Maryland-bred honors up for grabs this winter

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Ted Black

January 18th, 2019

While many horse racing enthusiasts are already looking forward to the unveiling of the Eclipse Award winners for 2018 division champions and horse of the year, those who follow thoroughbred and standardbred racing in Maryland will soon find out which of those horses will emerge with state-bred division honors and horse of the year.

A glimpse at the various divisions among Maryland-bred thoroughbreds reveals that several horses appear to be locks for trophies disbursed at the second annual Maryland Renaissance Awards dinner on Tuesday, Feb. 12, while several other categories appear more difficult to decipher.

Certainly Knicks Go will be champion Maryland-bred two-year-old male, having won the Grade I Breeders Futurity at Keeneland then finished second to Game Winner in the Breeders Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs before finishing eighth as the favorite in his next outing. Knicks Go is also a finalist for the Eclipse Award for champion two-year-old male, but that honor appears destined for Game Winner, perhaps trainer Bob Baffert's next logical Triple Crown prospect this spring.

Other likely division winners among Maryland-breds include Still Having Fun (3yo male) and Crabcakes (older female), but champion sprinter could go to either Still Having Fun, Laki or Lewisfield and older male could go to Beach View, Laki or Lewisfield and Maryland-bred older horse could go to either Knicks Go, Still Having Fun, Laki or Lewisfield. Despite being just two, Knicks Go looms the favorite for the primary honor since he was the only Grade I winner of the group and topped all state-bred runners in earnings as well.

Among the Maryland-bred trotters and pacers, Courtly Choice (3yo colt pacer), Met's Hall (3yo colt trotter) and Zero Tolerance (2yo filly pacer) were all strong considerations for Dan Patch Awards this winter as their respective champions nationally. In all honesty, Courtly Choice was clearly snubbed for the title of champion three-year-old colt pacer having won both the Grade I Meadowlands Pace and Grade I Little Brown Jug, but yielded the honor to Dorsoduro Hanover.

Courtly Choice, Met's Hall and Zero Tolerance are all deserving of Maryland-bred harness horse of the year honors and local product, Slick Tony, the dominant force in the Delaware Standbred Breeders Fund events and hero of the $25,000 Maryland Invitational against older horses at Rosecroft last month, enjoyed a solid season for owner-breeder-trainer George "Ronnie" Leager. But Courtly Choice should garner the award in this deep group for owner-trainer Blake Macintosh.