LAUREL -- Jimmy Woods was next to President Ford when Ford pulled one of his gaffes while boarding Marine One, the presidential helicopter.
"We were on the red carpet, with President Ford walking up the stairs," said Woods, recalling his days as a member of the Presidential Honor Guard. "He came up to the doorway and waffled his head right on the top.
"You wanted to die laughing, but you knew you couldn't."
Woods, 36, can laugh now. Long gone are those Army days. Gone, too, are his days of frustration, when he flipped burgers at a fast-food chain and the Bowie Race Course backstretch kitchen.
"I was a jockey's agent for a long time, too," Woods said yesterday at Laurel Race Course. "But I wasn't going anywhere, and I just wasn't happy."
Thanks mostly to one rejuvenated horse, Woods has undertaken a training career that, he said, "is all I wanted to do anyway." The horse is 8-year-old Bolting Holme, a former New York stakes winner who has 10 victories this year.
"Homer," as Woods calls him, is a heavy favorite in today's fourth race at Laurel. A victory would put him in a tie for what is believed to be the most wins in North America this year.
Bolting Holme has posted most of his victories in starter-allowance events. He became eligible for those restricted races in January by starting in a $5,000 claiming race at Mountaineer Park, a race in which he was returning from a layoff of 2 years, 10 months.
That long a layoff usually results in disappointment or disaster, but that hasn't been the case for Bolting Holme. He won at Mountaineer before reeling off nine wins in 15 subsequent starts. His most recent start was Saturday at Charles Town, and it resulted in Woods' first stakes triumph.
Bolting Holme is the star of Woods' small Bowie-based stable, but Woods has done enough with his other runners to win two percentage titles this year. He won a $1,000 bonus at Pimlico Race Course last spring for saddling 44 percent winners (7-for-16) and $5,000 as top in-the-money trainer (19-for-25) at the recent Atlantic City Race Course meet.
Woods hopes Bolting Holme will get a second chance at Jilsie's Gigalo, who has 11 victories, including one in their only prior meeting, a sloppy six-furlong race at Pimlico.
"Homer doesn't like slop too much," Woods said. "Jilsie's Gigalo isn't eligible for starter races here anymore, but I'd love to hook him somewhere else. Or maybe we could have a match race here."
* Sunday's Ciga Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe simulcast at Laurel could present interesting circumstances. With a limit of 14 betting interests at Laurel, a huge lineup -- 22 starters are expected -- will cause Laurel to group horses with saddlecloths No. 14 and upward in a mutuel field.
Usually, a mutuel field is formed by the horses thought by the track handicapper to be weakest. But even if all the favorites draw outside, Laurel has no choice but to group them together. Such a prospect could make the field a huge favorite.
* The Double Triple hasn't been won through the first 10 days of the Laurel meeting. Long shots in both the third and fifth races yesterday boosted the carry-over pool to $108,484.90.
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