BALTIMORE, SEPT. 9 -- Jockey Craig Perret has had such a spectacularly successful year that he couldn't have imagined that it would get much better. Today, at the Maryland Million, it did.
With eight mounts on this day of stakes races for offspring of Maryland stallions, Perret won three races and finished in the money in all eight. He captured the day's main event, the $200,000 Maryland Classic, aboard Timely Warning.
The veteran from New Jersey fully earned his successes too. He gave a daring ride in the Maryland Nursery, squeezing his colt, Xray, through a narrow opening on the rail in the stretch. He delivered a tactically perfect off-the-pace ride to win the Sprint aboard Jeweler's Choice. But his front-running effort with Timely Warning was the coup de gra~ce.
The gelding was supposed to have been a "rabbit" for his more illustrious stablemate, Master Speaker, who won the Classic last year. Trainer Buddy Raines said he was bringing Timely Warning along to ensure an honest pace in the 1 1/4-mile event.
But Perret is not in the habit of serving as a sacrifical lamb. He has been making headlines all season as the rider of three of the country's leading 3-year-olds: Unbridled, the winner of the Kentucky Derby; Rhythm, winner of the Travers Stakes; and Housebuster, the nation's best sprinter. And he was probably not inclined to sacrifice his mount to benefit Julie Krone, his main riding rival in New Jersey, who was aboard Master Speaker.
Perret took Timely Warning to the rail and set a dawdling pace -- a quarter-mile in 24 3/5 seconds, a half-mile in :49 3/5. He was abetted by other riders in the field, notably Edgar Prado on the speedy Silano, who might have chosen to force a faster early pace, but didn't. Perret didn't have to race anybody else into defeat, and so he could look after his own horse's interests.
As Timely Warning shook loose on the turn, his stablemate rallied along the rail and tried to launch a challenge in the stretch. But the leader was so strong after the slow pace that he was able to accelerate the final quarter mile in a fast :24 3/5 and hold off Master Speaker's challenge by a length.
"This is my 43rd stakes win this year," Perret said after the Classic. "I think that leads the country."
A total of 22,108 fans here and at Laurel's simulcast attended the Million and saw what was, overall, probably the highest-quality program in the event's five-year history.
Safely Kept, the nation's champion sprinter of 1989, was the big-name performer on the card, and she had no difficulty routing her five outclassed female rivals in the Distaff Handicap. This might have been Perret's only real disappointment of the day. He has been the filly's regular jockey throughout her career, but was recently displaced because he wants to ride Housebuster in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. So Krone got the mount and cruised to an effortless 1 1/4-length victory over Perret's mount, Amy Be Good. The margin would have been much bigger if Krone hadn't put on the brakes in the final furlong.
Valay Maid, the favorite in the Oaks, was almost as short-priced a favorite as Safely Kept, but she suffered an upset in the day's most exciting race. She hooked up in a dramatic stretch drive with McKilts and Lucky Lady Lauren, and a sixteenth of a mile from the wire the three of them were inches apart. The McKilts edged away to win by a head over Lucky Lady Lauren.
In addition to Perret, two other jockeys scored multiple successes on the card. Krone followed her victory on Safely Kept by riding Countus In to victory in the $150,000 Ladies, a race for fillies on the turf. Rick Wilson, a new arrival to the Pimlico jockey colony, scored a pair of big upsets, on 22-1 Arugula in the Maryland Handicap and on 10-1 Hear The Bells in the Maryland Turf.
The other big star of the day, however, wasn't even at Pimlico. He was stabled at a farm in Bel Air, Md.
The Pons family, which owns Country Life Farm, had searched for a stallion who might revive their farm's declining fortunes and purchased a well-bred speedster named Allen's Prospect. His first offspring are 2-year-olds this season and today, the stallion swept both of the Million's 2-year-old races.
Ameri Allen and Ritchie Trail, two daughters of Allen's Prospect, ran one-two in the Lassie. Xray, a son of Allen's Prospect, came here from California to win the Nursery. Most of the people in the state's breeding industry, who make this day a major objective of their operations, would consider Country Life Farm and Allen's Prospect the biggest winner of the day -- bigger event than Craig Perret.
Distaff.......Safely Kept..........Julie Krone
Lassie........Ameri Allen..........Alberto Delgado
Ladies........Countus In...........Julie Krone
Sprint........Jeweler's Choice.....Craig Perret
Classic.......Timely Warning.......Craig Perret
Turf..........Hear The Bells.......Rick Wilson