Templar Hill is stabled in Maryland but hasn't raced in his home state since February. Trainer Paul Seefeldt instead has opted for such races as the Kentucky, Jersey and Pennsylvania derbies, and the Jerome Handicap in New York, and his colt has compiled earnings of $335,236.
Templar Hill will make his homecoming today in the $40,000-added Tri-County Stakes at Laurel Race Course, taking on seven other 3-year-olds. One of them, Cardiff, is undefeated in four tries and was made 7-to-5 overnight favorite; Templar Hill is 5 to 2, Green Book 3 to 1.
Templar Hill was the talk of Maryland's thoroughbreds this spring after he finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby, fewer than four lengths behind winner Alysheba. But he emerged from the race with a slight ankle injury, and Seefeldt had to scrap his Preakness plans.
"That hurt me emotionally and politically," Seefeldt said. "We felt it was important to race in Maryland, and I've wanted to come back home ever since then. But it seems that in all the races he's closely suited for here, something always goes wrong. We would have had to put him in the wrong race."
The son of Temperence Hill bled when he lost to Afleet by nearly 15 lengths in the Pennsylvania Derby; he received Lasix for the first time in his latest start -- a turf stakes at the Meadowlands -- but placed ninth. Seefeldt said the soft course gave the colt problems.
"The really frustrating thing is that he's as good as he's ever been physically and mentally," Seefeldt said. "He had legitimate excuses in each of his last two starts."
The seven-furlong distance lends intrigue to the Tri-County. Templar Hill and Green Book primarily are distance runners, but each has won sprints. "I'm really not pleased with the distance," Seefeldt said, "but it's not beyond his realm."
Cardiff hasn't gone longer than six furlongs in his four starts, part of the reason his trainer, Hall of Famer Henry Clark, failed to endorse the morning line.
"I wouldn't think he should be the favorite with those other two in the race," Clark said. "So far, he hasn't done enough to get you real high on him."
Cardiff has had one stakes race, finishing second to New York-based High Brite in the War Admiral at Pimlico. He was placed first, however, when High Brite was disqualified for a bumping incident at the start.
Kent Desormeaux, the leading jockey in Maryland and the nation this year, is considering riding Great Communicator in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf at Hollywood Park on Nov. 21.
The decision isn't easy for Desormeaux and agent Gene Short; the commitment would require Desormeaux to work the horse in California Monday, then race Saturday. If Desormeaux is unable to acquire additional mounts those two days, he would be forfeiting up to 19 potential mounts in Maryland. With Pat Day in close pursuit for the national riding title, each mount is critical.
"We need to get all the wins we can, and it's gonna be tough to pick up horses out there," said Desormeaux, who rode Great Communicator to a second-place finish in the Washington, D.C. International. "Everybody in the world is gonna be out there riding."