All's well in Horatius' kingdom


March 21, 2004|By TOM KEYSER

As the Horatius Stakes gets under way today at Laurel Park, the horse for whom the race is named will likely assume a familiar pose at a familiar place on the Eastern Shore.

Horatius, 29, will likely prick his ears, raise his beautiful chestnut head with the wide blaze and gaze around Thornmar Farm, his home for the past 23 years, making sure all is in order. The old boy is starting to look his age; he's a little swaybacked. But the spark remains in his eyes, the spring in his steps.

"He's sort of king of all he surveys," says Charles McGinnes, who owns and operates Thornmar with his wife, Cynthia. "His paddock is right on the road, so everything that goes by, he sees.

"He wants to know where everything is. If a horse gets loose, he makes enough noise so we're sure to know about it."

Horatius has roamed the same paddock and occupied the same stall since arriving at Thornmar in Chestertown when he was 6. He had just completed a racing career in which he won 18 of 54 races and earned $383,899. He captured stakes on dirt and turf, seven in all, including the Grade III Riggs Handicap. He equaled the course record at Monmouth Park for a mile on turf in 1 minute, 35 minutes.

In the loving care of farm manager Ricky Price, Horatius held court at Thornmar for 20 years and sired 723 foals who earned $25.7 million. His crowning moment came in the blazing form of the filly Safely Kept, winner of the $1 million Breeders' Cup Sprint in 1990. The previous year Safely Kept earned the Eclipse Award as champion sprinter after capturing the Grade I Test Stakes and finishing second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint by a neck.

She won 24 of 31 races and earned $2.2 million. Twenty-two of her victories came in stakes, of which half were graded.

Horatius also sired Algar, who won back-to-back Maryland Million Classics, and Oliver's Twist, who finished second in the 1995 Preakness. And he sired multiple-stakes winners Forry Cow How, Foxie G, Charlie You Know, Jazzy One, Fat and Foxy, The Ruler's Sister, Steppedoutofadream and Azarbaijani.

Veterinarian Tom Bowman, who is president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, treated Horatius and owned shares in him.

"He was a terrifically solid sire who had the ability occasionally to be the father of terrific offspring," Bowman said. "He was remarkably consistent. He simply sired a bunch of honest horses."

Horatius bred his last four mares in 2001. None got pregnant, and he had such a difficult time because of arthritis in his hind end that the McGinneses pensioned him. They don't stand any more stallions, although they own 35 broodmares.

"Every now and then we toy with selling the farm," McGinnes said. "It gets so discouraging. Nobody seems to care about the industry other than people in the industry.

"The one thing more than any other that keeps us here is Horatius. Old stallions don't like change. We're going to make sure he has the same paddock and stall for the rest of his days."

Another Tide Mill

Did the name Tide Mill, winner of Wednesday's seventh race at Laurel Park, jog your memory?

A first-time starter for Bud Delp, the 3-year-old filly cruised by 5 1/2 lengths. Delp had bought her at Timonium and named her Tide Mill after one of the first good horses he'd trained and one of three horses who survived the arson fire at Delp's Laurel barn in 1964.

The fire killed 30 of Delp's horses. He had begun training just two years before. Three survived, because they were stabled at the ends of the barn and could be rescued: a pony, a filly and Tide Mill.

The gray Tide Mill was 3. He raced until he was 9 and won 27 of 111 starts and earned $100,770.

"He was one of the first good winners I ever had," Delp says. "He was one of my favorite all-time horses. He kind of put me on the map.

"When I bought this filly I just decided I'd put a good name on her, and I named her Tide Mill. He won a zillion races. Maybe a little bit of him will rub off on her."

Down the stretch

Magna Entertainment Corp., parent company of the Maryland Jockey Club, continues to make news and stir emotions.

California racing officials are upset with Magna for several reasons. One is the lack of distribution of Magna's HorseRacing TV for races at Magna's California tracks; Bay Meadows, Golden Gate Field and Santa Anita Park. ... Betting by California residents through Magna's XpressBet has dropped sharply in 2004, reports The Daily Racing Form. ... The California-based Web site now boasts 630 members. ... Racing enthusiasts in Maryland continue to fume over Magna's decision to yank Laurel's races off TVG.

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