Trainer John Scanlan on Thursday flew 10 horses, including Talk Is Money, from Laurel Park to Hialeah Park in South Florida, where he'll prepare the promising 3-year-old for the Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 17 at Gulfstream Park.
Talk Is Money, winner of his two races at Laurel, will be a fun story for Marylanders to follow as he meets the best 3-year-olds in the country on the road to the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. But his story may be just the tantalizing first act of a play that graces Maryland's stage for at least five years.
Scanlan, a nomadic 50-year-old trainer, moved 30 horses in October into the deluxe barn at Laurel built by Israel Cohen, former owner of Giant Food. Scanlan trains for Daniel M. Borislow, who lives most of the year in Palm Beach, Fla.
They have leased the Cohen barn for five years, and Borislow says they plan on staying in Maryland even longer than that. They say they're committed to Laurel because of its outstanding track surface and its track superintendent, John Passero.
Borislow, 39, is wealthy beyond his years. He has begun buying horses at the upper echelon of the market. He paid $1.8 million for Talk Is Money, a son of famed stallion Deputy Minister. If Talk Is Money were in the barn of Bob Baffert or D. Wayne Lukas, he would rank among the leading contenders of Triple Crown hopefuls.
Most significant for Maryland, however, is that Borislow plans on buying more flashy horses, stabling them at Laurel, running them through their conditions here, and then shipping them to major races around the country.
"You're going to get a lot of horses of that caliber starting their careers in Maryland," Borislow said.
Borislow was majority owner of Tel-Save, a long-distance telephone company in New Hope, Pa., and later Talk.com, which sold long-distance service on-line to more than 4 million AOL customers. He came up with the name Talk Is Money because, he says, "When people talked on the telephone, I made money."
He left the business in late 1998 to concentrate on horses. He owns 140 worth more than $20 million, he says.
"And that's without Talk Is Money," he said. "Who knows what he's worth if he keeps doing what he's doing?"
Talk Is Money won his first race, a six-furlong jaunt in the mud Dec. 16 at Laurel, by nearly 10 lengths. Two weeks later, in the Ambernash Stakes at Laurel, he reared in the starting gate, flipped over, broke free and galloped back to his barn, a frightening happenstance for any horse, let alone one worth millions of dollars.
Scanlan scratched Talk Is Money from his next scheduled start, an allowance race, when he spiked a fever. And his next race, the Miracle Wood Stakes, was postponed Jan. 20 because of snow. Finally, last Saturday, the Miracle Wood took place, and Talk Is Money won despite a wide trip. He defeated the more experienced Marciano, who entered the race off four straight victories.
Scanlan and Borislow are so high on Talk Is Money that they cannot restrain their enthusiasm. Scanlan trained 15 years at Philadelphia Park before embarking on a journey that led to tracks from New Jersey to California to Florida.
Has he ever trained a horse with the promise of Talk Is Money?
"Hell no, never," he said. "This is the first dance for me. But I'm ready for it. I've been preparing for this for 27 years. This will be my Super Bowl."
And last fall, Borislow bought a 66-foot sportfishing boat. Although he has owned horses for 10 years, he says he would never have considered this name for the boat before Talk Is Money.
The name? Triple Crown.
Close vote for top trainer
In the closest balloting of the 16 Eclipse Award categories announced last week in New Orleans, Bobby Frankel edged Scott Lake and Joe Orseno as top trainer. The contest was so close that if Lake had received one more vote from the Daily Racing Form, he would have won.
The voters were 49 reporters and editors of the Daily Racing Form, 118 members of the National Turf Writers' Association and 53 racing secretaries and trackmen representing the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.
The most baffling outcome was male turf horse, where Kalanisi edged War Chant, and John's Call, the third finalist, was left in their wake. Stabled at Tom Voss' farm in Monkton, John's Call should have won, and I don't care what anybody says. The 9-year-old wonder horse won two Grade I stakes in New York and finished a close third in the Breeders' Cup Turf.
I'm not alone in my thinking. Here are some comments posted on Let It Ride.com, a popular on-line forum for racing fans:
"Probably the worst pick of the night. John's Call was robbed." "I'll be the first to apologize to the connections of John's Call." "JC has been my hero for years, and I felt he earned this one." "JC got ripped off!" "JC was the true winner in my eyes. What a tough, game old man he is."
Around the tracks
Anne Poulson, head of the Virginia Racing Task Force, said Colonial Downs officials are "close, very close" to borrowing money from a bank to complete funding for purses for a June 9-July 14 thoroughbred meet at the southern Virginia track. The 25-day meet would offer purses of $200,000 a day. Except for June 9, Belmont Stakes day, Maryland thoroughbred tracks would not race live during the period.
Leigh Offutt, an exercise rider at Laurel attending the University of Virginia, was the top rider, male or female, in Amateur Riders Club of America races last year in the United States and Europe. She won five races. In 1998 and 1999, she was ARCA's top female rider.
The Midlantic winter mixed sale of horses at Timonium gets under way at 11 a.m. today. The catalog lists 228 horses. . . . ESPN2 will broadcast a one-hour Eclipse Awards special beginning at 4 p.m. today.