Two minutes before post time for the Queen Empress Stakes, Kentucky Gov. Brereton Jones called the press box at Pimlico Race Course.
He had a simple request: Could he listen to the call of the race?
A filly that the governor bred and sold for $50,000 as a yearling last year was in the lineup of yesterday's opening-day Pimlico stakes. Named Port of Silver, she was the 9-5 favorite in the 13-horse field.
Like any horse breeder, Jones was eager to find out if one of his homebreds had won another stakes.
The sound system malfunctioned in the press box, but in-house handicapper Kim Goodwin, a transplanted Kentuckian, improvised and called the race for the governor.
Despite being briefly passed at the eighth pole by Morphonyness, Port of Silver dug back in and held off a late rally by Haggles 'N Hassles to beat that filly by a half-length.
Morphonyness finished third.
"When that other horse passed her, she got mad and took off again," said Jean-Luc Samyn. The 35-year-old, French-born jockey flew in from Belmont Park to ride Port of Silver.
At the top of the stretch, Port of Silver caught pace-setter Dover Time, a turf front-runner who emulates the style of her half-brother, Older But Smarter.
"I thought I was going to win easy," Samyn said. But then he was caught by Morphonyness. After repelling that challenge, Samyn and Port of Silver then had to hold off the late run by Haggles 'N Hassles.
"It was a gutsy race," Samyn said.
It was the third Maryland stakes win for trainer Rick Violette, who is headquartered at Belmont Park. He plans to run Port of Silver in the Miss Grillo Stakes at Belmont Park and then supplement her at a cost of $12,500 to the Selima Stakes at Laurel on Oct. 18.
Port of Silver is owned by Harvey Vogel of St. Paul, Minn. He credits Virginia bloodstock agent Louise "Weedie" McLean for selecting Port of Silver for him.
Port of Silver earned $34,815 in the one-mile grass stakes for 2-year-old fillies and increased her career total in four races to $57,855.
NOTES: Apprentice Billy Moorefield was the only jockey to win two races on yesterday's Pimlico opener. The Baltimore-born rider scored in the second race with Roanoke's Image and in the fifth race with the 2-year-old filly, Vallation. Vallation is eligible for the Sept. 26 Maryland Million race for juvenile fillies. . . . A total of $373,441 was bet on the Pimlico card at nine sites, a record since Pimlico-Laurel have been exporting their race cards. The figure pleased track operator Joe De Francis. "I think it was great for a Thursday afternoon," he said. De Francis added that yesterday's card was one of the best weekday cards in memory. . . . Trainer Ben Perkins Jr. is thinking of running Mrs. Adelaide Riggs' 2-year-old colt, Wild Zone, in the Arlington-Washington Futurity. . . . Long-time Bowie-based trainer Lou Nichols died Tuesday after a long illness. . . . The deadline for pre-entries for the Maryland Million is tomorrow. More than 125 horses are expected to be entered in the 12 races.