Best of Luck is best in state as Md.-bred Horse of Year

On Horse Racing

March 05, 2000|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Best of Luck, a hard-knocking colt with 15 starts last year as a 3-year-old, has been voted 1999 Maryland-bred Horse of the Year.

Bred by Allaire duPont and owned by duPont's Bohemia Stable in Cecil County, Best of Luck finished first or second eight times against rugged competition mainly in New York.

A son of Broad Brush and duPont's prized mare Crowned, Best of Luck won the Grade II Peter Pan Stakes and Grade III Stuyvesant Handicap and finished second in a pair of Grade II stakes, the Wood Memorial and Withers. In the Stuyvesant in November at Aqueduct, Best of Luck defeated older horses.

He also finished fourth in the Belmont behind Lemon Drop Kid, Vision and Verse and Charismatic.

Eight Maryland turf writers and Equibase employees voted for the Maryland-bred champions. The winners will be honored April 20 at the Maryland Horse Breeders Association annual awards dinner.

For duPont, one of the most influential breeders in Maryland racing history, Best of Luck represents her fifth Maryland-bred champion (the five horses won in 11 categories) and second Maryland-bred Horse of the Year.

DuPont's Politely reigned as Maryland-bred Horse of the Year in 1967 and 1968. Eventually one of duPont's best mares, Politely was also champion 3-year-old filly in 1966, champion older mare in 1967 and 1968, and champion turf runner in 1968.

DuPont's other state champions were Dixie Flag, Believe the Queen and Crowned, the dam of Best of Luck.

In the voting for Horse of the Year, Best of Luck edged Stellar Brush, an outstanding 3-year-old bred and owned by Robert E. Meyerhoff and trained by Richard W. Small. Based on five points for a first-place vote, three for second and one for third, Best of Luck accumulated 22 points to Stellar Brush's 19. Perfect To A Tee garnered 15 and Hookedonthefeelin 13.

The other 1999 Maryland-bred champions:

2-year-old filly: Gin Talking (Allen's Prospect-Chattin). Bred by Barbara C. Graham, owned by Skeedattle Associates, trained by Hamilton A. Smith. Gin Talking was undefeated in four starts, three of them stakes (Maryland Million Lassie, Heavenly Cause and Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship).

2-year-old male: Crafty Celt (Opening Verse-Sugarcone). Bred and owned by Dumbarton Farm, trained by James W. Murphy. Crafty Celt won the Maryland Juvenile Championship Stakes.

3-year-old filly: Hookedonthefeelin (Citidancer-Prospective Joy). Bred by Country Life, Flaherty, Wells LLC, owned by Mike Pegram, trained by Bob Baffert. Hookedonthefeelin was the only Maryland-bred to win a Grade I race in 1999, the La Brea at Santa Anita Park.

3-year-old male: Best of Luck.

Older female: Tampico (Sitzmark-The Lip). Bred and owned by Plane Tree Farm, trained by Barclay Tagg. She won two Grade III stakes (Beaugay Handicap at Aqueduct and All Along at Pimlico) and finished second by a nose to Soaring Softly in the Grade II New York Handicap at Belmont. Soaring Softly was North America's top turf female.

Older male: Perfect To A Tee (Parfaitement-No Time to Write). Bred by Lisa S. Fender, owned by The Nonsequitur Stable, trained by Linda L. Albert. He closed the year with four straight wins, the final two being the Maryland Million Classic and Congressional Handicap.

Turf runner: Tampico.

Steeplechaser: Muscle Car (A.P. Indy-Dixie Accent). Bred and owned by Bayard Sharp, trained by Jonathan Sheppard.

With Muscle Car, you might wonder why a 5-year-old gelded son of Horse of the Year A.P. Indy and the stakes-winning mare Dixie Accent wasn't running against Behrens and the country's other top older horses.

The answer is simple. Muscle Car hated the starting gate. He threw his rider. He fought. He froze. He just wouldn't go in.

"I think we got him in once," said Sharp, the 87-year-old breeder and owner of Muscle Car. "He just shook and shivered so bad. He's a great big powerful horse, and we didn't want to break his spirit."

Sharp owns Sharp Farm in Middletown, Del., but lives most of the year in Florida. He started breeding steeplechase horses in 1938. After the war, he switched to breeding horses for the flat. He said Muscle Car was his first jumper since the switch.

"At least he wasn't a complete failure," Sharp said.

Quite the contrary. Under Sheppard's care, Muscle Car last year registered four wins, two seconds and one third in nine starts. The National Steeplechase Association named him 1999 novice champion (a horse who began the year a maiden).

Wilson riding high

Jockey Rick Wilson leads all riders in the country with at least 100 starts in two significant categories: win percentage and percentage of finishes in the top three.

Wilson, 46, has won 30 percent of his races and finished in the top three 62 percent of the time. Through March 1, he had ridden 154 races, won 46, finished second 29 times and finished third 21 times.

"I've always been lucky because I've been able to ride for the right people," Wilson said. "They put horses where they belong, where they can win."

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