`Piggy' fifth in maiden voyage

After strong start, filly bogs down at Laurel

August 28, 1999|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,SUN STAFF

The steel-gray filly broke first from the gate, but for the rest of the race there was nary a peep from Mary Bo Quoit.

The 3-year-old thoroughbred nicknamed "Miss Piggy" started strong, faded quickly and finished fifth in her debut yesterday at Laurel Park.

One of four first-timers in the eight-horse field, Mary Bo Quoit generally held her own with the other novices, finishing ahead of two of them. She was 13 lengths back in the six-furlong race in what was considered a fast time (1 minute, 10 4/5 seconds) for fillies who had never won.

The milestones in Mary Bo Quoit's career as a racehorse have been chronicled in The Sun since her birth more than three years ago. In yesterday's race, her handlers sought to gauge her acumen on the track.

"She's competitive," said Mario Verge, the jockey who rode her. "She broke good, and when I asked her to run, she gave me a little. She didn't [respond] big-time, but she didn't quit on me, either.

"She'll do better next time."

The favorite, Miss Maeve, won the $25,000 race, her fourth career start. At odds of 6-1, Mary Bo Quoit was third choice. She charged out of the gate, barreled into the lead and fizzled.

She dropped back but rallied in the stretch to fend off the sixth-place finisher. The challenger, Willy's Sister, had raced on four previous occasions, twice finishing third.

"Piggy still had some run left in her at the end," said JoAnne Hughes, her trainer and part-owner. "She wasn't last, and that's a good thing."

More important, Hughes said, Mary Bo Quoit emerged unscathed, save for a scrape on her leg where she kicked the ramp on her horse van.

"She didn't bolt or run over another horse or make a right-hand turn at the quarter-pole," said Hughes, referring to mistakes sometimes made by equine rookies. "She didn't do anything bad."

Mary Bo Quoit's other owners remain optimistic. For Jackson Bryer and Cal Winton, both professors at the University of Maryland, College Park, yesterday was a christening of sorts.

After their filly failed to place, Bryer turned to his colleague and asked, in mock seriousness, "Do you want to sell her?"

Winton looked aghast.

"Gosh, it's her first time out!" he exclaimed.

The owners noticed Mary Bo Quoit's edginess before the race. As the public peered at the field being led in circles around the paddock, their filly reared several times.

"It was clear when she was bouncing around [in the paddock] that this was a new experience for her," Bryer said. "Hopefully, next time, she'll improve -- and it'll be an easier race."

For the filly, who loathes hot weather, the experience appeared memorable. She came off the track lathered in sweat, her hide patchy with foam. She looked weary and a bit dazed.

What's next for Mary Bo Quoit?

Hughes said she'll scrutinize the horse for several days at her stall at the Bowie Training Center to make sure the race created no problems. If all's well, the training regimen will resume to prepare the filly for her next outing.

Mary Bo Quoit will likely race again in September or October at Colonial Downs near Williamsburg, Va., the track where Marylanders take their mounts when local race courses shut down. She said taking a month between starts is not unusual for a novice.

"Sometimes the first race unsettles them and rattles their brains," Hughes said. "And sometimes it lights their fire."

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