Redemption for Epic Dream in $100,000 Maryland Million Ladies

Air Token Takes the $100,000 Sprint

BALTIMORE – Call it poetic justice.

After surviving a steward’s inquiry following a victory in the Maryland Million Ladies last year but being placed second upon review of the Maryland Racing Commission in May, Vivian Rall’s hombred Epic Dream left no questions Saturday, driving between horses entering the stretch to win the $100,000 Maryland Million Ladies by a half-length over Maldives Model. It was another three-quarters of a length to Judi Blue Eyes in third.

A 5-year-old mare by Great Notion trained by Michael Merryman and ridden by Daniel Centeno, Epic Dream covered a firm 1 1/8-mile turf course in 1:49.46.

“It’s big redemption for us,” said Merryman after the race. “I have to bite my tongue a little bit right now because everyone knows that (the disqualification) was not right. But all the credit to the breeder, Vivian Rall. She’s one of the best horsemen in Maryland. Credit to my mom for bringing this horse along with us…. just a credit to all the nice horsemen we have behind this filly.”

Breaking alertly from the gate, Epic Idea was rated fourth along the inside entering the first turn and down the backstretch by Centeno while longshot Tipsy Chatter set fractions of :23.63, :47.89 and 1:12.04. But entering the stretch, Centeno moved Epic Idea off the rail and outside a tiring Tipsy Chatter and outside Brushing to take the lead and the Maryland Million Ladies.

Epic Idea came into the Ladies off a third-place finish at 5 ½ furlongs Sept. 30. “She came flying last time,” Merryman said.

The race reunited Epic Idea with Centeno, who had ridden the mare last in October of 2020.

“If you look back at her form, the best race she ever ran was with Centeno,” Merryman said. “We wanted to win so I made him fly up from Tampa to ride her.”

Said Centeno: “I talked to Mike and he said she was training really good. She sprinted the last race and we were going back to long. I told him we had a little bit of speed outside, and she always breaks sharp, so going to the first turn she’s going to be right there. She broke really sharp, and she got a perfect trip. I found some room turning for home and she finished strong.”

Air Token Takes the $100,000 Sprint

Corrales Racing LLC’s Air Token, claimed more than a year ago by trainer Jose Corrales for $10,000, led every step of the way to win Saturday’s $100,000 Maryland Million Sprint by 2 ¼ lengths over a late-closing Double Crown. Valued Notion was third.

Air Token, second earlier in the year in the Ben’s Cat and fifth in the Bert Allen, raced second behind the longshot Valued Notion under jockey J.D. Acosta. After Valued Notion set fractions of :22.35 and :44.93, Air Token took over down the stretch before covering the six furlongs in 1:09.63. Corrales couldn’t ask for a better trip.

“He doesn’t like to be in front,” he said. “He likes to sit behind horses and make the right move.”

“He’s always a good breaker from the gate,” Acosta said. “I didn’t want to put him on the lead, because he likes to chase horses. I knew there was a lot of speed and you saw how fast they went. The only thing with this horse is, when he starts to make a move he likes to lay into horses. I got beat one time at Pimlico because he was lugging in. When he switched leads I had to make sure that I kept him away from other horses. As soon as we turned for home, he was really aggressive down the stretch.”

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