It was a special time at Country Life Farm last week. Phones were ringing with people calling to make inquiries about breeding to Allen's Prospect, the newest hero of Maryland breeding.
It's not been this heady at Country Life since 1961, when sires from that farm accounted for the entire Triple Crown. That year, Carry Back won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. He was a son of Saggy, from Country Life.
Sherluck, who scored a big upset in the Belmont Stakes, was a son of Country Life stallion Correspondent.
The farm has gone through a dry spell since then but has emerged with two sensational stallions, Allen's Prospect and Carnivalay.
Josh Pons, who manages the farm, which is just 1 1/2 miles from downtown Bel Air, for his family, hasn't set a new fee for Allen's Prospect, the stallion who is the sire of two Maryland Million winners. But he said he's thinking about it.
"Our fields are full of little Allen's Prospects," Pons said last week. "We've got weanlings, yearlings by him and we've mares in foal to him. So if he really gets hot, we've got plenty of relatives.
"He's third in the country among freshman sires right now."
Allen's Prospect's first crop is racing this year in 2-year-old races.
The latest excitement is over the 1-2 finish by Ameri Allen and Ritchie Trail in the $100,000 USF&G Maryland Lassie for 2-year-old fillies and the victory by Xray in the $100,000 Crown Central Petroleum Maryland Nursery, for 2-year-old colts.
Xray is owned by Allen Paulson, who paid $565,000 for Allen's Prospect as a yearling. Paulson still retains 10 shares of the syndicate that owns Allen's Prospect. Country Life also owns 20 shares.
"Mr. Paulson couldn't make it to Pimlico Sunday," Pons said. "He breeds lots of his mares to Allen's Prospect, then has them sent to his Brookside Farm in Versailles, Ky."
Should Xray do well this fall in New York, Country Life could emerge as a national name again.
"He's got great bloodlines," Pons said. "You ought to see his racing record. He could fly. He only raced for about four months in 1985, but what races! He ran second to Pancho Villa at Santa Anita, and when he broke his maiden out there, his fractions were 21 [seconds for the quarter-mile], 44 [seconds for a half-mile], 56 [5 furlongs], and the final time [for 6 furlongs] was 1:08 3/5.
"Altogether he won three, was second twice and third once. In his other start, he was in front and didn't bother with the turn. He bolted, then was eased."
There are about 65 thoroughbreds at Country Life these days. Four are stallions.
Allen's Prospect is a son of Mr. Prospector, the industry's leading sire of 1987 and 1988. Mr. Prospector has turned out to be a good sire of sires.
Woodman, the nation's leading freshman sire, is by Mr. Prospector. Meadowlake, second among the freshman sires, is by Hold Your Peace.
"We've been trying to stay away from Two Punch," Pons said, referring to the highly successful sire by Mr. Prospector. Two Punch stands at Northview Station, the old Windfields Farm. "But Northview is like shopping at Tiffany's," Pons said.
A service to Allen's Prospect cost $3,000 for that first year, and it has remained the same since then. Indications are that next year it should increase.
*Maryland racing officials believe that the number of jockeys making appeals of stewards' rulings will be reduced sharply as the result of a rule that just went into effect.
The new rule doesn't discourage appeals. Jockeys who want to challenge a stewards' decision, usually a suspension, can still complain to the Maryland Racing Commission and get a hearing.
When appeals are lodged, it follows that a stay must be given so that jockeys can continue to ride until the appeal is heard.
Maryland's new rule, however, is designed to keep jockeys from taking advantage of the system. Riders who want to delay a suspension in order to keep engagements on certain horses or to continue riding for a certain time period will be thwarted.
In Maryland now, nothing is changed if a rider appeals, gets the stay and appears at a hearing. But if he circumvents the process by dropping the appeal and prepares to accept the penalty at a less costly time, that decision will cost him an extra three days' suspension and a $250 fine.
Jockey Anthony DeSilva was the first to be affected by the rule. He was given seven days off for a riding infraction. He appealed and obtained a stay, then continued to ride elsewhere. When Atlantic City closed, DeSilva dropped the appeal and was ready to take the suspension.
The stewards gave him a 10-day suspension and posted an announcement that the rider who drops an appeal may face the extra days off and a $250 fine.
*Baron de Vaux, who was opted for the Molson Million at Woodbine last weekend instead of the $100,000 Maryland Turf on Sunday at Pimlico Race Course, earned $200,000 for finishing second.