Maryland Million: Streaking Fiya Claims Turf Sprint; Epic Idea Stretch Out In Ladies

Robert Masiello’s Fiya continued his hot streak this year, stepping up to stakes company for the first time and extending his win streak to four races with a popular 2 1/4-length triumph in Saturday’s $75,000 Maryland Million Turf Sprint Handicap at Laurel Park in Laurel, Md.

The 5 1/2-furlong Turf Sprint for 3-year-olds and up and $100,000 Ladies for fillies and mares 3 and older going 1 1/8 miles, both contested over Laurel’s world-class grass course, were 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.

Fiya ($2.20), bred in Maryland by Ann Merryman, completed the distance in 1:03.56 over a Bowl Game turf course layout rated good to give jockey Trevor McCarthy his third stakes win of the day following the $100,000 Ladies with Epic Idea and $100,000 Lassie with Miss Nondescript.

This year marked the return of the Turf Sprint to the Maryland Million program following a seven-year absence, won in each of its final three years by late Mid-Atlantic legend Ben’s Cat (2010-12).

Sent off as the 1-9 favorite in a field of eight, Fiya settled behind intent pacesetter Grateful Bred through splits of 21.95 and 45.03 seconds, swept to the lead rounding the far turn, took command once straightened for home and steadily edged away to remain undefeated in four starts this year.

“It looked like he got over the track well. I saw the first fraction was pretty quick and then they didn’t go super quick the second quarter,” winning trainer Tom Albertrani said from his base at Belmont Park. “I thought he ran like we were hoping to see. He was able to sit off the pace and he stalked well and had something left for the end.”

Fiya made his first four starts in Maryland, two of them on dirt last fall, before being gelding and switched to the turf this year. The Friesan Fire gelding sold at auction for $400,000 following an allowance triumph July 17, and debuted for his new connections with a 3 1/4-length score Sept. 20 at Belmont – registering the fastest Beyer Speed Figure (100) for a 3-year-old on turf this year.

“Actually, it worked out perfect just like I thought it would. If he broke in front I would have gone to the lead, but when the other horse went I could just stalk,” McCarthy said. “We had a great position. He had a nice break and really settled off the pace nice, and when I asked him to accelerate he surely did.”

McCarthy was aboard for Fiya’s race debut last November for previous trainer Michael Merryman, the breeder’s son, and was impressed by the horse’s development over the past 11 months.

“Big time. Definitely today I was like, ‘Wow.’ He’s so much stronger and so much bigger,” McCarthy said. “Ann and Tom have done a great job with him; I was just lucky to be aboard him today. He just outclassed these horses. He just showed his true talent and made us all look good.”

So Street came on late for second, a length ahead of 45-1 long shot Godlovesasinner. It was another half-length back to Grateful Bred in fourth.

Albertrani said the $835,000 Claiming Crown Dec. 5 at Gulfstream Park is the next likely landing spot for Fiya, who ran for a $25,000 tag in his debut.

“Right now, short-term we have two options. Our first option is to get him to Florida and run him in the Claiming Crown,” Albertrani said. “We may decide to stay in New York and run him in the Turf Sprint at the end of November at Aqueduct. I think we’re more in favor of getting him down to Florida, but that’s something we’ll talk with Rob about.”

Epic Idea Stretches Out to Win $100,000 Maryland Million Ladies
Vivian E. Rall’s homebred Epic Idea, a two-time winner sprinting on the turf but who had never beyond one mile, successfully stretched out to 1 1/8 miles to earn her first career stakes win in the $100,000 Maryland Million Ladies.

The first of back-to-back wins for jockey Trevor McCarthy, who followed up in the $100,000 Lassie with Miss Nondescript, Epic Idea ($13.60) gave her sire, Great Notion, a Maryland Million winner for the 11th consecutive year. She is trained by Ann Merryman and assisted by her son, Michael.

“That’s pretty cool. That is amazing,” McCarthy said. “Big credit to these guys, Ann and Michael. I always thought she was a great sprinter. Going into it I said, ‘I guess we’ll try and nurse her for as long as we can,’ and when I slowed it up the second quarter, she turned off so nice. Even though she had a little bit of company next to her, she was going really smooth and she gave me a nice kick turning for home.”

The winning time was 1:55.06 over an Exceller turf course rated good.

Epic Idea settled through fractions of 24.85 and 51.73 seconds under McCarthy pressed by 2-1 favorite Something Magical, fourth in last year’s Ladies after setting the pace. Gennie Highway was in the clear three wide to join the chase and launched her bid approaching the stretch, but after giving his filly a breather, McCarthy set down for the wire. Epic Idea held off Gennie Highway through the stretch to win by three-quarters of a length despite drifting out, and survived a claim of foul from Gennie Highway’s rider Jorge Ruiz.

Epic Idea winning the Maryland Million Ladies

“Every time I would lean on her she kind of kept drifting. I kept trying to straighten her up a little bit but she just wasn’t getting the best hold of the ground. I think she was kind of spinning her wheels a little bit,” McCarthy said. “Luckily she didn’t make any contact, so that was nice.”

Gennie Highway stayed up for second, three-quarters of a length ahead of Mosalah.

Epic Idea now owns three wins from 10 starts, her others coming at 5 ½ furlongs in a maiden special weight last August, also under McCarthy, and an open allowance July 10, both at Laurel.

The post Maryland Million: Streaking Fiya Claims Turf Sprint; Epic Idea Stretch Out In Ladies appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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