Maryland-bred honors up for grabs

Profile Picture: Ted Black

Ted Black

January 13th, 2018

While many thoroughbred racing enthusiasts are awaiting the results of the Eclipse Award balloting, although most of the division winners and horse of the year seem indisputable, those who determine the Maryland-bred division champs and horse of the year were recently asked to submit their choices for the first annual Renaissance Awards, a joint venture among the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, Maryland Thoroughbred Horseman's Association, Maryland Jockey Club and Maryland Racing Media Association.

Two-year-old colt or gelding - Whirlin Curlin - In a division where only four juveniles made the list of finalists, this Gary Capuano trainee won two stakes - albeit at big prices - and gets the nod over Clever Mind, who won the Maryland Million Nursery in his career debut then finished third in the Maryland Juvenile Futurity behind Whirlin Curlin.

Two-year-old filly - Limited View - This inexpensive daughter of Freedom Child won four of six starts for trainer John Salzman, Jr., including both the Maryland Million Lassie and Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship and is the obvious choice over Enchanted Star and Fanniebellefleming.

Three-year-old colt or gelding - Just Howard - This son of English Channel named in honor of his late breeder, Howard Bender, won dominant on the turf and won three straight stakes on the grass, including the Grade III Commonwealth before finishing six in the Grade II Twilight Derby and ninth in the Grade I Hollywood Derby. He gets the nod over Bonus Points, the Maryland Million Classic hero whose best efforts were on the main track and he finished a game second to Just Howard in the $75,000 Caveat Stakes at Laurel on the grass.

Three-year-old filly - Crabcakes - This daughter of Great Notion posted a 4-3-1 slate and earned over $215,000 for trainer Bernie Houghton and late owner-breeder Binnie Houghton's Buckingham Farm. Crabcakes won both the Miss Disco and the Maryland Million Distaff Handicap during a three-race win streak last fall before finishing third as the 3-2 choice in a minor stakes at Mahoning Valley in Ohio.

Older male - It's The Journey - This Michael Trombetta trainee won five of 11 starts and earned $175,000, reeling off four straight victories at one point. One month ago Blu Moon Ace looked to be a mortal lock in this category and he could still win the honor posthumously, but he was stripped of his second-place finish in the Grade III, $300,000 Frank DeFrancis Memorial Dash for a medication violation and then broke down and was euthanized as the 7-5 choice in the $200,000 Fabulous Strike Stakes at Penn National.

Older female - My Magician - In a category that includes distaffers who were good on dirt and on turf and in sprints and routes, this Maryland-bred daughter of Street Magician gets the nod due to winning four of her last seven starts for trainer Claudio Gonzalez and earning over $265,000. She should get the honor over turf specialists Everything Lovely and Bawlmer Hon.

Sprinter - Crabcakes - In a category that includes male and female runners good on dirt and turf, this filly gets the nod over My Magician, who she edged in the Maryland Million Distaff Handicap. Again, Blu Moon Ace appeared a cinch for this title after taking the Maryland Million Sprint and running second in the DeFrancis Dash, but he was stripped of that purse money and then broke down and was euthanized following the $200,000 Fabulous Strike and should get little consideration now posthumously.

Turf - Just Howard - Dominated the sophomore grass runners and won the Grade III Commonwealth before finishing off the board against considerably tougher in California. Should edge Everything Lovely, Ginger N Rye, Phlash Phelps and Ten Carat Rock for the title.

Horse of the year - Just Howard - This title is going to be close since Just Howard should get the nod as champion three-year-old colt and champion turf horse, while Crabcakes should take home the titles for champion three-year-old filly and champion sprinter. Just Howard won a Grade III, so that should tilt things in his favor. Again, Blu Moon Ace looked a serious contender for this title after winning the Maryland Million Sprint comfortably after running second in the DeFrancis Dash, but his post race positive and break down in the Fabulous Strike should eliminate from consideration on most ballots.

Local scribes who cover harness racing in the region have already tabbed Devious Man as Maryland-bred horse of the year following a superb 2017 campaign when he was second in a pair of Grade I events and banked over $1 million for trainer Julie Miller. Several Maryland-breds are already off to a good start in 2018.

In fact, this past week alone at Dover Downs, Ponderingjacksfame (Ross Wolfenden), Brenda's Shadow (Victor Kirby) and Soda Pump (Tim Tetrick) all prevailed in overnight events at the Delaware five-eighths mile oval. Ponderingjacksfame, a four-year-old Ponder gelding owned and bred by Jim Magno and Joe Fonte, forged a 36-1 shocker in 1:52.2 on Thursday, Brenda's Shadow scored as the 3-5 choice in 1:52.2 on Wednesday for trainer-driver Kirby and fellow Winbak Farm product Soda Pump prevailed as the tepid choice in 1:56 on Tuesday.