Looking Back

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

10 Years Ago: April 2014

The first appearance of California Chrome in Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred came following his win in Santa Anita’s San Felipe Stakes-G2.

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25 Years Ago: April 1999

Led by Virginia-born Secretariat, who ranked second only to Man o’ War, a dozen Mid-Atlantic-breds appeared on The Blood-Horse’s list of the top 100 racehorses of the 20th century.

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50 Years Ago: April 1974

Dr. A. Edward Verdi Jr., a Brooklyn-born dentist who got into Thoroughbreds due to his children’s interest in horses, was rewarded when 3-year-old filly Kits Eve won Pimlico’s Politely Stakes.

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75 Years Ago: April 1949

A reprinted article from The New Jersey Thoroughbred by Preston Burch on “How to Pick a Yearling” was described by editor Humphrey Finney as “the best advice on selection of prospective racing material that we have ever read. The writer, for a great many years one of America’s leading trainers, has long demonstrated his ability in the selection of young racing stock.” While Burch started with, “Many good horsemen will agree with me that an article on how to pick a yearling should be prefaced with the remark, ‘It just can’t be done,’ ” he offered what he looked for – from bloodlines to conformation to movement.

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10 Years Ago: March 2014

Victor Carrasco, the 10th Maryland-based jockey to earn an Eclipse Award as top apprentice, won his first stakes as a journeyman by guiding Bold Curlin in the Native Dancer at Laurel. 

Carrasco added his name to the Eclipse Award honor roll alongside Chris McCarron (1974), Ronnie Franklin (1978), Alberto Delgado (1982), Allen Stacy (1986), Kent Desormeaux (1987), Mike Luzzi (1989), Mark Johnston (1990), Jeremy Rose (2001) and Ryan Fogelsonger (2002).

  • Following he passing of steeplechase legend Tom Voss at age 63 that January, friends, fellow trainers, jockeys, and many others who crossed paths with the trainer provided memories in honor of his legacy.

  • Ben's Cat was named 2013 Horse of the Year, older male, sprinter, and turf runner during a 7-year-old season of five wins, a second, two thirds, and $505,350 in eight starts. He became the most decorated Maryland-bred in history as the only three-time Horse of the Year and a 10-time divisional winner. 

  • The influx of established stallions into Pennsylvania was evident in the year-end rankings. Rockport Harbor, who stood one year at Pin Oak Lane Farm in New Freedom before his death in August 2013, topped the general and 2-year-old sires lists by large margins. He was followed by the newly arrived Pin Oak Lane addition Any Given Saturday, E Dubai, Smarty Jones and Jump Start. E Dubai, who moved to the Keystone State for the 2011 season and most recently stood at Northview PA, was to stand in Maryland for the 2014 season, however.

  • Early nominations to the Triple Crown totaled 414, the highest since 449 in 2008. Thirty were Mid-Atlantic breds, including filly Dame Dorothy, owned by Bobby Flay and bred in Pennsylvania by Derry Meeting Farm. 

25 Years Ago: March 1999

Racing royalty Paul Mellon and Henry Clark were remembered after their deaths in February.

Clark, 95, inducted into the National Racing Hall of Fame in 1982, was instrumental in the legacy of the Christiana Stables of Jane duPont Lunger and her husband Harry, for whom he trained major stakes winners such as Obeah and Cyane.

Mellon, 91, was one of the foremost breeders and owners of his time. Racing greats were born at his iconic Rokeby in Upperville, Va., on a regular basis. Among the best were Hall of Famers Arts and Letters and Fort Marcy, champion Key to the Mint, Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero, and Epsom Derby and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Mill Reef.

  • Travis Dunkelberger, at age 21, set all-time racords at Charles Town in 1998, winning 251 races and becoming the first jockey to reach the seven-figure plateau in a single year when his mounts earned $1,082,274. That November, he won six races on a single card, equaling a one-day record shared by John Franklin Northcutt Jr., Orlando Moreno, Phil Grove and Wayne Barnett. From South Dakota, Dunkelberger arrived in West Virginia at 19 and noted, "It's worked out well for me so far."

    Dunkelberger rode his final race Nov. 7, 2015, a victory in the My Sister Pearl Stakes aboard Red Hot Diva, his 3,932nd win from 17,922 rides, a 22 percent win rate.

  • Audrey and Allen Murray's Norquestor was put down in January when foundering after months of treatment for a pulled suspensory, then a bone infection With consecutive years of progeny earnings in excess of $2 million from just five crops to race, the 13-year-old son of Conquistador Cielo who stood at Murmur Farm in Darlington, Md., was book to 50 mares at the time of his death.

    For the Murrays, the loss left a void. "Not only as he important to us financially," said Mrs. Murray, "but we have lost a friend.

    "Norquestor was always such a happy horse. And he was everything you could hope for in a stallion - a great temperament, vigorous, fertile and always a gentleman.

  • The top five stallions in the region in 1998 were Maryland-based, and two earned major national distinction as well.

    Top-ranked Polish Numbers ($3,459,020), whose grass-running offspring contributed $1,607,373 to the total, was fifth on the list of turf sires in North America, and Allen's Prospect ($3,140,610) sired 108 winners - the most of any sire in the nation.

