'Highways' takes Leatherbury to end of 5,000 road

May 22, 1993|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

King Leatherbury has his own particular brand of genius.

He admits that he manages rather than trains his stable of 58 racehorses, leaving the mundane details to assistants.

His hands-off style and unconventional methods provoke criticism from some of his colleagues.

But no one can argue with his success.

Yesterday, after a week of carping between Pimlico management and record keepers at the Daily Racing Form whether Leatherbury was about to send out winner No. 4,999, 5,000 or 5,001, Leatherbury saddled what is expected to go into the official record books as his 5,000th career winner.

The milestone victory occurred in the sixth race at Pimlico when a dark bay gelding named Blue Highways rallied from off the pace at nine furlongs on the grass and defeated Moycullen by 5 1/4 lengths.

"I didn't think he was a standout [in the race]," Leatherbury said. "But he won like a standout."

Leatherbury is the first Maryland trainer to achieve 5,000 career wins, and is the third winningest trainer in the United States, behind Dale Baird, who operates out of Mountaineer Park in Chester, W. Va., and Jack Van Berg, headquartered at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif.

Leatherbury, 60, started training 33 years ago after graduating from the University of Maryland and serving in the Army.

Through the years, he has come to be called "King of the Claimers," because of his success in wheeling and dealing with claiming horses, although he has saddled his share of stakes winners.

Blue Highways is typical of Leatherbury's brand of winner. The horse was claimed for $14,500 a couple of starts ago and won for a $35,000 claiming tag yesterday.

"He was a routine claim that I tried on the grass," Leatherbury said. "He just happened to love the turf and is an improving horse."

Once a Leatherbury runner goes off form, the trainer wastes little time in dropping him in class.

Craig Sculos, PR director at Pimlico, said the Daily Racing Form, after disagreeing earlier in the week, has revised its statistics and now concurs that Blue Highways is officially Leatherbury's 5,000th winner.

Horse destroyed after collision

Still Busy, a 4-year-old filly owned by trainer Ann Merryman and her mother, Katharine Merryman, was humanely destroyed yesterday after breaking a shoulder during a morning training session at Pimlico.

Ann Merryman apparently was galloping the filly with another one of her horses when a third horse that was being jogged in the opposite direction bolted and ran into the Merryman runners.

John Key--, Thoroughbred Racing and Protective Bureau agent at Pimlico, said he is preparing a report on the accident, but offered no further comment. Ann Merryman said the filly, a daughter of Assert, was not insured and said she has hired an attorney to represent her in the matter.

'Positive' inter-track meeting

Pimlico/Laurel operator Joe De Francis said he had a "positive meeting" with harness officials at Laurel yesterday and will meet with them again Monday to discuss revisions to the current inter-track agreement between the state's thoroughbred and standardbred tracks.

De Francis said he will shut down the inter-track simulcasting program on Tuesday unless financial terms with Colt Enterprises Ltd., operators of Rosecroft and Delmarva raceways, are reworked.

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