A touch of "Beverly Hills, 90210" comes to the Maryland Million on Saturday when the Grade I-winning California filly, Urbane, carries the colors of her owner, Beverly Hills High School grad Samantha Siegel, in the $100,000 Oaks.
Corey Nakatani, the country's top jockey until he relinquished the lead last week to Jerry Bailey, has the mount, which is his first "Million" ride.
"Normally California jockeys won't leave the state for a $100,000 race," Siegel said. "But Corey rides a lot for Randy Bradshaw [Urbane's new trainer]. There's not a lot going on at Santa Anita on Saturday -- they ran a lot of the big stakes last weekend -- so he's coming. He'll probably wind up being Urbane's [permanent] new rider."
Through Monday, Nakatani's mounts have earned more than $12 million this year, and he regularly rides such horses as Sandpit and Tinners Way. He was on Serena's Song during her pace-setting Kentucky Derby effort that failed.
The Oaks, which is restricted to 3-year-old fillies, is one of 11 races on the Maryland Million card, whose purses total $1 million.
Siegel and her parents, Mace and Jan Siegel, won the hearts -- and pocketbooks -- of Maryland horse breeders a long time ago when they first appeared at the Timonium yearling sales and bought Maryland-bred after Maryland-bred and took them back to race at the big-time California tracks. They spent another $527,000 for six yearlings at Timonium two weeks ago.
Many of the Maryland horses have run with success in California, but none on quite the same level as Urbane.
The Siegels purchased the daughter of Country Life Farm stallion Citidancer for $25,000 in 1993 and since then she has earned $448,003, including a couple of near misses to this season's top 3-year-old filly, Serena's Song.
After winning the Grade I Ashland Stakes at Keeneland Race Course in April, Urbane was the odds-on favorite to win the Kentucky Oaks. But she was hurt during the race when another filly came over and slammed against her hind legs. Urbane was fortunate to finish second.
Now after five months of rest and recuperation, the filly is ready to run again.
Urbane touched down at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and arrived at Laurel Park yesterday, and looks eager to hit the track.
Nakatani was on her at Santa Anita on Monday, when after a series of dazzling workouts during the last month, she had her final half-mile blowout for the Million, going the four furlongs in 48 1/5 seconds.
"She was saying, 'Ooh, we worked shorter. It's time for a race,' " Siegel said. "Then when at two in the morning [yesterday] she was taken to the plane, she must have been saying, 'Ooh, things are getting serious.' "
For about 20 years, the Siegels raced their horses with trainer Brian Mayberry, but made a split with him this summer. Samantha Siegel manages the family's thoroughbred holdings, which amount to a total of about 120 horses, including 15 broodmares that are stabled in Kentucky.
"It was like a bad divorce," Samantha Siegel said about the Mayberry split. "I had spent most of my life with the Mayberrys. I remember crawling under the turnstiles to get into the track, lying down on the floor of the car to get past the guards to go watch our horses work out in the mornings when they didn't allow kids on the backstretch. So, it's been tough. But we decided we just didn't want one trainer to control our destiny. We told Brian he could keep the horses he had -- all 48 of them -- as long as he wanted. But he came back to us and said he didn't want to train them anymore."
The Siegels have divided their horses among three California trainers -- Ron Ellis, Dan Hendricks and Bradshaw, who just picked up Urbane 10 days ago.
"How confident am I she'll be ready to go 1 1/8 miles on Saturday after a five-month rest? I'd be more confident if I had had her longer than 10 days," Bradshaw said. "If she was running against Serena's Song, she'd have to be dead fit. She's not quite that fit. But she's close. She worked a mile in 1:37 and galloped out 1 1/8 miles in 1:50. She also breezed six furlongs in 1:11 1/5. So she's ready. I am confident she's classy enough and has the quality to win on Saturday."
Fourteen fillies were pre-entered for the Oaks, but Big City Bound, who was expected to give Urbane her most competition, has been injured and will be scratched.
Post time: 12:30 p.m.
Where: Laurel Park
Program: 10 flat races, eight on dirt, two on turf and one steeplechase
Feature: The $200,000 Maryland Million Classic, the 10th race. Approximate post time is 5:20 p.m.
Total purses: $1 million
Horses: Only offspring of Maryland stallions are eligible. A total of 145 horses have been entered, including Grade I winners Urbane and Prenup.
TV: HTS, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Tickets: Reserved seating is available and can be obtained by calling Laurel at (301) 725-0400.