Richard W. Small, the trainer, named his mare, Tookin Down, in honor of a former groom, Billy Finn. It seems that Finn, whenever he made a big bet and apparently won, ended up losing when the horse got "taken down" by the stewards for racing malfeasance.
Yesterday, Small's Tookin Down got "put up" when the stewards disqualified Proud Owner, another of Small's mares, as the winner of the $75,000 Maryland Racing Writers Stakes at Laurel Park.
Tookin Down, who passed under the wire second, was declared the winner, and Proud Owner, first under the wire by a half-length, was placed fourth. The two-horse entry was the 7-5 favorite. The stewards ruled that Proud Owner and her jockey, Jozbin Santana, interfered in the stretch with the tiring Saratoga Friends.
That incident capped a riding duel between the fresh-faced Santana, 20, and the hard-nosed Rick Wilson, 46. Riding Saratoga Friends, Wilson kept Santana and Proud Owner trapped on the rail midway down the backstretch, around the far turn and into the homestretch of the 1 1/8-mile race.
Finally, Santana, after repeatedly steadying Proud Owner in tight quarters, steered the powerful mare off the rail in a frantic search for running room. Proud Owner nudged Saratoga Friends, forcing her a step or two to the outside, before accelerating in the clear for her apparent winning charge to the wire.
Small, the trainer, waited in the winner's circle as the three stewards watched replays of the race. The stewards had launched an inquiry on their own, and then Wilson, the jockey, lodged an objection against Santana, who declined to comment.
As owner, breeder and trainer of the top two finishers, Small would win either way. Either Proud Owner would retain her top spot, or Tookin Down would be put up.
The two 5-year-old mares have helped ease Small's transition from high-profile trainer for Robert E. Meyerhoff (the two parted company in September) to low-key trainer of mostly his own horses. With Meyerhoff, Small trained about 50 horses. Now, he handles seven.
Stabled in the same barn at Pimlico for nearly 30 years, Small said he has enjoyed the relief from constant pressure.
"Fortunately, I have these nice horses," Small said. "If they were just manes and tails, it wouldn't have worked."
Combined, Proud Owner and Tookin Down have won 17 races (on turf as well as dirt). They've earned $673,453.
Santa Anita: Budroyale, a 7-year-old gelding, held off Cat Thief to win the 1 1/8-mile, $300,000 San Antonio Handicap in Arcadia, Calif., in 1: 48.70.