- Race Information
- Racing 101
- Health & Safety
- Wager Now
Pretty Good Year Stands Tall in $100,000 Maryland Million Turf
Among Eight Stakes, Four Starter Stakes on ‘Maryland’s Day at the Races’
LAUREL, MD – Lead Off Stable’s diminutive gelding Pretty Good Year, standing just 13 hands tall, came with a steady run down the center of the track to catch leaders Cannon’s Roar and favored Nick Papagiorgio and spring a 15-1 upset of Saturday’s $100,000 Maryland Million Turf at Laurel Park.
Extended another furlong to 1 1/8 miles from 2019, the Turf for 3-year-olds and up was among eight stakes and four starter stakes on the 35th Jim McKay Maryland Million program, ‘Maryland’s Day at the Races’ celebrating the progeny of stallions standing in the state, highlighted by the $150,000 Classic.
Pretty Good Year ($32) gave jockey Sheldon Russell his third win of the day, following Hello Beautiful in the $100,000 Distaff and Jumpstartmyheart in the opener. It was also the third win for sire Great Notion, extending his streak to 11 straight years with a Maryland Million winner and moving him into sole possession of third on the all-time list with 16.
Based at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., Pretty Good Year’s owner is Bobby Goodyear, racing manager for the 4-year-old gelding’s breeder, Stuart Grant’s The Elkstone Group. Elkstone also bred and owns Classic contender Top Line Growth.
“It’s pretty amazing. I am so proud of this horse, you have no idea,” trainer Kelly Rubley said. “[Goodyear] just loved this horse from the day he was born and look at how it’s paid off for him. It’s just remarkable. What a neat little horse for this man to have picked out of the field and said, ‘He’s the one.’ He’s just 13 hands. He’s very small.”
Rising Perry and Seville Barber were in front through a quarter-mile in 24.17 seconds and a half in 48.46, with Nick Papagiorgio biding his time in the clear in third and Cannon’s Roar chasing in between horses. Nick Papagiorgio forged a short lead off the turn at the top of the stretch until being passed with a rail move from Cannon’s Roar, while Pretty Good Year fanned wide to reel in the front-runners.
“Distance has always been his thing,” Rubley said. “We keep hitting these one-turn miles here and he hits the board and he picks up checks, but the longer the better for him. At the three-eighths pole, I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God, we have a lot of horse.’”
Cannon’s Roar was second, snapping a three-race win streak, 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Nick Papagiorgio, the 8-5 top choice that had had won five of his last six starts, the only loss coming by a nose. It was 5 ¼ lengths back to defending Turf champion Mr. d’Angelo in fourth.
Pretty Good Year closed from far back to be third in last year’s Turf, also with Russell aboard, but had never won on the grass.
“Last year he ran a really good third in the race and I probably had him a little too far back,” Russell said, “but, he had put in some pretty decent races on the dirt and it just happened to work out today. I felt like we had an honest pace, he’s a deep-end closer and loves to be on the outside. I just stayed out of his way. At the three-eighths pole I was fully loaded and I knew that as soon as I got to the outside he was going to stretch his legs.”
Pretty Good Year was pre-entered in the Classic but Rubley opted to keep him on turf when the Classic drew only four Maryland-sired horses, allowing Maryland-breds like program favorite and Pimlico Special (G3) Harpers First Ride to run.
“What an experience,” Rubley said. “We were actually hoping the Classic wouldn’t open this year because it’s a mile and an eighth on dirt, and he runs on both. It would have been very exciting, but we’ll certainly take this.”