Stressed `Piggy' unwinds at home

Mary Bo Quoit: Edgy and off her feed after going winless in five starts, the 4-year-old filly is back in Carroll County, where the rest has returned a gleam to her eyes and a quickness to her step.

Horse Racing

January 11, 2000|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,SUN STAFF

She has swapped her stall at the track for a lush, rolling pasture; a day at the races for a romp in the field; a tubful of feed for the green grass of home.

Her career at a crossroads, Mary Bo Quoit is back on the farm. Winless in five starts at Laurel, the roan thoroughbred has retreated to the Carroll County barnyard where she was born.

Her handlers say it's a welcome respite for the 4-year-old filly, nicknamed "Miss Piggy," whose racing career is being chronicled in The Sun. They say the horse needs a break to get her head on straight.

"She was fretting at the track, acting high-strung and half-crazy," said Bill Brasaemle. He and his wife, JoAnne Hughes, had delivered and raised Mary Bo Quoit on Liberty Run Farm in Winfield and are part-owners of the racehorse.

They are hopeful the change of scene will rejuvenate the filly, who has yet to improve on her fifth-place finish in her maiden race last August.

"Piggy's legs are fine," Brasaemle said. "She just needs time to forget what's bothering her, time to put her head down and eat grass and let the sun shine on her back."

That, she has done. Since leaving her snug quarters at the Bowie Training Center in late November, Mary Bo Quoit has been cavorting in a five-acre field with a couple of 2-year-old horses, while acting more their age than hers.

"This helps her emotionally and physically," said Hughes, the filly's trainer. "Horses need to touch and groom each other to feel good."

Mary Bo Quoit began acting strangely last fall, said Hughes. She seemed stressed, feisty, out of sorts. Her race efforts were flat and uninspired.

"She looked sound, but horses will lie to you," Hughes said. "I'm guessing it's a hormone imbalance."

Mary Bo Quoit bottomed out in her final race on Nov. 27, finishing eighth in a field of nine. Beforehand, in the paddock, she was a mess, sweating profusely, rearing and nipping at her groom and passers-by.

"That wasn't the Piggy I knew," said Hughes, who shipped her home the next day. Turning into the farm, Mary Bo Quoit's demeanor changed.

"Her eyes brightened, her ears went up and she whinnied a lot," said Hughes. The filly stepped from the trailer and began munching grass for the first time in 14 months.

To unwind, Miss Piggy was placed in a small paddock by herself for several days. There she kicked off her shoes, so to speak. Her handlers removed the horse shoes from all four hooves so she could cavort with other horses without injury.

Mary Bo Quoit next checked out the homestead, sniffing out old haunts and nuzzling old friends.

She reunited with Turn to Teddy, her brother, another racehorse on leave for the holidays; Sly, an aged pony and her longtime surrogate mother; and Cameron, a crusty old farm goat who had witnessed the birth of Mary Bo Quoit.

Turned out to pasture, the filly reverted to form, bossing and herding her bunkmates like old times.

"I know what she's doing," Hughes said, watching the horses from a distance. "Piggy is telling them lies about how fast she is, and about what a hard life racing is."

Come March, Mary Bo Quoit will go back to Bowie, resume training and try to validate her bloodlines. Her sire, Waquoit, earned more than $2 million racing.

The trainer hopes the reassuring effect of Miss Piggy's visit home will soothe the horse once she goes back to work.

"She may run better, knowing she'll come home afterward," said Hughes. "Call it positive reinforcement.

"It's clear that at the track, Piggy was not a happy puppy. Right now, she's enjoying just being a horse."

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