When trainer Clinton Bratton claimed the filly Ellin B. for $8,500 a couple of years ago, he was bursting with pride after he tried the horse on the turf and she became an established grass runner, earning more than $70,000 for his longtime client, John Cirincione.
But Bratton was absent at Pimlico Race Course yesterday when Ellin B. achieved her greatest success.
The mare, now 5, won the $55,925 Lady Baltimore Stakes as an 11.70-1 long shot and sparked a $1,739.75 National Best Seven pay-off, scoring as the only long shot in the seven-race national bet.
It was Cirincione's first stakes win after owning a one- or two-horse stable for 18 years. The retired Baltimorean explained that Bratton was attending his daughter's wedding, which forced him to miss the race.
It was a sweet victory for jockey Clarence "Jo Jo" Ladner, who has ridden Ellin B. in her past six starts. His other 1994 stakes mount, Robert Meyerhoff's Broad Gains, has been sidelined for the summer after undergoing ankle surgery.
Ellin B. has had a long history of near misses and troubled trips. Yesterday she rallied from last place in the eight-horse field, coming from about 12 lengths off a slow pace set by jockey Andrea Seefeldt on Meyerhoff's favored Tennis Lady.
"I knew there was no pace and that they had slowed it down pretty good," Ladner said. "I was fortunate to get by and wear them down."
Canadian filly Hey Hazel, from the Roger Attfield stable, made a dynamic late run on the outside under Kenny Skinner, but missed catching Ellin B. by a half length. Nezzie Berlin finished third, another 2 1/4 lengths behind Hey Hazel. Tennis Lady faded to a well-beaten fifth.
Ellin B. is not the only Cinderella horse among the offspring of her dam, Tenum. Her half-sister, Gilded Set, was sold for $1 after breaking down as a young horse. But she came back for her new owners and won more than $280,000, winning the Chrysanthemum and Sensational handicaps. Gilded Set was runner-up to Logan's Mist in last year's Lady Baltimore Stakes.
Yesterday's second National Best Seven wager produced a total pool of $224,849.50, about $150,000 less than the inaugural pool, on Memorial Day. But the decrease was expected by officials of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, who sponsor the wager. Next Saturday, the program will be expanded to a 90-minute format and will include the 126th running of the Belmont Stakes.
The winning Best Seven combination yesterday was 2-1-4-3-1-4-4. There were 61 perfect tickets which had all seven winners. The payoff for a 50-cent bet was $1,739.75. In addition, there were 5,114 consolation tickets with six of seven winners. Each paid $9.85 for a 50-cent wager.
Yesterday's Best Seven winners were all favorites, except Ellin B. They were Apelia (Genuine Risk Stakes, Belmont Park), Score A Birdie (Carry Back Stakes, Calder Race Course), Nine Keys (Monmouth Budweiser Breeders' Cup, Monmouth Park), Ellin B., Lockstockandhouse (John D. Hertz Stakes, Arlington International Racecourse), Cut The Charm (Azalea Stakes, Calder) and Slide Landing (Good Life Stakes, Ak-Sar-Ben).
Of the three Maryland thoroughbreds that ran in out-of-state stakes yesterday, Harry Meyerhoff's Sunny Sunrise, ridden by Rick Wilson, fared best. He finished second in the Suffolk Downs Budweiser Breeders' Cup, beaten 10 lengths by Wallenda.
At Monmouth Park, Pimlico Distaff winner Double Sixes, ridden by Edgar Prado, finished last in the six-horse Monmouth Budweiser Breeders' Cup field.
Although Robert Meyerhoff's horses failed to win the Suffolk Downs and Pimlico stakes yesterday, Meyerhoff ranks fourth nationally among all owners through May 22. His horses have won 17 of 58 starts and more than $1 million.