Looking Back

This month in mid-atlantic thoroughbred history! For Looking Back archives click here.

75 Years Ago: July 1944

Cover horse Lord Calvert was one of two runners with strong Maryland connections to win Delaware Park stakes, scoring for owner W.P. Wetherall in the Sussex Handicap. The son of Maryland sire Discovery was trained by Frank A. “Downey” Bonsal Jr.
Baltimorian O.L. Bonifay’s Mouse Hole won a division of the Kent Stakes for 3-year-olds. He was trained Danny Shea, who had recently returned to the track after two years in the Army.
• Editor Humphrey Finney was able to take a break from his duties with the Coast Guard and spend an afternoon watching races in North Charleston, S.C., where the first summer meeting of the Charleston Jockey Club was underway. Noted Finney: “Long years ago, when America was in its infancy, the Charleston Jockey Club was the meeting place for the colony’s elite. . . today there still exists that sporting spirit. . .”
Joining Finney at the races was Nick Saegmuller, war-furloughed secretary of the Virginia Horsemen’s Association, and H.A. “Jimmie” Jones, “son of and right bower of Calumet’s B.A.”

50 Years Ago: July 1969

Three stakes wins over three consecutive Saturdays in June propelled the 3-year-old Maryland-bred colt North Flight to the upper echelon of his division. The son of Misty Flight won, in succession, Delaware Park’s Kent Stakes on the turf, Monmouth Park’s Long Branch over a sloppy track and Delaware Park’s Leonard Richards on the turf.
Trained by Eddie Anspach for Mr. and Mrs. William Mayer’s Compass Farm, the colt was foaled at Billy Christmas’ Deepwell Farm 10 days before he and his dam North Page were sent to the Maryland Spring Sale in Timonium. The Mayers, part owners of only one other horse at the time, purchased the mare and foal for $13,000. North Flight had already earned more than $130,000.
The backstory of North Page made the breeding game enticing – the mare was sold at auction in Virginia in 1963 for $500. Noted the buyer, E.W. Bowen: “Most of the horses sold at the Front Royal Livestock Sale go for dog meat. North Page was the highest-priced horse of the day. I just bought her to take a chance on. She had a real bad breeding record but she had the pedigree.” Two years later Bowen sold her privately to Jerry Kirk while carrying North Flight for $5,000.
North Flight would go on win six stakes, place in 17 others, including seconds in the United Nations and Man o’ War, and earn $332,313. He retired to stud in Virginia and eventually moved to Merryland Farm in Maryland. A stakes sire, he is found in the pedigree of Grade 1 winner Tenski. His daughter Mercy Flite was the dam of 14 winners from 16 starters, including stakes winners Honorable Flight and Mercy Me.
• Two-year-old Rollicking was undefeated in four starts, and throwing attention to his sire Rambunctious, who stood at Harold Herman’s Red Oak Farms in Poolesville, Md. With only three crops of racing age, Rambunctious had four stakes winners. Herman purchased the *Rasper II stallion from Mrs. Milton Erlanger in the fall of 1967, and Rambunctious had full books his first two breeding seasons at Red Oak. Asked what had the success of Rambunctious’ offspring done for Herman and his farm, the reply was “Gotten me awfully confused. . . I don’t know whether I should quit my job and devote full time to horses, or sell my horses and devote full time to my job.”

