Hal Clagett is going to be at Pimlico Race Course today, giving a loud whoop and a holler.
The 75-year-old lawyer-farmer from Upper Marlboro will be rooting for Ameri Valay, a colt he bred, but no longer owns, to win the Deputed Testamony Stakes.
Although the horse was claimed from him several months ago, Clagett raised the horse on his Weston Farm, and vividly remembers a mix-up in the colt's parentage.
Was Ameri Valay sired by the stallion Carnivalay, the horse that his breeding line now lists as his father, or is his dad a younger stallion named Corridor Key?
"It is an unusual story," Clagett said. "I had sent the mare, Americco's Sphinx, as a 3-year-old maiden to be bred. She had been kicked in the knee as a yearling on the farm. [Trainer] Eddie Gaudet broke her for me, and said that he didn't think she'd stand the rigors of training. So, I decided to breed her."
Americco's Sphinx, from the family of Clagett's well-known homebred, Little Bold John, was first bred to Carnivalay, a son of Northern Dancer who stands at Country Life Farm in Bel Air.
"But then she came back in season," Clagett recalled. "I called Josh [Pons, the farm and stallion manager]. He said that Carnivalay didn't like the mare, and suggested we switch stallions. So this time, we bred her to Corridor Key."
When Ameri Valay was born, the Jockey Club requested a blood test to determine which stallion had fathered the colt. "We thought for sure he was by Corridor Key, but the blood test confirmed he's a Carnivalay," Clagett said. "And, of course, if you look at him today, he looks exactly like his sire.
"I was very, very unhappy when I lost him in a claiming race [at Laurel last November]," Clagett added. "He was my favorite of the 2-year-olds I raised on my farm that year. But he was slow developing. He didn't have the speed of his work mate, Rainbow Prospect, who has since won sprint stakes for me. My trainer, Jerry Robb, figured out that he needed blinkers. But we thought we could get away with running him for a $16,000 tag."
A rival trainer, Leo Ambrogi, had spotted the horse and put in his claim. Ameri Valay won by 11 lengths, in his first start with blinkers.
Three starts later, Ambrogi lost him for $35,000 to his current trainer, King Leatherbury.
"It didn't take King long to find the secret," Clagett said. "He needed lengthening out and that has proved to be his forte. It has been a disappointing loss, but I'm happy he's moving in the right direction. I'm pleased that the Bassfords [Nick and Elaine], who are from Anne Arundel County, have got him and that he's got a top flight trainer."
Clagett said he has Ameri Corridor, a 2-year-old half-brother to Ameri Valay, in training with Robb at the Bowie Training Center. "This colt is by Corridor Key, and so far, he's showing a lot of promise," Clagett said.
NOTES: When first-time starter Boyd Way broke his back in a fall during the fifth race yesterday, it was the fourth horse in about a week that had to be destroyed at Pimlico. The others were Supreme Testimony, Count Buster and Cain's Able. . . . There was one winning ticket yesterday in the Double Triple, which paid $85,853. . . . A bill that limits jockeys' workmen's compensation coverage to riding accidents in the afternoon has been approved by both the Senate and the House of Delegates. Jockeys will now be covered by individual trainer's insurance during morning workout hours. The bill should reduce the annual assessment owners and trainers have to pay for jockeys' workmen's compensation coverage. . . . Pimlico holds its first town meeting for fans at 11:30 a.m. today in the second floor grandstand.