Less-than-classic showing by Testafly mystifies Mills

On Horse Racing

October 25, 1998|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Dale Mills, trainer of Testafly, the 6-5 favorite in last weekend's Maryland Million Classic, says he still doesn't understand why the 4-year-old colt finished ninth in the biggest race of his career.

"You go all year, and you've got to throw in a bad one somewhere along the line," Mills said. "That's the worst he's ever run. He just picked a bad time to do it."

Testafly's next race will likely Mills be the $100,000 1 1/4 -mile Congressional Handicap on Nov. 29 at Laurel Park. But Mills might not be around to saddle the horse. He faces suspension by the New Jersey Racing Commission.

Mills has withdrawn his appeal of the commission's ruling that Testafly tested positive for clenbuterol after finishing third Aug. 30 in the Philip H. Iselin Handicap at Monmouth Park.

Mills insists that Testafly has never been treated with the drug, which clears up respiratory problems. He cannot explain how the drug got into the horse's system. But Mills knows that a trainer is responsible for his horse, and he's prepared to accept his punishment, he says.

If Testafly competes in the Congressional, he may again face Algar, the 8-1 winner of the Classic. Jimmy Murphy, Algar's trainer, says he'll probably enter the 6-year-old gelding in the $100,000 1 1/2 -mile Laurel Turf Cup on Nov. 11, hoping rain forces it off the grass. If it doesn't, Murphy will scratch Algar and likely run him in the Congressional, he says.

Bill Boniface, trainer of Maryland Million Turf winner Winsox, says he'll probably run Winsox in the Laurel Turf Cup or the $100,000 1 1/8 -mile Knickerbocker Handicap, a Grade II turf race Oct. 31 at Aqueduct.

Weather Vane, winner of the Maryland Million Distaff, also might try New York for the first time: the $125,000 First Flight Handicap, a Grade II seven-furlong sprint at Aqueduct. Or, says trainer Dick Delp, she might stay home for the $50,000 seven-furlong Stefanita Stakes at Laurel Park.

Todd Pletcher, the Belmont Park-based trainer of Maragold Princess, winner of the Maryland Million Oaks, says the 3-year-old filly might challenge the males for the first time in the $100,000 1 1/8 -mile Northern Dancer Stakes on Nov. 8 at Laurel Park.

Greenspring Willy, the 3-year-old colt who beat older horses in the Maryland Million Sprint, will surface in another six-furlong race somewhere in the region, says Tony Dutrow, son of the horse's trainer, Dick Dutrow.

Tony says his father is doing well after surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. Tony expects him back at the barn.

"There's nothing standing in the way of my Dad being back in the swing of things real soon," Tony said.

H. Graham Motion, trainer of two Maryland Million winners -- Lonesome Sound in the Ladies and Main Quest in the Starter Handicap -- says he doesn't know when the pair will race next.

The next start for Set the Pace, winner of the Distaff Starter

Handicap, also is uncertain, says her trainer Vernon Allinson. He trains three horses at Bowie. His wife, Alexandra, is their groom.

The two 2-year-old winners will probably show up next in different states: Pulling Punches, winner of the Nursery, in the $50,000 seven-furlong Pennsylvania Futurity on Dec. 5 at Philadelphia Park, and Perfect Challenge, winner of the Lassie, in the Grade III $100,000 1 1/8 -mile Selima Stakes on Nov. 1 or the $60,000 seven-furlong Heavenly Cause Stakes on Dec. 6, both at Laurel Park.

Michael Moran, trainer of Pulling Punches, says he hopes to race the son of Two Punch and Voo Doo Dance in some of the top 3-year-old races next spring.

"He's got a lot of growing to do," Moran said. "But I think he's got the talent to compete in the best races."

Linda Albert, trainer of Perfect Challenge, says that she'd love to see the filly compete next year in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico, but that she's not sure how good the filly is.

"I've never had a good horse before," Albert said, laughing. "I'm not sure I'd know a good one if I saw one."

Happy anniversary

Heads turned Wednesday at Laurel Park when a couple in wedding attire appeared. They were Mary Ann and Tucker Withers, 40 and 51, respectively, celebrating their wedding anniversary.

Fourteen years earlier, they were married in Middleburg, Va. They spent the next day at Laurel Park. They decided to spend their anniversary this year the same way in the same seats on the apron. Mary Ann wore the gown she wore at her wedding. Tucker had to rent a new tuxedo. He couldn't fit into the original.

"Then we were young and foolish," Tucker said, smiling. "Today we're old and foolish."

They live in Aldie, Va., where they operate the Little River Inn, a 10-room bed-and-breakfast. They're longtime racing fans with three children, all members of the Maryland Jockey Club's Pony Pals. Their oldest, 12-year-old Calder, is named after the racetrack.

Still thinking

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