For Dutrow, his teacher was winner

On Horse Racing

May 30, 1999|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Tony Dutrow didn't bat an eyelash when asked about his phenomenal winning percentage at Pimlico of more than 40 percent.

"It's easy," Dutrow said. "Dad had good horses, and he had good owners. They let him do what he thought was right, and now they're letting me do the same thing.

"And if you don't learn something being around Dickie Dutrow for more than 25 years, there's something wrong with you."

Tony Dutrow, 41, began working when he was 10 for his father, the respected horse trainer, Richard E. Dutrow, who died of cancer in February at age 60. Tony walked horses during summers and weekends at Delaware Park, Monmouth Park, the Maryland tracks, wherever his father stabled horses.

He learned -- as his brothers did -- at the feet of the master.

"When we weren't at school, we were at the barn with Dad," Tony said.

Tony now manages 25 of his father's horses and 15 of his own at Barn 6 at Laurel Park. He labors in the shadow of the sign that reads: Richard E. Dutrow Racing Stable. Tony's brother, Chip, assists him, and their brother, Rick, trains horses in New York.

"This is my Dad's," Tony said, explaining why the sign still adorns the barn. "He built this. It keeps going on because of what he taught us. That's how we all feel."

Of Tony's 18 employees, four are relatives of Dick Dutrow. The crew has carried on his legacy in remarkable fashion.

In addition to its winning rate during the current meet of more than 40 percent, the Dutrow barn has won 31 percent of its races this year. That's the second-highest win percentage among major trainers in the country.

The barn's 67 percent rate of finishing first, second or third ranks No. 1.

"Of course, it won't stay like this," Tony said. "But this whole year, it seems that everything has fallen into place. All the breaks have gone our way. Things have really been good."

Tony and his staff have won with allowance horses and stakes horses. Their first string includes Jove Stone, Greenspring Willy, Diamonds and Legs, Saratoga Friends and Spartan Cat.

And they've done it, Tony said, applying an ethic learned from his father.

"The secret to my Dad's success was his incredible work habits," Tony said. "He worked very hard to be aware and personally on top of everything.

"His work habits were second to none. It didn't matter to Dad whether the horses were good or bad. As long as they were in his barn, he really and truly cared for them."

In their memory

As a tribute to the Maryland trainers, such as Dutrow, who died this past year, Pimlico officials have named nine of tomorrow's 11 races in the trainers' honor.

Races are named for Henry Clark, Charles DeWald, Dutrow, John Fagan, Bobby Hilton, Cornelia LaCoste, H. Steward Mitchell, Jessie Murray and Caroline Stewart. The Maryland Jockey Club has invited family members to lunch, and relatives or friends of each trainer will present trophies after the nine races.

The racing program will feature profiles of the trainers, as well as the Maryland owners and breeders who died in 1998 and 1999.

"There was such an inordinate amount of people who left us this past year," said Lenny Hale, vice president of racing. "Memorial Day seemed like the perfect time to memorialize these folks."

Relatives of the trainers broached the idea to Hale. Then Hale and Karin De Francis, a track senior vice president, worked to make it happen.

A tribute to horsemen recently departed will be an annual event, Hale said.

Back in harness

Officials of Colonial Downs, the beleaguered track in southern Virginia, didn't want to conduct a harness meet this year because last year's lost about $1 million. But the Virginia Racing Commission ordered them to. So tomorrow, for better or worse, harness racing returns to Colonial Downs.

Standardbreds will race Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday until Aug. 4 for daily purses of about $50,000. Post time is 4 p.m. The lone exception is Sunday, July 4, when post time is 6 p.m.

The 30-day meet could lose as much as $300,000, said John Mooney, president of the recently created Maryland-Virginia Jockey Club.

"But I'm optimistic," he said. "I expect to break even."

The schedule is designed for the out-of-state simulcast market rather than the local fan. Mooney said he hopes to average 750 patrons and $300,000 handle (in- and out-of-state). On race days, Colonial Downs will open at noon for simulcast wagering.

After the harness meet, thoroughbreds are scheduled for a 25-day meet from Sept. 6 to Oct. 11. But first, the track and the state's horsemen must agree on a contract for purses. Both sides are to meet June 7 with an arbitrator.

"I expect that a contract will emerge from that," Mooney said. "I feel very confident that we'll have a thoroughbred meet."

Reason to celebrate

Rosecroft Raceway began its 50th-birthday celebration last night with attendance up 18 percent and handle up 5 percent over the same period last year.

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