the Grade II General George Stakes last winter at Laurel, is back in work at the Bowie Training Center and soon will be ready to breeze.
"He'll breeze through September and be ready to run in October," said trainer Donald Barr.
The horse's main objective is the Maryland Million Sprint, where he's expected to have a rematch with Prenup, who beat him last year.
Maryland-bred 2-year-old Foolish Pole broke last and finished fourth, beaten by 12 1/2 lengths yesterday by Hennessy in the Grade II Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park. "He ran all right, but he was awful fussy," said his trainer, Buddy Raines. "He was all hot, and in the paddock was acting up. He's never done that before." Foolish Pole is expected to run in the coming Maryland Million Nursery at Laurel. One local horse he won't have to face will be the Small-trained Bug River. Owner Tom Bateman and his partners forgot to nominate the 2-year-old colt to the race. . . . Some Marylanders spent and made some big money last week at the Saratoga, N.Y. Yearling Sales. Jeanne and Laddie Dance of Sparks bought two yearlings for $840,000. David Hayden of Upperco sold a Danzig colt in partnership with Gainesway Farm for $390,000, and Frank and Ginny Wright of Hampstead sold a Gulch colt for $200,000.