One of neighboring Maryland’s biggest events of the season takes place Saturday October 24 — the Maryland Million program. Fans can wager the Millions races at any Rosie’s Gaming Emporium in Richmond, New Kent, Vinton and Hampton, at any VA-Horseplay OTB in Henrico (Breaker’s Sports Grille), Chesapeake (Buckets Bar & Grill) and Collinsville (The Windmill OTB Sports Grill), and online via TVG.com, Xpressbet.com, Twinspires.com and NYRABets.com.
LAUREL, MD – Sometimes, numbers don’t tell the whole story. Other times, it’s in the interpretation. When taking a look back at Great Notion’s impact as a sire, particularly in the Maryland Million, David Wade found both scenarios to be true.
Great Notion is once again well-represented in Saturday’s 35th Jim McKay Maryland Million program at Laurel Park with 16 entrants in all but three of eight stakes and four starter stakes that comprise ‘Maryland’s Day at the Races.’
Launched in 1986, Maryland Million celebrates the progeny of stallions standing in Maryland. The groundbreaking concept conceived by the late Hall of Fame and 13-time Emmy Award-winning broadcaster has gone on to spawn copycat events across North America.
Great Notion has produced at least one Maryland Million winner for 10 consecutive years, a streak continued in the 2019 Distaff by Anna’s Bandit. The previous year, he was represented by winners in the Distaff (Crabcakes) and Sprint (Lewisfield) and ran 1-2 in the Turf (Talk Show Man, Phlash Phelps).
This year, his runners are Epic Idea in the $100,000 Ladies; Closertotheheart in the $100,000 Lassie; Sing a Verse in the $40,000 Starter Handicap; Grateful Bred in the $75,000 Turf Sprint; Alwaysinahurry, Moochie, Katie’s Notion, Treasure Tradition and Kenny Had a Notion in the $100,000 Nursery; Le Weekend in the $100,000 Distaff; Pretty Good Year in the $100,000 Turf; Onemoregreattime, Lewisfield, Karan’s Notion and For the Moment in the $100,000 Sprint; and Elementary in the $50,000 Turf Starter Handicap.
Maryland Million’s leading active sire with 13 wins, Great Notion is tied with the late Two Punch for third overall with Not For Love (36) and Allen’s Prospect (22) – who have also passed away – occupying the top two spots. Like Great Notion, Not For Love and Two Punch also stood at Northview Stallion Station in Chesapeake City.
Wade, Northview’s general manager and director of sales, was crunching the numbers recently and made an interesting discovery. Great Notion’s success rate in Maryland Million is 21 percent (13-for-62), higher than Not For Love (36-263, 13.6 perecent), Allen’s Prospect (22-157 (14 percent) and Two Punch (13-104, 12.5 percent).
What’s more, his current win rate applied to the difference in starters between he and Not For Love would give Great Notion a staggering 53 Maryland Million winners.
“He was always kind of in the shadow of Two Punch and Not For Love early on. Not For Love has kind of been considered the horse that sets the bar in the Maryland Million and Two Punch is hanging in there,” Wade said. “I looked him up earlier in the week just to kind of compare him to Not For Love, because I’ve always been of the mind that Great Notion is as good a stallion as Not For Love, but just hasn’t had the opportunities.
“When you look at the Maryland Million, Not For Love, Allen’s Prospect and Two Punch, those horses when you look at the number of starters they’ve had and the number of winners, were winning at about 13 or 14 percent clip. Great Notion is  percent,” he added. “He’s up there doing it. But, he hasn’t won a Classic yet. Maybe this is the year.”
Great Notion has been Maryland’s champion stallion since 2016 and is leading the way again this year with the most runners (87), winners (34), black-type winners (three) and progeny earnings ($1.62 million). The son of Elusive Quality, who Wade calls “one of the most underappreciated stallions in the country,” stands for $7,500 per live foal.
“The whole thing has been due to the small crops. When people look at these stallions they look at the number of winners, they look at the number of stakes horses, they look at the amount of money won,” Wade said. “They’re not looking at averages.
“When you look at the number of winners per starter, per foal, stakes horses per foal, he’s always right there. You can’t just look at the cumulative number,” he added. “He’s terrific. He’s never been a tough horse. The funny thing was at the beginning of his career he was a slow breeder and then actually the older he’s gotten the better he’s become.”
