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Great Notion well-represented on Maryland Million day at Laurel Park

Sire Great Notion is once again well-represented in Saturday’s 35th Jim McKay Maryland Million program at Laurel Park with 16 entrants in all but three of eight stakes and four starter stakes that constitute “Maryland’s Day at the Races.”

The concept conceived by the late Hall of Fame and 13-time Emmy Award-winning broadcaster has gone on to spawn copycat events across North America. Maryland Million will feature eight stakes and four starter stakes. The event celebrates progeny of stallions standings in the state. Saturday’s 12-race program drew 130 entries.

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While capacity is limited at Laurel Park because of safety protocols, fans can watch and wager on all the races at 1st.com/bet/. First race post is 11:25 a.m.

Great Notion has produced at least one Maryland Million winner for 10 consecutive years, a streak continued in the 2019 Distaff by Anna’s Bandit. The previous year, he was represented by winners in the Distaff (Crabcakes) and Sprint (Lewisfield) and ran 1-2 in the Turf (Talk Show Man, Phlash Phelps).

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This year, his runners are Epic Idea in the $100,000 Ladies; Closertotheheart in the $100,000 Lassie; Sing a Verse in the $40,000 Starter Handicap; Grateful Bred in the $75,000 Turf Sprint; Alwaysinahurry, Moochie, Katie’s Notion, Treasure Tradition and Kenny Had a Notion in the $100,000 Nursery; Le Weekend in the $100,000 Distaff; Pretty Good Year in the $100,000 Turf; Onemoregreattime, Lewisfield, Karan’s Notion and For the Moment in the $100,000 Sprint; and Elementary in the $50,000 Turf Starter Handicap.

Maryland Million’s leading active sire with 13 wins, Great Notion is tied with the late Two Punch for third overall with Not For Love (36) and Allen’s Prospect (22) – who have also died – occupying the top two spots. Like Great Notion, Not For Love and Two Punch also stood at Northview Stallion Station in Chesapeake City.

Wade, Northview’s general manager and director of sales, discovered that Great Notion’s success rate in Maryland Million is 21% (13-for-62), higher than Not For Love (36-for-263, 13.6%), Allen’s Prospect (22-for-157, 14%) and Two Punch (13-for-104, 12.5%).

What’s more, his current win rate applied to the difference in starters between he and Not For Love would give Great Notion a staggering 53 Maryland Million winners.

“He was always kind of in the shadow of Two Punch and Not For Love early on. Not For Love has kind of been considered the horse that sets the bar in the Maryland Million and Two Punch is hanging in there,” said David Wade, general manager of Northview Stallion Station. "I looked him up earlier in the week just to kind of compare him to Not For Love, because I’ve always been of the mind that Great Notion is as good a stallion as Not For Love, but just hasn’t had the opportunities.

“When you look at the Maryland Million, Not For Love, Allen’s Prospect and Two Punch, those horses when you look at the number of starters they’ve had and the number of winners, were winning at about 13 or 14% clip. Great Notion is [21]%,” he added. “He’s up there doing it. But, he hasn’t won a Classic yet. Maybe this is the year.”

Great Notion has been Maryland’s champion stallion since 2016 and is leading the way again this year with the most runners (87), winners (34), black-type winners (three) and progeny earnings ($1.62 million). The son of Elusive Quality, who Wade calls “one of the most underappreciated stallions in the country,” stands for $7,500 per live foal.

“The whole thing has been due to the small crops. When people look at these stallions they look at the number of winners, they look at the number of stakes horses, they look at the amount of money won,” Wade said. "They’re not looking at averages.

“When you look at the number of winners per starter, per foal, stakes horses per foal, he’s always right there. You can’t just look at the cumulative number,” he added. “He’s terrific. He’s never been a tough horse. The funny thing was at the beginning of his career he was a slow breeder and then actually the older he’s gotten the better he’s become.”

Great Notion never raced in Maryland, posting three wins and four seconds from 12 lifetime starts between 2002 and 2004 including a win in the 2013 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park and runner-up finishes in the Amsterdam (G2) and King’s Bishop (G1) in Saratoga that year.

The bay Kentucky-bred entered stud in 2005 and didn’t get off to the best start.

“He suffered in the beginning from small crops of mares,” Wade said. “Typically when you get a stallion started you like to get at least 70 mares to the stallion, and for the first several years he was in the 30s, which means that he was probably in the 20s for foal crops. It’s a tough way to get started. It took a while for people to catch on to what a good stallion he is.”

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Once he caught on to the nuances of his new career, and his progeny began producing on the racetrack, interest in Great Notion picked up. Amazingly, Wade said Great Notion has never been better than the past few years at Northview, where he occupies the same stall as the great Northern Dancer, considered one of racing’s most influential sires.

“He’s the patriarch, I guess, right now at Northview and still breeding well. The last couple years oddly enough he had the highest fertility rate there,” Wade said. “We limit his book. We don’t want to overwork him at this point. He books full for the number of mares that we’ll breed to him. We’ll probably limit him to about 40 mares this year to start with, and then if he continues to stop his mares like he’s been doing we’ll add some toward the end of the season.”

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