When the Maryland Million is run at Pimlico Sept. 9, racegoers may experience de'ja` vu.
Five of the first-place finishers in the 1989 Maryland Million races are running again, and in most cases they are meeting the same principal rivals.
A total of 117 horses were pre-entered yesterday for the nine events that comprise the Million, and the most prominent name on the list was that of Safely Kept, the Eclipse Award-winning sprinter. She won the $100,000 State of Maryland Distaff Handicap as the 1-to-10 favorite last year, beating In the Curl and Run Spot. Her major rivals next month? In the Curl and Run Spot.
Master Speaker will be coming from New Jersey to defend his title in the main event, the $200,000 Maryland Classic, and he again will face the indestructible Due North, now 8 years old, who was last year's runner-up. Others who were kept eligible for the Classic were Tour d'Or, the second-place finisher in the Grade I Gulfstream Park Handicap, and Silano, a consistent local stakes competitor.
The second-richest Million event, the $150,000 Ladies, will also offer a rematch of last year's race, when Contus In upset Betty Lobelia.
The most impressive of last year's winners, Deputy Shaw, will be coming back to run in the Maryland Sprint. He equaled Pimlico's six-furlong track record in his runaway 1989 victory. His rivals will include Jeweler's Choice, a recent winner at Saratoga, and Little Bold John, an annual fixture on the Maryland Million card.
Other prominent horses who were pre-entered yesterday include Baron de Vaux, the third-place finisher in the Belmont Stakes, who will run in the $100,000 Maryland Turf; X-Ray, a promising California 2-year-old who is expected to ship across the country for the Crown Central Petroleum Nursery; and Valay Maid, probable favorite for the Kennard Warfield Jr. Group Maryland Oaks.
Conceived five years ago by ABC sportscaster Jim McKay, the Million is open to offspring of Maryland stallions. It offers many horses their best money-making opportunity of the year, and others (such as Safely Kept) the easiest pickings they could find anywhere. This is the reason that so many horses who raced last year are back to try again.
Entries and post positions for the Million will be drawn Sept. 7. ESPN will televise the races.