The opening of Shawan Downs last year launched a new era in Maryland steeplechase racing that will continue tomorrow with an eight-race program starting at 1 p.m.
With the $30,000 Legacy Chase over national fences as the feature, the card will offer hurdles, timber horses and a new Maryland Million flat race covering 1 7/8 miles.
Never had the state been host to a major meeting in the fall before nearly 10,000 fans attended the inaugural card last year at the picturesque layout in northern Baltimore County.
"Maryland hasn't seen anything close to what we have this time except maybe last year here," said race chairman Charles Fenwick Jr. "We have a great card, and we're very pleased that the Maryland Million and Foxhunter races filled so well. We're expecting a little in excess of 10,000 this time."
After scratches, 77 horses are entered, with 10 scheduled to go in the Legacy, the first major preparatory race for the $250,000 Breeders' Cup Steeplechase on Oct. 19 in Far Hills, N.J.
Seven Legacy entries have been nominated for the Breeders' Cup, including 2000 Breeders' Cup winner All Gong - who finished second in the Shawan feature last fall - and 2001 victor Quel Senor. Not among them is the Legacy's defending champion, the front-running Darn Tipalarm, who held off All Gong by a neck.
All Gong has been idle since winning the Grade I Iroquois in May and is the best known of four entries trained by F. Bruce Miller. The others - Najjm, Pelagos and Turkish Corner - all have taken stakes.
Monkton's Tom Voss, the two-time defending champion in the National Steeplechase Association's trainers race, conditions French-bred Quel Senor, who failed to win in three spring starts, but has been freshened.
Voss, who has a seven-victory lead in the trainers' race, has also entered Anofferucantrefuse, who is third in earnings among horses.
The card will also present $25,000 in bonus money to horses who were nominated for the Maryland Million and finish in the top six in specific Shawan races. That includes $6,000 outlays in the Legacy and the secondary feature, the $25,000 Ski Roundtop Timber Stakes.
"The Maryland Million [steeplechase, which was eliminated] wasn't really a competitive race, maybe four or five horses, so we thought we'd experiment with something else to promote the sport and we came up with the bonus reward," Fenwick said.
"We also added the long, flat race to encourage trainers who might be at the [flat] track to come here. Maybe we'll get a couple of jump prospects from it. From a racing perspective, it all worked out well [from the standpoint of entries]."
The hurdles course was in excellent shape before recent rainfall and is expected to remain that way because of good drainage. The timber course was rated firm before the moisture and could improve.
Regular, legal irrigation using private water fended off the drought conditions that prevailed in the area this summer.
Gates will open at 10 a.m.
At a glance
What: The Races at Shawan Downs
When: Tomorrow, post time 1 p.m.
Feature: The Legacy Chase
Defending champion:Darn Tipalarm
Directions: From Baltimore, take I-83 to Falls Road north and continue to intersection with Shawan Road. Take a right. Course is on the left.