Looking Back

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

The Maryland Bred Fund celebrated 50 years. In 1962, House Bill 106 created the Maryland Bred Fund, rewarding the state’s Thoroughbred breeders and owners by increasing the pari-mutuel wagering takeout one percent and earmarking the additional revenue to purses and bonuses for horses born in the state. The move created the first state-bred bonus program in the United States and immediately upgraded Maryland’s Thoroughbred industry. The legislative move lifted an industry and launched a renaissance, changing the landscape of Thoroughbred racing forever.

  • Shortly after winning her final start and being retired from racing, Brazilian Wedding returned to competition and carried eventer Eric Dierks to victory in the Retired Racehorse Trainer Challenge.

    The trainer challenge was a venture of the Retired Racehorse Training Project, founded by Maryland Horse Council president Steuart Pittman. Trainers had five weeks of at-home training before returning to the Pennsylvania Horse World Expo in Harrisburg to show off their progress in front of the judges – top-level eventer James Wofford, CANTER Mid-Atlantic founder Allie Conrad and author Alex Brown.

    Dierks chose Brazilian Wedding for the challenge, and Pat Dale’s then 6-year-old mare became a fan favorite as she showed off her willing disposition and athletic build. The Canadian-bred daughter of Milwaukee Brew started her career in her home country and wound up making several Mid-Atlantic stops, including her final career start – a $4,500 claiming win at Charles Town in December 2011 for trainer Kevin Patterson.

  • For the 20th time in his long career, Who’s the Cowboy stood in the winner’s circle, having just captured a $35,360 optional claiming race at Penn National in February. By the late Sleeter Farm stallion Intensity, Who’s the Cowboy was out of the Better Arbitor mare Image’s Image. His older sister, Eleven North, was a three-time New Jersey-bred champion who had a stakes race named after her.

    Who’s the Cowboy made his debut as a 2-year-old in 2004, placed in three stakes at Monmouth and Meadowlands that year, and captured his first stakes, the Rumson, in 2005. He won four consecutive stakes in 2006 and placed in five stakes in 2007. He added two more stakes wins in 2008 and competed through the 2013 season.

    In 88 starts, Who’s the Cowboy finished with those 20 wins and 30 placings and earnings of $1,138,867. He was profiled – along with his sister – in Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred’s Pensioner on Parade feature in November 2020.

  • Longtime Maryland owner/breeder Sondra Bender died Feb. 22 after a long battle with uterine cancer. Sondra and her husband and racing partner, Howard Bender, were Maryland’s Breeder of the Year from 2001 to 2003. Sondra herself won five Maryland Million races as an owner, four as a breeder.

    In 2012, Bender’s horses won 13 stakes and more than $1.3 million. The Benders and their trainer, Larry Murray, enjoyed the success of many Maryland-bred champions, including La Reine’s Terms, Secret Odds, and Promenade Girl, Saratoga graded stakes winner King’s Nest, and dozens of other homebreds launched from their Glade Valley Farm in Frederick, Md. The Benders were married for 60 years.

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