25 Years Ago: July 1994

Virginian David P. Reynolds, retired chairman of his family’s Reynolds Metal Company, turned his attention more fully to racing upon his retirement and had his greatest success when Tabasco Cat, a Storm Cat colt bred and owned in partnership with his friend William T. Young, won the Grade 1 Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
Tabasco Cat descended from the mare *Cancelada whom Reynolds purchased more than 25 years earlier. Although the majority of Tabasco Cat’s family was based in Kentucky, Reynolds kept nearly half his broodmares at Worthington Farms in Glyndon, owned by J.W.Y. “Duck” Martin and his wife Glennie, Reynold’s niece. Worthington stallions Lord Gaylord and Northern Raja were part owned by Reynolds.
In the story by Jack Mann, Reynolds recalled his lifetime with horses, back to the first horse he ever bred, a colt named Be Somebody, who lost the rich World’s Playground Stakes in 1962 by a head to Rambunctious. “David Reynolds, 79, remembered Be Somebody distinctly, even in the afterglow of Tabasco Cat’s 2-length triumph in the Belmont. ‘John Rotz was the rider. He switched his stick and tapped the colt left-handed, threw him off stride. It was such a disappointment. I didn’t know if I’d ever have another one that good.’ ”
• Tabasco Cat brought a lot of scrutiny because The Jockey Club approved the trademarked first word of his name. David Reynold’s daughter Dotty Brotherton chose the name for the fiery chestnut colt out of Barbicue Sauce in part because of his color.
The name was the domain of the McIlhenny Company of Avery Island, La., and while vice-president Paul C.P. McIlhenny said he appreciated all the publicity, he noted: “We just wouldn’t like it to go on in the breeding.”
Jim Peden, director of communications for The Jockey Club, acknowledged the mistake and said, “Friendly correspondence between the company and Mr. Young drew our attention to the fact that it is copyrighted. Any subsequent applications for names that include the word ‘tabasco’ will be denied.”
• Preakness week saw Mid-Atlantic-bred runners win eight of 10 Pimlico stakes leading up to the classic. The Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan was won by Maryland-bred Calipha, a daughter of Maryland sire Two Punch. Virginia-bred Paradise Creek turned back Lure to win the Grade 2 Dixie, and in his next start won the Grade 1 Manhattan at Belmont to remain undefeated in six starts for the year, all stakes.
The Grade 2 Pimlico Distaff went to Virginia-bred filly Double Sixes. Maryland-bred Secret Odds defeated Virginia-bred Honor the Hero to win the Maryland Budweiser Breeders’ Cup Handicap-G3.
• Popular young Maryland sire Norquestor got his first winner in his first crop when Frio River led gate-to-wire in a maiden special weight at Laurel. Norquestor stood at Allen and Audrey Murray’s Murmur Farm in Darlington.

• The region was well represented when the 1994 National Racing Hall of Fame inductees were announced – Pennsylvania native Warren “Jimmy” Croll Jr., decades-long Monmouth Park-based trainer of such stalwarts as Holy Bull, Mr. Prospector, Bet Twice and Parka; Virginia-bred Arts and Letters, bred and owned by Paul Mellon’s Rokeby Stable; and Pennsylvania-bred Flatterer, the four-time Eclipse Award winner co-bred and trained by Jonathan Sheppard for co-breeder/owner William Pape.

10 Years Ago: July 2009

Rachel Alexandra became the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness, turning back Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird to win by a length.
Purchased by Jess Jackson and Harold McCormick five days after her 201⁄4-length victory in the Kentucky Oaks-G1 and turned over to trainer Steve Asmussen, Rachel Alexandra came close to not getting into the classic as she hadn’t been nominated to the Triple Crown – if the race drew 14 other runners, she would be excluded. Thirteen were entered. She broke from the outside post and led at every call.
“She’s a freak,” said Asmussen. “She’s going to be compared to the all-time greats.”
Rachel Alexandra was inducted into the National Racing Hall of Fame in her first year of eligibility in 2016.
• The 2-year-old sales market remained strong despite a tough economy as the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May sale saw a record price of $850,000 for a Tapit colt and a plummeting buy-back rate. The second-highest price was for a half-brother to Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird purchased by Cot Campbell’s Dogwood Stable for $485,000. Both colts were consigned by Georgia-based pinhooker Cary Frommer, who soon relocated to South Carolina.
• Renowned photographer, writer, editor and library director Peter Winants died at the age of 82.
A Maryland native, Winants’ career in equine journalism began as photographer for The Maryland Horse in the early 1960s. He went on to become editor of The Chronicle of the Horse in the 1970s and served as director of the National Sporting Library in Middleburg, Va., in the 1990s. He was also the author of five books on steeplechasing, the first about timber great Jay Trump and his victory in the Grand National at Aintree.
• The life of Broad Brush, one of the toughest and most accomplished Maryland-breds of all time, was remembered after the 26-year-old stallion was euthanized at Gainesway Farm near Lexington, Ky., where the nation’s leading sire of 1994 stood his entire career.
The son of Ack Ack, bred and owned by Robert E. Meyerhoff and trained by Richard Small, won or placed in 24 of 27 starts and retired with a Maryland-bred earnings record of $2,656,793. At stud, he sired two Maryland-bred millionaires – Breeders’ Cup Classic-G1 winner Concern ($3,079,350) and $1,659,560-earner Include, both Maryland-bred Horses of the Year, as was their sire.
The sire of 93 stakes winners, Broad Brush had been pensioned since June 2004.

