Checking up on his flock: Robertson busy at track, too

On Horse Racing

March 01, 1998|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

As the horses entered the starting gate in front of the grandstand before Friday's seventh race at Laurel Park, hardly any fans along the rail watched the horses. They all looked at the man in the plaid sport coat, the man whose face was familiar -- but completely out of place at the track.

Yes, that was Pat Robertson with the binoculars dangling from his neck. Surrounded by men in equally natty attire, the well-known Christian broadcaster and evangelist paid particular attention to the 6 horse, Smashing Review, a 4-year-old daughter of Pleasant Tap.

After the filly finished third, Robertson explained, a bit reluctantly it seemed, that he owned the horse. He said he has ridden horses since boyhood and owned them for years -- jumpers, show horses and racehorses. He said he owns Tega Farm, a breeding operation in Virginia.

As he and his small entourage moved toward the paddock to meet Smashing Review's jockey, Robertson, asked whether the betting aspect of horse racing created a moral dilemma for him, said: "Well, I don't bet. I'm mainly interested in the breeding of horses. In fact, that's why I bought this filly. She's well-bred. I thought she might make a good broodmare."

As for hanging out along the rail, he said this was a rare visit to the track.

After breaking free from this reporter, Robertson engaged a group of beaming fans, one of whom said he had bet Robertson's horse. Never at a loss for words, the evangelist said: "I hope you bet her to show."

Back on track

Frank Douglas, who suffered life-threatening injuries in an August spill at Timonium, began galloping horses last week on the way to what he hopes will be an April comeback at Pimlico.

In August, Douglas was flown by helicopter from Timonium to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center with a severe brain injury. He had been thrown from his horse, and then kicked in the head by another horse.

Doctors weren't sure he would survive the night. When he did, they were almost certain he would never ride again.

But after months of therapy -- and stubborn longing to return -- Douglas, 37, has begun galloping horses in the mornings. After undergoing another round of tests tomorrow and consulting with his doctor, Douglas hopes to begin breezing horses this week and competing in the afternoons next month.

"I'm shooting for opening day [April 1] at Pimlico," Douglas said. "But that's up in the air until I see what the doctor says."

As for galloping horses in the mornings, he said: "You know me. I've been waiting so long to do this. It's time."

Captured on film

Representatives of Fox Sports Net spent two days at Laurel Park last week filming a show about apprentice jockeys. They focused on Jennifer Stisted and Tho Nguyen, young riders hoping to follow in the footsteps of Chris McCarron and Kent Desormeaux, the best-known of numerous successful jockeys who served their apprenticeships in Maryland.

Gary Benthin, a Fox producer from California, said the segment would appear in April -- he didn't yet know the day -- on "Goin' Deep," a weekly sports magazine show. His film crew recorded Stisted and Nguyen working horses in the mornings, competing in the afternoon and talking about their backgrounds and careers.

Fortunately for Nguyen, they also filmed him in the winner's circle. He won the fourth race Wednesday aboard Bartolome.

Forgotten filly

Joe Hickey sent a note pointing out an inaccuracy in my stories about Favorite Trick's 2-year-old season. Turf writers around the country have been wrong about this, too.

We have written that Favorite Trick's 8-for-8 season last year was the best by a 2-year-old since Native Dancer's 9-for-9 in 1952. Hickey points out, correctly, that in 1972 the 2-year-old filly La Prevoyante was 12-for-12.

The Canadian filly, owned by Montreal industrialist Jean-Louis Levesque, was voted 1972 Horse of the Year in Canada and finished second to Secretariat, another 2-year-old, in voting for Horse of the Year in this country.

As turf writers have also written, Favorite Trick is the first 2-year-old winner of an Eclipse award -- Eclipse voting began in 1971 -- for Horse of the Year since Secretariat. I'm pretty sure we're right about that.

47th time is the charm

Also, Joseph V. Herman wrote about a horse he trained in the 1970s, a 4-year-old filly named October Babe. She broke her maiden at Pimlico on April 9, 1979 -- on her 47th try. Herman even enclosed a copy of a photo that appeared in The Sun the next day.

Last month, I wrote a story about Plenty of Proof, a 5-year-old mare who won at Laurel in her 37th start.

From Darlington, Herman wrote of October Babe: "I had claimed the horse several races earlier for an owner who liked her consistency. She always finished in the money, but would never stick her head in front.

"On this day at Pimlico it was raining, the track was sloppy and I believe she had so much mud in her eyes that she could not see the other horses well enough to stop.

"I lost her soon after this and she wound up in Ohio. I don't think she ever won another race."

'Racing to History'

March 2, 1966: Kelso, Horse of the Year from 1960 to 1964, ran his last race, finishing fourth at Hialeah Park.

March 6, 1988: Julie Krone became the winningest female jockey in history when she won her 1,205th race on the filly Squawter in the ninth race at Aqueduct.

"Racing to History" courtesy of Thoroughbred Racing Communications.

Pub Date: 3/01/98

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