LAUREL, Md. (AP) _ Little Bold John will face only four challengers Sunday when he attempts to repeat last year's victory in the Maryland Classic, the richest of the nine races that will make up the third annual Maryland Million.

The 6-year-old gelding won the $200,000 Classic by four lengths over Bagatelle in 1987. Friday morning's drawing for post position placed those two side-by-side for this year's race, with Little Bold John starting from the third position and Bagatelle from number four.

The Classic will provide the smallest field on Sunday's card. Fields in the other eight races range from six starters in the $150,000 Maryland Ladies to the dozen that will go to the post in the Sprint Handicap and the Maryland Turf.

The Sprint also will feature a defending champion looking to repeat. Cool Joe, a 6-year-old trained by Hall of Famer Allen Jerkens, won the six-furlong event by a head last year, after losing by a neck in 1986's inaugural running. Cool Joe will start from the seventh position in his first race of the year.

Smart 'n Quick, who finished second in last year's Maryland Ladies, is back to try again. The 5-year-old mare is the biggest money-winner among the six that will race in the Ladies, having won $461,992 in 30 career starts. The next richest of the Ladies has the most impressive bloodlines. Chapel of Dreams, a daughter of Northern Dancer and a granddaughter of Secretariat, has earned over $341,000 in just 13 starts.

The Maryland Ladies will be run on the turf course, the surface on which Chapel of Dreams has earned all her money. The 4-year-old filly has had 12 races on turf, more than any horse in the field.

The nine-race card includes seven-furlong races for 2-year-old colts and fillies, two six-furlong handicaps for older 3-year-olds and up, a pair 1 1-16 mile turf races, the 1 1-8 mile Maryland Oaks for 3-year-old fillies, the Maryland Starter Handicap at that distance, and the 1 -mile Classic.