When Cigar is crowned Horse of the Year on Feb. 9 in San Diego, the Pons family of Bel Air will share heavily in the accomplishment. Cigar won 10 straight races and $4,819,800 last year.
"It's phenomenal for a horse to win $5 million and not be a Triple Crown horse," said Mike Pons of Country Life Farm, where Cigar was bred. "But he missed the series when he was hurt as a 2-year-old and had a chip removed from his knee."
Cigar spent his formative months at Country Life, thanks to the Pons' strong ties with Allen Paulson, the horse's owner.
"My uncle got to sit on Man O' War and being around Cigar was a similar kind of thing," Pons said. "He's the first Maryland-bred to be Horse of the Year in 55 years. That means somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 foals before it happened again."
With the elimination of the Lasix barns at Maryland tracks and widespread compliance to voluntary guidelines, state horsemen now have considerable latitude in the use of the anti-bleeding diuretic.
It is an issue that has come before the Maryland Racing Commission, been referred to its medical committee and been debated widely.
But there isn't likely to be any change made in the administration of Lasix when the commission meets next month. As long as dosages are not exceeded, trainers will not face penalties.
"Basically, Lasix is being treated as any other drug now," said Alan Foreman, attorney for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. "If it is being used properly, there isn't a need for a whole, bureaucratic process.
"You can delete all regulations when people are adhering to guidelines. Now, trainers can treat their horses as they see fit."
That means the medication can be administered through the veins or the animal's musculature.
The approach to Lasix use is "not coming from the horsemen, but from the commission," Foreman said. "They're willing to go along as long as they're getting this kind of compliance."
Keeping it simple
The multi-state licensing program brokered by Foreman will go into effect this week, streamlining the process horsemen have to undergo to race in neighboring states.
The innovation will eliminate duplicate fingerprinting and enable owners and trainers to compete in Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware simply by filling out a short form. Affected are some 20,000 thoroughbred and Standardbred horsemen who compete in more than one of the states.
Interest in breeding to Concern is coming from as far as away as California.
"There are a lot of inquiries and we have not closed the book," said Linda Bench of Northview Stallion Station in Cecil County, where Concern will stand for $10,000 for a live foal.
Concern will begin covering mares when breeding season starts next month. The season runs until July.
The 1994 Breeders' Cup Classic winner was retired to stud in late autumn. He was the first Maryland-bred to earn more than $3 million, and was the state's Horse of the Year in 1994.
"He's doing quite well. He has settled in nicely," said Bench.
Facing big odds
Rosecroft Raceway, facing stiff competition from Dover Downs and the Delaware slot machines, reopens Thursday with a Thursday-through-Sunday schedule until March 30.
It will be the first prolonged head-to-head battle Rosecroft has fought with Dover, where purses are being upgraded drastically by slot revenues.
A harbinger came in the final few days of December when the number of horses available to run in Maryland dropped steeply, most going to Delaware in anticipation of higher purses.
?3 Rosecroft was closed to live racing in January.