P Day timing impeccable for Hadrys

Horse racing: More than a happy occasion for everyone concerned, the 8-year-old's return to his home grounds is a blessing for the Hadry family.

Horse Racing

January 26, 2003|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

P Day brought back more to Charles H. Hadry than the chance for another paycheck when he rejoined the Hadry stable last fall after a failed foray into New York.

The 8-year-old horse whom Hadry bred, trained and owned brought renewal to the veteran trainer at a time when spirit meant more than money. Hadry, 72, perhaps the most respected horseman in Maryland, has cancer. Overseeing the return of his favorite horse, especially under such unusual circumstances, was a boost.

"It's the best thing that could have happened to him," said Charles J. Hadry, his son. "Horses are his life, his job, all he cares about outside his family. To see this horse run the way he's running was a big lift when he really needed it."

Hadry's health has deteriorated in recent days, but he holds out hope for getting back to the barn and monitoring P Day and the dozen horses under his care at Laurel Park, his son said.

"He's a battler. He wants to come back," said the younger Hadry, 35, who's known as Junior. "He's a tough man. If anybody can come back, my dad can."

Hadry has trained horses on his own since the 1950s. His best horse was Private Terms, the favorite in the 1988 Kentucky Derby. Private Terms won his first seven races before finishing ninth in the Derby. He retired the next year, having won 12 of 17 races and earning $1.2 million.

Hadry trained Private Terms for the parents of Stuart S. Janney III, who lives in Butler and since the late 1980s has entrusted his Maryland-based runners to Hadry.

"Charlie's an old-fashioned horseman," Janney said. "He's taciturn to some extent, but when you get to know him he's one of the most wonderful people in the world.

"I have always felt Charlie was one of the most beloved people around the racetrack. People have a special place in their hearts and minds for Charlie. The reason is he's a genuinely nice and good person."

Junior, his son, has taken over at Laurel. He said he and his father consulted before entering P Day in a claiming race last June at Belmont Park.

P Day was born at the Hadry farm near Westminster - on Preakness Day 1995. Pat Day won that Preakness with Timber Country. Junior said the colt by Private Terms was named for Preakness Day, Pat Day, even "pay day."

"It can mean all those things," he said.

Headstrong and high-strung, P Day was a challenge, not to mention those occasionally strained tendons. But Hadry, typically patient and contemplative, coaxed the best out of P Day, including two stakes victories and 11 seconds and thirds in stakes races.

But on June 16 last year, the Hadrys lost P Day when Scott Lake, one of the biggest and most aggressive trainers in the country, claimed the horse for $80,000. Lake raced P Day four times with marginal success.

One day last fall, Junior picked up the phone. It was Lake, asking whether Junior would take P Day back and train him. Junior said he'd talk it over with his father. He did. They struck a deal with Lake. And P Day came home .

"They bred and raised the horse," Lake said. "He's a nervous horse, and he's just comfortable in that environment. Some horses are like that. Take them out of their element, and they're not the same horse."

Junior still marvels at what Lake did. Lake basically acknowledged that he, one of the winningest trainers in the country, couldn't do as well with P Day as the Hadrys could.

"It took a heck of a guy to do what he did in a way," Junior said. "But I knew P Day was done as soon as he left this barn. A lot of maintenance goes into this horse. He can be a monster."

It took P Day about a month to settle back in, Junior said. Since then, he has reeled off two consecutive stakes wins and figures to run next in the $100,000 John B. Campbell Handicap on Feb. 16 or the $200,000 General George Handicap the next day.

"I think he was homesick," Junior said of P Day. "Right now, I'd have to say he's better than ever."

Junior credits Donnie Krone, P Day's exercise rider, for the horse's success. Krone has exercised horses and worked for Hadry for 22 years.

He said Hadry, despite his outward calm, is a practical joker of the first order. Also, Krone said, Hadry has a heart of gold. Krone said he has seen Hadry give a groom $2,500 with little hope of ever getting it back.

"I can't tell you how many times I've seen him do that with $100, $200, $300," Krone said. "He helps anybody."

P Day is not as philanthropic, Krone says.

"You pretty much have to do things his way," Krone said. "To me, he knows how to win. He's saying: `Don't bother me. Just enjoy the ride. If we can win, we will.'

"And in the morning he knows how to keep himself fit. He does what he needs to do, and you'd better let him do it. You take hold of him and you're going for a rocket ride."

Hadry's wife, Connie, said P Day will always have a home at their farm. She hopes her husband is there for many years to oversee it.

"Charles, that's his life. The horses are his life," she said. "Thank God, I love horses, too. It's seven days a week, never a vacation. We've been married 37 years and never had a vacation.

"He was so happy to get P Day back. That really boosted him. He puts so much into his horses. That's his pleasure, what his horses do. Charles, he's work and home. That's it."

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