75years ago: June 1944

The combined Maryland spring meet at Pimlico was a huge success, as more than 400,000 patrons turned out over the 28-day meet (an average of more than 14,000 per day), even with adverse weather conditions the first 15 days. However, it wasn’t the attendance, record handle, quality of racing or the weather which gained the most attention, but Warren Wright’s Calumet Farm and trainer Ben Jones domination from start to finish. Calumet colorbearer Pensive won the meet’s first stakes (the Rowe Memorial) and last (Preakness), and in between Sun Again captured the Southern Maryland, Gittings and Dixie Handicaps, and Twilight Tear took the Pimlico Oaks and Rennert Handicap.
Pensive made five starts during the Pimlico meet, winning three and finishing second in the other two. In between the April 29 Chesapeake Stakes and May 13 Preakness, he shipped to Kentucky to win the Derby. However, Twilight Tear was the stable’s bigger star, eventually being named that year’s top 3-year-old and Horse of the Year.
• One race Pensive didn’t win was the Chesapeake, as Maryland-bred Gramp’s Image – named by breeder A.J. “Whitey” Abel for being the “spittenimage” to grandsire Man o’ War – held off the Calumet runner to score by a head. Foaled at Robert J. Walden’s historic Bowlingbrook Stud, Gramp’s Image was trained by Abel. He went on to finish fourth in the Preakness.

50 Years Ago: June 1969

Majestic Prince remained undefeasted with his Preakness win over Arts and letters, although he had to survive a 26-minute objection.

It took 26 minutes for Kentucky Derby winner Majestic Prince to become the official winner of the Preakness, after a claim of interference for an incident at the start by Braulio Baeza aboard runner-up Arts and Letters was disallowed.
Trained by Hall of Fame rider John Longden and ridden by Hall of Famer Bill Hartack, Frank McMahon’s Majestic Prince remained undefeated in nine starts. Paul Mellon’s homebred Arts and Letters turned the tables on his archrival in the Belmont Stakes as the Virginia-bred won by 51⁄2 lengths, with Majestic Prince second in what would be his final start.
Arts and Letters went on to add the Jim Dandy, Travers, Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup and be named champion 3-year-old, handicap horse and Horse of the Year. Both colts were inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame.
• Philip S. Heisler, managing editor of the Baltimore Evening Sun, and his racing partner Virgil Christopher were the owners of Michigan Derby winner Berkley Prince, a Maryland-bred son of Country Life Farm stallion Rash Prince trained by 27-year-old J. William Boniface, the son of the Baltimore Sun’s racing editor Bill Boniface.
Having a stable for 10 years – nine with the late Dr. Webster Brown – and losing money only one of those years, Heisler said “We never tried to make a lot of money. Our objective was to have fun and not go broke. There was only once that we had more than one horse in training.”

• Stuart and Barbara Janney had four horses in training, all homebreds, and all were winners that year – two juveniles, and 3-year-old stakes winners Tyrant and Promise, the latter victorious in Arlington Park’s Equipoise Mile. Born at the Janney’s Locust Hill Farm in Glyndon, Md., Promise had previously finished third in Aqueduct’s Metropolitan Mile behind Arts and Letters and Nodouble. The son of The Irishman out of the Dedicate mare Vowed was trained by Frank Whiteley, who had taken over the Janneys’ stable the previous year.
• The Fair Hill Races’ spring meet was an enormous success, as more than 10,000 spectators turned out for the opening Wednesday session, and more than 14,000 turned out three days later. The first day’s winners included Mrs. Jack S. Griswold’s Hasty Cobbler, trained by Jonathan Sheppard and ridden by Michael O’Brien, in the Kelso Steeplechase. On Saturday, the Foxcatcher Hounds Steeplechase was run over the new timber course and won by Island Stream, owned by G.T. Weymouth and trained by Dr. John R.S. Fisher. Island Stream was ridden by Doug Small Jr., subbing for Fisher, who was recovering from a broken collarbone when the same horse fell in the Radnor Hunt Cup.

