Joy comes to Pimlico in double dose

Win by Cherokee's Boy sets off celebration

P Day adds to late Hadry's legacy

Horse Racing

April 20, 2003|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

A 3-year-old colt and an 8-year-old horse brought tears, cheers and unabashed joy into the winner's circle yesterday at Pimlico Race Course.

Cherokee's Boy, 3, won the $150,000 Federico Tesio Stakes by a commanding 2 3/4 lengths and placed his jubilant owners, two blue-collar Baltimoreans, on the verge of the near-impossible dream: running their horse in the Preakness.

Foard Wilgis and Dave Picarello, natives of Remington and Parkville, respectively, had so many friends and relatives mobbing them after the race that the winner's photographs couldn't be taken in the winner's circle. They had to be taken on the track, where the celebration stretched halfway across.

"If you can't get excited about this, you can't get excited," gushed Wilgis, a longtime Teamster in charge of transportation on the set of The Wire, the HBO drama filmed in Baltimore.

One race later, P Day, 8, captured the $125,000 Baltimore Breeders' Cup Handicap by the same impressive margin, prompting his trainer, Charles J. Hadry, into reminiscences about his late father, Charles H. Hadry. The senior Hadry, 72, one of Maryland's most respected horsemen, died Feb. 24. P Day was his favorite horse.

"I may be able to win a Triple Crown, but nothing will ever surpass this horse," said the younger Hadry. "Nobody was better than my dad. I'm just so honored to be his son."

The link between P Day and Cherokee's Boy was their jockey, Ryan Fogelsonger. Still an apprentice, the 21-year-old rider won both stakes and three other races. He couldn't hold in his excitement. It kept bursting out of him like firecrackers set off by his radiant smile.

"This probably, by far, is the best day I've ever had," said Fogelsonger, who won the Eclipse Award last year as the nation's top apprentice rider; his apprenticeship ends May 24. "I'm so new to this, I don't even know what I'm thinking. There are so many things going through my head at once."

The largest crowd so far of the Pimlico spring meet, 7,802, assembled for what turned out to be one of the most fun and rewarding afternoons at Pimlico in years.

Cherokee's Boy led every step of the Tesio's 1 1/8 miles for his first victory in a stakes not restricted to horses from a particular state. It was a necessary step for a horse perhaps one race away from the Preakness, but it still wasn't enough for his trainer, Gary Capuano.

"He runs hard; he tries," Capuano said. "But I'm still not convinced. We'll just see how the [Kentucky] Derby plays out, and who comes to the Preakness, and who doesn't. I don't want to run in it unless I think he can win or at least finish second."

Lifting one of his winner's gifts, an oversized bottle of champagne, high over his head, Wilgis, the colt's majority owner, seemed to contradict his trainer.

"If he comes out of this race all right," Wilgis said of Cherokee's Boy, a winner of half his 12 races, "there's not much question where we're going to go."

As for P Day, who sizzled throughout his 1 1/8 miles, he may end up in the Pimlico Special the day before the May 17 Preakness. But like Capuano, who wants to size up the competition in the Preakness, Hadry wants to see who's coming for the Special, one of the top stakes for older horses.

He'll worry about that later, he said.

"I want to savor this first," Hadry said. "There are so many ups and downs in this business that you've got to savor the moment. And ain't nothing better than this."

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