Riggs, 84, loads up thoroughbred talent Woods of Windsor seeks juvenile title

December 05, 1992|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

She loved tennis.

And is still considered a wicked bridge player.

But the most fun Adelaide Riggs gets out of life is from her horses.

The 84-year-old sportswoman has accumulated quite a group of thoroughbreds in the past few years. Today one of her homebred colts, Woods of Windsor -- named after the European fragrance that her sister, who lives in Paris, lavishes on her -- could start as the favorite in the $125,000 Maryland Juvenile Championship at Laurel Race Course.

Another one of her precocious 2-year-olds, Wild Zone, who is now resting on the farm, won or placed in four stakes this year and is regarded as one of the quickest members of the juvenile crop of 1992.

But instead of going the classic route, Wild Zone will be kept at sprint distances as a 3-year-old and is scheduled to start his sophomore season in the Swift Stakes on Feb. 20 at Aqueduct.

It is Woods of Windsor that could be Mrs. Riggs' 1993 Triple Crown hopeful.

Horsemen who see the handsome colt working out at the Bowie Training Center are struck by his presence and talent.

"We are asking a lot of him to make his first start around two turns in a stakes race," said Dr. Michael Cavey, Mrs. Riggs' adviser and partner in her bloodstock activities.

Woods of Windsor is a son of Woodman, sire of 1991 Preakness winner Hansel. Woods of Windsor has been second in both of his career starts, including a runner-up finish to Secret Odds in the Devil's Bag Stakes.

Mrs. Riggs thought so much of the colt as a yearling that she

refused to sell him at the Keeneland (Ky.) Summer Sales, even when the bidding exceeded $400,000.

People who know Mrs. Riggs best would love nothing more than to hear her trainer, Benny Perkins, exclaim to her in the tradition of a Carl Nafzger at Churchill Downs next May: "Mrs. Riggs! Mrs. Riggs! You've won the Derby!"

She, of course, regards all the fuss as mere fluff. "The horse has still got to win a race," she said.

But Cavey relates a telling story. "She asked me the other day how old Mrs. [Frances] Genter was when she won the Derby [in 1990 with Unbridled]."

Genter was 91, Cavey told her.

"Well," she said, "I have seven more years to go."

For 53 years, Adelaide Riggs has lived on a lovely 540-acre stretch of farmland called "Happy Retreat" near the Howard County crossroads village of Daisy.

She grew up in Connecticut and then Long Island, a member of a distinguished family.

Her mother, Marjorie Meriweather Post, was an heir to the Post Cereal fortune and owned magnificent estates such as Hillwood in Washington and Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach.

L Her niece is Glenn Close, the Academy Award-winning actress.

"I'm the homebody of the group," Mrs. Riggs said. "Probably the only member of my family to own just one home."

In 1948, she married Howard County horseman Augustus Riggs IV, her third husband.

During this period, Mrs. Riggs became an internationally acclaimed canine authority, the first woman to judge the terrier group at the Westminster Dog Show and also to judge England's premier dog show at Crufts.

Meanwhile her husband ran the horse operation at Happy Retreat, breeding hunters and jumpers and such flat stakes pTC winners as Best Contract and Hussar, a mother-son combination that won the Maryland Futurity, forerunner of today's Juvenile Championship.

But it wasn't his style to pay a lot of money for a horse.

Said longtime friend Henry Clark, who will compete against Woods of Windsor today with his own homebred, Olney: "Gus Riggs wouldn't pay over $500 for a mare. I'd say 'Gus, you've got no stock. You've got to buy some [quality] fillies. And he'd say 'No, they're too expensive.' "

Augustus Riggs died in 1975. Five years ago, at age 79, Mrs. Riggs began a complete make-over of Happy Retreat with Cavey's help.

Today the fields are filled with 44 horses, including 17 broodmares, daughters of Northern Dancer, Alydar and In Reality in foal to such stallions as Forty Niner and El Gran Senor. In addition to Woods of Windsor and Wild Zone, Mrs. Riggs has 2-year-olds sired by Seattle Slew and Secretariat and owns a quarter interest of the Alydar colt, Alydannon, who is trained in England.

She has built a state-of-the art training barn, new broodmare barns, a half-mile training track and acquired, along with Cavey, Lucien Laurin's old training center in Holly Hill, S.C.

Mrs. Riggs had gone through a succession of trainers, but then found the one horseman, Ben Perkins, early this year with whom she felt she could entrust her stable.

"We had gotten to the point where we were about to give up. We were just going to breed and sell," Cavey said. "Then we met Benny, and he salvaged the operation."

After acquiring her first racehorse 63 years ago in 1929, Mrs. Riggs has had her best year ever in 1992. Her horses have won 15 races, including winning or placing in nine stakes and have earned $374,515 through Nov. 30.

Cavey said the best is yet to come.

He surveys Mrs. Riggs' weanling crop sired by some of the finest Kentucky stallions and describes it as "spectacular."

"Just wait," he added, "until 1995."

Facts and figures

What: Seventh running of the Maryland Juvenile Championship

Where: Laurel Race Course

When: Today, 10th race, probable post is 3:45 p.m.

Distance: 1 1/16th miles

Purse: $125,000

Field: 10 Maryland-bred 2-year-old colts and geldings, includes three supplementary entries -- Loving Corkey, Woods of Windsor, Olney -- at $6,500 each. Two stakes winners, P. J. Higgins and Domus Pacis, head the lineup, but actual post-time favorite could be Woods of Windsor.

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