Last year, bettors didn't exactly ignore Maryland-based Concern, but they were tepid about his chances to capture the Breeders' Cup Classic.
The fourth choice in the odds, Robert Meyerhoff's colt ran his usual race -- which set him up perfectly for his patented late charge -- and nailed Tabasco Cat in the final strides to capture the $1,560,000 winner's share.
With the seemingly invincible Cigar in this year's field, the defending champion will not go off as the favorite this time, either.
But none of that concerns trainer Dick Small, who said yesterday, "Nobody thought we had a chance last year. There is always the possibility that you can win."
Small said the biggest difference for the 1995 Classic is the absence of a pacesetter capable of taking his speed the entire 1 1/4 miles and fending off the closers.
That means the jockeys on serious contenders who are stalking leaders can focus their attention on what's coming from behind and not worry about the front-runners getting away.
In addition, Small has come to expect good efforts from Concern, who went 1:38 for a mile in Monday's final tuneup. Entering Breeders' Cup day last year, Concern had finished second or third in 11 of 13 stakes and this year he has been off the board only twice in six Grade I races.
"He is very consistent," said Small. "Even when he runs bad races, his number [speed figure] is pretty good. Why not go [against Cigar]? The options are very limited. Even if you run for $200,000, it might be as hard to win as this race."
Small said he ships to New York at midnight Friday to avoid the traffic jams around the big city.
Concern has lost to Cigar three times, the latest in the Hollywood Gold Cup when he hit the gate and stunned himself at the start.
"There are a lot of ways to look at going against Cigar," said Small. "You don't want to hope the other horse has a bad day, but they do. They're fragile creatures.
"Still, $600,000 isn't a bad check for running second, is it?"
NOTES: Laurel Park will offer advance wagering on the Breeders' Cup races during today's program. . . . Beginning Sunday, post time at Laurel will change to 12:30 p.m. in conjunction with the switch to Eastern Standard Time.