When Barclay Tagg started training in Maryland about 20 years ago, he was happy to get stalls at Timonium.
This winter, he's been sharing a barn at Gulfstream Park with Shug McGaughey, trainer for the Ogden Phipps family.
Tagg admits it's been euphoric.
He looks down his shed row and sees 28 horses, mostly all stakes and allowance caliber.
Miss Josh, rated the nation's third-best turf mare last year in the Eclipse voting, has had the winter off.
"We missed days training on the grass course because of rain," he said. "She's got such bad feet we can't work on the dirt track. So I've been taking it easy with her."
He expects to have Miss Josh ready to run by mid-summer.
Meanwhile, Grab The Green, owned by Carolyn and Sam Rogers of Leesburg, Va., has been filling in for her quite nicely.
The gray 4-year-old filly won the Black Helen Handicap at Hialeah on Jan. 7 and then finished third in the Suwanee River Handicap at Gulfstream Feb. 12.
The Rogers' other good runner, Splendid Try, is back in training after she fell Jan. 26 in the Joe Namath Handicap.
"She clipped heels in the race, and came back all cut up," Tagg said. "She had a huge hematoma on her hip and another one on her chest. But she didn't fracture anything."
Tagg has had six winners and 11 second-place finishers from 50 starters at the Gulfstream meet, ranking 20th in the trainer standings.
He has won and then placed in stakes with Favored Lady, a Fappiano filly owned by Bill Backer of The Plains, Va., and he also won with the Bonner Farm's Highland Crystal last Wednesday. The half-sister to Miss Josh set a turf course record of 1 minute, 49 1/5 seconds for 9 furlongs.
Tagg has a pair of well-bred 3-year-old colts in the barn, Royal Mountain Inn and Driver O Gold. Royal Mountain Inn is an unraced half-brother to Miss Josh, and Driver O Gold, who finished third in his second start, is a half-brother to Colonel Hill. Driver O Gold, sired by Lines of Power, is owned by Victor DiVivo.
Tagg said he had considered going to Keeneland and then Arlington Park after the Gulfstream meet is over, but has decided to return to Maryland.
"Most of my horses will be back at Laurel by the end of the month," he said. "I have a bunch of 2-year-olds to pick up and applied for 60 stalls. I am keeping a few grass horses down here to run at Calder, but they should also be back in Maryland by mid-April."
Another Maryland-based trainer, Vinnie Blengs, has 12 horses at Gulfstream and also plans to return them to Laurel by April 15.
Blengs had a successful Hialeah meet but has saddled only two winners at Gulfstream.
Blengs said he will keep his entire stable in Maryland through the summer "and then decide where I'm going to go with them."
Blengs said he has had 172 horses claimed from him since he came to Maryland from New England three years ago.
Old home week: You never know who you're going to bump into at a horse park.
Sonny Hine, who used to stable at least part of the year in Maryland and then in New Jersey, is staying permanently in Florida.
Hine, who has 24 horses, is the leading trainer at Gulfstream, winning 20 races from 64 starters. He will soon pick up 18 2-year-olds that are in training in Ocala, Fla.
"I'm 61, and I'm tired of running all over the place," Hine said. "I have a great town house that looks out over the water. I come home after the races and see the ocean and the boats. It's like living on the Riviera."
Hine still has several horses for former Pimlico Race Course owner Ben Cohen. Cohen's good 3-year-old, Coolin It, who won the Maryland Million Juvenile, popped a splint after running fourth in the Spectacular Bid Stakes, but is back in training.
"I'll still have some horses to take on the road," he said. "Hopefully, Technology [Hine's Florida Derby entry] will be shipping to stakes at other tracks, also my good fillies, Miss Legality and Super Doer. I have three or four Maryland Million horses. I'm getting real good reports on a 2-year-old filly sired by Allen's Prospect. She might be coming up to run in Maryland-bred stakes."
One of the hottest 3-year-olds to run at Gulfstream, but who did not go in the Florida Derby, is Alydeed.
The Canadian-bred colt, owned by Kinghaven Farm, is trained by Roger Attfield, a former English steeplechase jockey who has developed other top runners for Kinghaven like With Approval and Izvestia.
Attfield's assistant trainer is Holly Robinson, one of the funniest and best-liked horsewomen in the sport, who used to work for Marylanders Mike Smithwick and Tom Voss.
The Kinghaven outfit is stabled at Payson Park in Stuart, Fla., about 1 1/2 hours from Gulfstream.
Alydeed broke his maiden in his first start last June in a stakes in Canada, then didn't return to the races until last week when he won an allowance race at Gulfstream by 9 1/2 lengths. He goes next in the $500,000 Jim Beam Stakes at Turfway Park on March 28.
Alydeed is by Nijinsky's son, Shadeed, out of a daughter of Alydar.
Attfield is married to Tracy Schaefer, a former Maryland exercise rider who used to gallop horses at Laurel for Charlie Lewis.
D8 Alydeed is Canada's top hope for the Kentucky Derby.