Great Notion never raced in Maryland, posting three wins and four seconds from 12 lifetime starts between 2002 and 2004 including a win in the 2013 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park and runner-up finishes in the Amsterdam (G2) and King’s Bishop (G1) in Saratoga that year.
The bay Kentucky-bred entered stud in 2005 and due in part to both his initial shyness and a smaller book of mares, didn’t get off to the best start.
“He suffered in the beginning from small crops of mares,” Wade said. “Typically when you get a stallion started you like to get at least 70 mares to the stallion, and for the first several years he was in the 30s, which means that he was probably in the 20s for foal crops. It’s a tough way to get started. It took a while for people to catch on to what a good stallion he is.”
Once he caught on to the nuances of his new career, and his progeny began producing on the racetrack, interest in Great Notion picked up. Amazingly, Wade said Great Notion has never been better than the past few years at Northview, where he occupies the same stall as the great Northern Dancer, considered one of racing’s most influential sires.
“He’s the patriarch, I guess, right now at Northview and still breeding well. The last couple years oddly enough he had the highest fertility rate there,” Wade said. “We limit his book. We don’t want to overwork him at this point. He books full for the number of mares that we’ll breed to him. We’ll probably limit him to about 40 mares this year to start with, and then if he continues to stop his mares like he’s been doing we’ll add some toward the end of the season.”
In addition to his success at Maryland Million, Great Notion has produced such horses as Havelock, a multiple graded-stakes winner of more than $650,000 in purse earnings, and 2018 Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint (G3) winner Ruby Notion. Anna’s Bandit, currently turned out but aiming for a 7-year-old campaign, owns 17 wins, 11 in stakes, and nearly $800,000 in purses earned.
Explaining Great Notion’s success, Wade said, “It’s his versatility and the fact that they continue to go on. They start out and run well as 2-year-olds and then they just continue on. He gets sound horses. One thing is you’ve got to be ready to run in these Maryland Million races, and if you don’t have sound horses they’re not going to get there. He just consistently gets good horses to the Maryland Million at the right time of year.”
Laurel Park-based trainer Dale Capuano, a winner of more than 3,500 career races including a record 11 in the Maryland Million, will saddle both stakes winner Kenny Had a Notion and Alwaysinahurry in the Nursery for 2-year-olds.
“He just throws solid horses. He’s probably had no real superstar, but he’s had nice, solid runners,” Capuano said. “He’s just a solid stallion. He’s getting a little up in age I guess now, but he does still throw a lot of quality runners.”
Wade said Great Notion “probably has a couple more years in him, but you have to take it year by year. You’re not just looking at fertility, but a lot of times these stallions will start to get sore behind so we’re always looking out for the safety of the horse and the people.”
Great Notion has a solid supporting cast at Northview that includes 10-year-old Golden Lad and 12-year-old Bandbox, who rank second and fourth, respectively, among Maryland sires this year with $1.147 million and $1.039 million in purses earned and have 41 winners combined.
Golden Lad, by Medaglia d’Oro, counts 2019 Maryland Million Lassie and Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship winner Hello Beautiful and 2019 Maryland Juvenile Futurity winner Laddie Liam among his offspring. Bandbox, by Tapit, has sired such stakes winners as 2018 Nursery winner Follow the Dog and Artful Splatter as well as Coconut Cake, a, winner of three straight. Artful Splatter and Coconut Cake are both entered in Saturday’s Distaff.
“We’ve got a pretty exciting young stallion roster. Golden Lad certainly looks like he’s put out some good horses for us and we’re looking for him to do well at the Maryland Million. Bandbox is another one of these horses that’s underrated,” Wade said. “Everyone looks at Golden Lad and says that this is a good horse and they want to breed to him. But when you look at Bandbox, he got started similarly to Great Notion with small crops and this horse this year is just turning out winner after winner. I think people are going to start to catch on to him this year.
“We’ve got other new stallions coming up. Madefromlucky, Irish War Cry; we’ve moved Hoppertunity and Uncle Lino over to the Maryland farm this year. People are going to take notice,” he added. “I’ve always said that eventually the good stallions show through. A lot of these horses start out with $2,500 or $3,500 stud fees, so they don’t get the best mares that they can. Not For Love started out at $3,500. Polish Numbers, Great Notion – these horses, the good ones show through.”