By Katherine O. Rizzo with photos provided by Maryland Million Ltd. (first published in the
In 1984, Baltimore native and international broadcaster Jim McKay had a vision for a sires stakes program in Maryland that would culminate each year with a single day of racing highlighting Maryland’s influence on the racing industry. This year’s Jim McKay Maryland Million Day will take place on October 14 at Laurel Park.
The first Maryland Million Day was on October 18, 1986, at Laurel Park, but did you know the Maryland Million was sometimes held at Pimlico? Take a walk down memory lane and read about Maryland Million’s history and highlights through these Fun Fast Facts!
• On September 1, 1985, Jim McKay held a press conference at Pimlico to outline a nine-race, $1 million program that would become Maryland Million Day.
• The late Richard W. Wilcke was the first Executive Director of the 18-member Maryland Million Committee.
• 175 stallions were nominated to the first Maryland Million with Windfields Farm topping the list with 16 stallions including Northern Dancer, The Minister and Tentam. Only horses sired by nominated stallions are eligible to run in Maryland Million races.
• The original Maryland Million trophies were created by Waterford Crystal in Ireland. The official Maryland Million Trophy (14” bowl) is the largest single piece of hand blown glass made in the company’s history. The bowl includes logos from all the first-year sponsors. In 2009 new trophies were created by Steuben Glass.
• As of 2021, there have been 253 stallions represented at Maryland Million with Not For Love currently holding the top spot in the Leading Stallions by offspring win list with 37 wins. Allen’s Prospect is in second with 22 wins and Great Notion in third with 18 wins.
• As of 2022, Maryland-breds have won 304 of the 397 Maryland Million races ever run.
• In 1991, steeplechase racing was added to the Maryland Million Day card and continued as a featured race for several years, weather permitting.
• In 1987, J. William Boniface became the first trainer to score three wins in a single day. Other three-win trainers were Ronald Cartwright in 1993 and Dale Capuano in 2020.
• In 1987, Maryland Million Day was held at Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore for the first time. The races were held at Pimlico seven other times, from 1989-1992, from 2001-2002, and in 2004.
• In 1989, the Maryland Million saw its first two-time winner when Maryland-bred Master Speaker (Master Willie x Speak Up Now) won the Classic after winning the Turf in 1988.
• Also in 1989, Master Speaker’s jockey Julie Krone became the first female jockey to win the Classic. Krone went on to become the first female jockey to win the leading Maryland Million rider title, with seven wins in 1991. She still holds the record as the all-time leading Maryland Million female jockey with eight wins.
• In 1991, Safely Kept (Horatius x Safely Home) won her third consecutive Distaff. She was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 2011. Countus In (Dancing Count x Cloudy And Warm) also added a third win in a row by winning the Lassie, which she had already won in both 1989 and 1990.
• 1991 was the first time all 11 races were won by offspring from 11 different Maryland Million nominated sires.
• 1993 was the first year that Maryland-breds won every race on the card. A Maryland-bred sweep did not happen again until 2000.
• In 1994, Maryland-bred Taking Risks (Two Punch x Shiitake), trained by King T. Leatherbury, set a Laurel Park track record of 1:54.60 for a mile and three-sixteenths. Taking Risks was also stallion Two Punch’s first Maryland Million winner. Two Punch is currently ranked fourth on the all-time Maryland Million sires leaderboard with 13 wins by offspring.
• In 1996, Frugal Doc, by Maryland-bred stallion Baederwood (out of Run Columbia) became the oldest horse to win the Classic. He was nine years old.
• The 2005 Maryland Million Day was postponed by one week due to a tropical storm. That year the race card was expanded to 12 races. Maryland-bred La Reine’s Terms (Private Terms x La Reine Elaine) won his second Turf for owners Sondra and Howard Bender. At 10 years old, La Reine’s Terms became the oldest horse to win a Maryland Million race. His win also gave the Bender’s a record five wins for a single owner.
• In 2005, Ramon Dominguez set a record by riding five horses to victory in a single day. His record still stands, and Dominguez is now ranked second overall in the leading Maryland Million jockeys standings with 17 wins. Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado is in first place with 18 wins.
• In 2008, Maryland Million founder Jim McKay died and the the Maryland Million Classic was officially renamed the “Jim McKay Maryland Million Classic.” The next year, the Maryland General Assembly passed a joint resolution to officially rename the whole race day as the “Jim McKay Maryland Million Day”.
• In 2008, Maryland-bred Awad (Caveat x Dancer’s Candy) became the first Maryland Million winner to sire another Maryland Million winner, when his son Let Me Be Frank (out of Hassenack) won the Starter Handicap. Maryland-bred Cherokee’s Boy (Citidancer x Cherokee Wonder) is the only other Maryland Million winner thus far to also sire a Maryland Million winner. His son Steady Warrior (out of Slow and Steady) won the Nursery in 2010.
• Ben’s Cat and In The Curl hold the record for most Maryland Million races run with seven each. Maryland-bred Ben’s Cat (Parker’s Storm Cat x Twofox) won the Turf Sprint in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016 and finished second in the Turf in 2013 and 2014.
• In 2021, Maryland-bred Hello Beautiful (Golden Lad x Hello Now) joined the list of horses with the most Maryland Million wins by winning the Distaff. She previously won the Lassie in 2019 and Distaff 2020. The other three-peat Maryland Million winners are Countus In and Safely Kept (both 1989, 1990, 1991), Mz. Zill Bear (1993, 1994, 1995), Docent (2001, 2002, 2003), Ben’s Cat (2010, 2011, 2012) and Eighttofasttocatch (2011, 2013, 2014).
• To date, no filly or mare has won the Classic.