    Polish Numbers' seven stakes winners that year were led by Grade 1 winner and Maryland-bred Horse of the Year Tenski.

  • The annual statistical review revealed the two richest runners of the previous year were Japan-based Virginia-breds - Seeking the Pearl ($854,414) and Tokio Perfect ($812,026). Seeking the Pearl surpassed $3.4 million in career earnings to overtake Paradise Creek and become the richest Virginia-bred of all time. She not only won in group company in Japan, but took the Prix Maurice de Gheest-G1 at Deauville in France. Forty Mid-Atlantic breds won graded/group stakes in 1998, and five were Grade/Group 1 winners. 

50 Years Ago: March 1974

Heartful, bred, owned, and trained by James F. Lewis III, was chalked up as least likely to succeed up until she started racing. 

The 3-year-old Bold Monarch filly was a winner of four of her first five starts, including the Free State Stakes at Bowie. Injuries sustained as a yearling when she ran through a fence left her scarred for life.

On Lewis's low regard for the filly, prior to proving him wrong: "Breeding [Heartful] was just plain stupid luck. As a matter of fact, I remember when she got hurt as a yearling, she was one of two fillies out in that paddock. The other one was a Fleet Nasrullah filly named Maybellene. After the accident, I said to my wife, Penny: 'Well, at least we're lucky it wasn't the Fleet Nasrullah filly that got hurt.'"

A graded stakes winner later in the year, Heartful became a successful broodmare for Lewis. The dam of three stakes winners from five foals, her non-stakes winning daughter Heartful Star produced graded winner and Preakness runner-up Oliver's Twist.

  • The Laurel Futurity, which carried a gross purse of $100,000, attracted 772 nominations for 1974. The largest nominator, Leslie B. Combs, named 43 horses for the race.

    J. Louis LeVesque's L'Enjoleur capped the first of two Canadian Horse of the Year titles with his Laurel Futurity victory over future Eclipse Award winner Wajima while equaling the track record.

  • Alma North, one of the finest race mares bred in Maryland, was retired by her owner Eugene Mori, after winning her final start, the Tuscarora Handicap at Liberty Bell, in January. She was book to Native Dancer's champion son, Raise a Native.

    New Jerseyan Mori, founder and owner of Garden State Park, instead bred his prize mare to his own Twin Time that year. When Mori died in 1975, Alma North visited the best stallions in the world, although her most successful runner was her second foal, the Buckpasser stakes winner Duns Scotus.

75 Years Ago: March 1949

The Maryland Racing Commission concurred with the management of the Maryland Jockey Club in a proposal to cease racing at Pimlico after the season and transfe the dates to Laurel.

The consensus was Laurel was more modern, offered an equally accessible location and stood on a larger plot of acerage, with expansion possible.

  • Ella K. Bryson of Kingsville, Md. had 2-year-old fillies making headlines in Florida. Homebred Make Swing set a world record of 34.40 for 3 furlongs at Hialeah, and recorded her fourth win of the year (by March 1) in the Hialeah Juvenile Stakes. Growing Up carried the Bryson silks when she won Jan. 19. On the strength of that effort, she was sold to W.E. Leach and came back to finish second to Make Swing in the latter's second start.
    Make Swing was a daughter of Swing and Sway, who stood at Janon Fisher's The Caves in Eccleston, Md. 

    Make Swing was stakes-placed later in the year but finished off the board in her five starts at 3 and 4. She and her three producing daughters had a total of 20 foals, all starters, 19 winners.

    Bred in Virginia by David Novick, Growing Up sold as a yearing at Saratoga to G. Ray Bryson, Ella's husband, for $1,400. She won a stakes at 2, equlaing the 4-furlong track record at Gulfstream Park in the Betsy Ross Stakes, and won Jamaica's Correction Handicap at 4. Her three winners from five foals included stakes winner Gallant Lad.

  • Pat Judge visited Mr. and Mrs. Walter A. Edgar's Woodlawn Farm and record: [They] have built up their racing and breeding stock slowly, with the emphasis on quality rather than quantity. They have seven broodmares at the present time and all of them are from excellent racing and producing families. The latest addition to the group is Penny Dare, a homebred daughter of *Challenger II and the stakes winner Penncote. Penny Dare was a winner in the Edgar colors but was injured last year while in training at Laurel and has been retired from racing. She will enter the stud this spring."

    Bred that spring to *Princequillo, Penny Dare produced future stakes winner Prince Dare. He was her only foal, as she died from colic five months later at age 5. Counted among desendants of Prince Dare's daughter Jackie Dare are Horse of the Year Favorite Trick, Belmont Stakes-G1 winner Tiz the Law and millionaire sprinter Favorite Tale.

  • Editor Humphrey Finney was all over the map in mid-January - he flew to Miami Jan. 15, visited Hialeah, flew back to Maryland two days later, was in New York Jan. 20 to sell a Thoroughbred filly at the Plaza Hotel to benefit the Ellin Speyer Memorial Hospital for Animals and two days later was at Hollywood Park to examine 50 of Louis B. Mayer's 2-year-olds to be sold that week. When he left for home, snow necessitated train travel - going through Arizona, 50 inches of snow was on the ground. On Jan. 28, he noted: "Got home this morning, three nights and two days from Los Angeles, which is good going."

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