Preakness portraits

Getting horse to the starting gate of the Preakness takes the effort of a lot of people who have dedicated their lives to horses and the racing industry

124th Preakness

May 15, 1999|By MIKE KLINGAMAN


Name: Marshall W. Silverman

Maryland Ties to Preakness: Spartan Cat (6th, 1998).

Role: To untested yearlings, Marshall Silverman is Mr. Manners. He has broken thousands of spirited young thoroughbreds, teaching them to accept a rider, to behave. "Never had a horse I couldn't break," says Silverman, of New Freedom, Pa. "The trick is to move at the animal's pace. You don't want to jerk all of the heart out of them." Spartan Cat was relatively easy to break, he says, "considering his ornery temperament. He was all-colt, all right -- but precocious enough that he wanted to learn."


Name: Wayne Belt

Maryland Ties to Preakness: Oliver's Twist (2nd, 1995).

Role: Oliver's Twist gave his farrier fits. "The horse had four odd feet, all of different proportions, and some very narrow heels," says Wayne Belt, the blacksmith from Street who shod the colt. He spent hours trimming the animal's hooves and balancing them so that Oliver's Twist would run evenly. Because a horse's feet are always growing, a farrier's work is never done. Each month, most racehorses receive foot inspections and a new set of shoes. "My job is to keep those hooves aligned like the wheels of a car," Belt says.


Name: Bill Boniface

Maryland Ties to Preakness: Escambia Bay (7th, 1981), Deputed Testamony (1st, 1983), Parfaitement (8th, 1983), Oliver's Twist (2nd, 1995).

Role: Each time he begins schooling another 2-year-old, Bill Boniface aims for the Preakness. Never mind that the race is a year off, the Harford County trainer says, "You try to map out a plan where, by the third Saturday in May, the horse will be at his peak." Though a trainer manages every detail of the animal's life, he cannot gauge desire. In the 1983 Preakness, Boniface saddled both Parfaitement, with its fancy pedigree, and the iron-willed Deputed Testamony, who won. "You can run a lot of a horse's statistics on a computer," the trainer says, "but what that computer doesn't show is its heart."


Name: Sam Davis

Maryland Ties to Preakness: Captain Bodgit (3rd, 1997).

Role: At 5: 30 a.m., Sam Davis can be found galloping horses in the pre-dawn mist at the BowieTraining Center. Twenty minutes a horse. Twelve horses a day. Seven days a week. It's a thankless, behind-the-scenes a job, and one which Davis loves. "We're the ones who get the horses to the races so the jocks can ride them," says the 33-year-old Jamaican exercise rider. His favorite mount? Captain Bodgit, "an awesome horse who breezed so fast, the wind would clean my eyes out when I rode him."


Name: Arlene Kushner

Maryland Ties to Preakness: Fighting Notion (5th, 1990).

Role: Owning a racehorse is easy, says Arlene Kushner of Rockville. "You just buy the animal and hope it pays for itself so you can enjoy the sport." Upkeep and trainer's fees can run $2,000 a month, but it's worth it, says Kushner, who bought Fighting Notion for $25,000 at auction in Timonium. "He led the Preakness for the first mile and gave us the highlight of our lives." She mourns the loss of the thoroughbred, who died in a barn fire four years ago. "So few owners get the chance we did. That horse brought us so much pleasure."

JOCKEY Name: Donnie Miller

Maryland Ties to Preakness: Deputed Testamony (1st, 1983), S.S. Hot Sauce (10th, 1984), I am the Game (4th, 1985), Miracle Wood (5th, 1986).

Role: It's the hot seat in more ways than one. "Jockeys tend to get far too much credit or blame for a race," says Donnie Miller, of Catonsville, who rode for 16 years. His 2,900 victories included "maybe five races where I made a horse win." A jockey's impact is greatest in Triple Crown events, where he is more likely to fold under pressure, says Miller: "What I recall most about winning the Preakness is crossing the finish line and thinking, `Thank God I didn't screw up.' "


Name: Dr. Robert Vallance

Maryland Ties to Preakness: Ecole Etage (4th, 1973), Cormorant (4th, 1977), Spectacular Bid (1st, 1979), Thirty Eight Paces (4th, 1981), Aloma's Ruler (1st, 1982), Linkage (2nd, 1982), Broad Brush (3rd, 1986), Private Terms (4th, 1988), Concerto (6th, 1997).

Role: Bob Vallance sees patients with colds and colic. He stitches wounds and stabilizes fractures. If a horse should break down during the Preakness, the track veterinarian would rush to his aid. "Ours is an intense specialty," says Vallance, of Laurel, who has workedMaryland race courses for 26 years. One animal he rarely treated was Spectacular Bid, "as sound a horse as I've seen. Good blood counts. No worms. For one who ran as hard as he did, Bid required amazingly little vet care."


Name: Pedro Mojarro

Maryland Ties to Preakness: Concern (3rd, 1994).

Role: The groom is a thoroughbred's best friend. He is its nanny, masseuse and traveling companion. He bathes the animal, feeds it and cleans its stall. Some grooms, like Pedro Mojarro, sleep in tack rooms above the barn at the track. "I feel close to my horses," says Mojarro, 48, a native of Mexico. One horse, Concern, won his heart, though not the Preakness: "He was a good horse, a very kind one who didn't misbehave," he says. "In Spanish, we called him misericordioso (gracious one)."

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