25 years ago: June 1994

Jack Fisher trained and rode his mother’s Revelstoke to victory in the 100th anniversary running of the Maryland Hunt Cup. The Fisher family had long made its mark on the historic race – Jack’s father, Dr. John R.S. Fisher, won the race in 1969 and 1971 aboard Landing Party. Dr. Fisher’s uncle Janon Fisher Jr. and cousin Janon Fisher III campaigned three-time winner Mountain Dew, and Janon Fisher Jr. trained three-time winner Blockade. Jack’s mother, Dolly Fisher, was the granddaughter of John H. O’Donovan Sr., owner of three-time winner Garry Owen.
The training operation of Jack Fisher and his wife Sheila, granddaughter of legendary horseman Stuart Janney Jr., was the subject of a feature story. Five years earlier, the couple joined forces to campaign Timber Horse of the Year Call Louis. Married since 1992, the Fishers had also produced in a few short years additional timber champion Gus’s Boy, hurdle champion South of Java and Virginia Gold Cup winners Push and Pull and Saluter, the latter taking the Gold Cup a week after Revelstoke’s Hunt Cup win.
Jack Fisher now trains the top steeplechase stable in the country with 12 National Steeplechase Association championships and more than $16.4 million in earnings.
• After guiding Arcadia Stable’s Buck Jakes to victory in the Grand National at Butler, Charlie Fenwick Jr. called it a career. “Everything came together for this race. Which meant that there would probably be no better time to quit,” said the 46-year-old Fenwick after winning his 10th Grand National. The five-time Maryland Hunt Cup-winning rider noted his final mount was “no doubt a Maryland Hunt Cup prospect.”
Trained by Fenwick and ridden by Anne Moran, Buck Jakes won the Hunt Cup in 1995 and 1997.
• Maryland native John Michael Stanley Finney, who guided Fasig-Tipton through a period of tremendous growth from the 1960s into the 1980s, died several days before his 60th birthday. The son of revered horseman Humphrey S. Finney, he built upon his father’s legacy, enlarging Fasig-Tipton’s field of operations and guiding it through the heyday of the commercial market in the early 1980s.

10 years ago: June 2009

The inaugural Charles Town Classic offered a $1 million tiered purse – Grade 1 winners eligible for the full million, Grade 2 winners ran for $750,000, Grade 3 winners $600,000, and all others $500,000. The enticement worked, as among the 10 starters were Grade 1 winners Commentator, from the Nick Zito barn, and Mast Track, sent east by Bobby Frankel.
Charles Town-based star Researcher, winner of the Grade 3 Queens County Handicap at Aqueduct the previous December, was not overlooked, going off as the 3-1 second choice. He galloped home a 21⁄4-length winner over the Tom Albertrani-trained Ea; Commentator finished fourth and Mast Track seventh. Researcher’s final time for the richest race around three turns was 1:49.86, just shy of the track mark he set in his previous start. A Virginia-bred by Virginia stallion Two Smart, bred by the Virginia Tech Foundation Inc. and trained by Jeff Runco for Hermen Greenberg’s Rutledge Farm, the 5-year-old pushed his earnings to $676,809 with his 10th win in 17 starts.
The gelding came back to repeat in 2010 for new owner Kinross Corporation, who purchased him following the death of Greenberg that February. All runners competed for the $1 million. By year’s end, Researcher was on a new career path, starting over fences with trainer Neil Morris. In six steeplechase starts, he was second once (missing by a neck), fell once and was pulled up twice. He retired with a record of 35-13-7-2 and earnings of $1,396,079.
• “Virginia Racing Industry Stymied On All Fronts” read the headline as writer Bill Finley examined its future. “The bottom line is a racing and breeding industry that is not only not growing but contracting. Realistic solutions? No one seems to have any.”
Finley noted positives: “Colonial Downs is a nice facility with arguably the best turf course in the country, and Virginians are known to be passionate about horses.” But what it didn’t have were “. . . slot machines, or an off-track betting network that covers the most populous areas of the state, year-round racing or anything close to it, a healthy breeding industry or many influential politicians sympathetic to the industry’s myriad problems.”
n Familiar horsemen once again topped the Maryland standings as Laurel Park’s 15-week winter meet concluded. Owner Robert Cole dominated when winning 25 races from 67 starts (37 percent) and trainer Scott Lake had 44 wins, 12 more than second place John Rigattieri. Jeremy Rose took the jockey title with 50 wins, after starting the meet 1-for-24.
Lake has won 18 meet titles at Laurel and Pimlico from 2000-18, and nearly 1,200 of his 6,000-plus wins have come at the two tracks. An Eclipse Award finalist and the nation’s leading trainer by wins four years in the 2000s, Lake reached 6,000 wins at Parx April 22 with I’m the Talent – read more in this month’s Around the Ovals.
• Only two of the eight starters finished the 113th Maryland Hunt Cup. The winner was Michele Marieschi (GB), guided home by 45-year-old George Hundt in his first Hunt Cup try. “I would have been happy just to finish,” said Hundt. “I was so focused on sticking to the game plan and being smart and not getting ahead of myself that it didn’t even register that I might win.”
• Pennsylvania-based steeplechase trainer Janet Elliot and 1980 English Grand National winner *Ben Nevis II were to join Bob Baffert, Eddie Maple and horses Silverbulletday and Tiznow in the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame. Elliot became the second woman elected, joining jockey Julie Krone, and was the first woman Hall of Fame trainer.
A two-time Maryland Hunt Cup winner *Ben Nevis II campaigned for Redmond Stewart Jr. and was trained by his daughter Ann and her then-husband Charlie Fenwick Jr., who rode the gelding throughout his career.


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