Pons family boosted by win

Long shot Surf Light eases pain of death

Notebook

Horse racing

October 16, 2005|By SANDRA MCKEE | SANDRA MCKEE,SUN REPORTER

It would have been difficult to fit one more person in the winner's circle at Laurel Park yesterday after the 16-to-1 long shot Surf Light upset the field and brought pure joy to the family of Joe Pons, who passed away this week at age 83.

"Surf Light is a nice filly," said Mike Pons, president of the Maryland Million and one of Joe's sons. "But she's been kind of unlucky. She hits tigers every time she goes on the racetrack. To see her win like that, it's like a 70-yard Hail Mary pass. It really is a miracle."

Yesterday, Maryland Million officials had dedicated the day to the memory of Joe Pons, who established the Country Life Farm, but the family had faint hope of a winner. After all, in 20 years only one of their horses had ever won a Million race (Merryland Missy in the 2004 Sprint).

"I don't know," said Josh Pons. "Maybe good things come to good people. My dad has been a friend to all the people at the racetrack. Everywhere I've gone today - to the service department, the kitchen, the horseman's will call window - I haven't gone anywhere where people haven't said how much he did for them and how much they'll miss him."

Surf Light, sired by Malibu Moon, broke on top of the field and stayed there, a place trainer Flint Stites said the horse likes. "It builds her heart up," he said.

Yesterday, her heart was full, just like those of the Pons' family.

"This is a day we'll remember the rest of our lives," Mike Pons said. "If you didn't see it, you wouldn't believe it."

`Saay' to Breeder's?

Saay Mi Name, the 5-year-old son of Not For Love, finished a length-and-a-half ahead of Cherokee's Boy in the $150,000 Sprint, and his owner and breeder Wayne Bailey immediately cast a cautionary eye north.

"Every time I think this horse is at the top of his game, he gets better," said Bailey. "Winning today was the goal we set for him. Now, we could look at the De Francis Dash - or the Breeder's Cup."

On La Reine's Terms

Last summer trainer Larry Murray thought 10-year-old campaigner La Reine's Terms had run his last race. But after nearly a year off, he began showing signs of wanting to return to the races, and Murray encouraged his efforts.

Yesterday, the horse rewarded those who had faith in him by winning in grand style. The son of Private Terms won the $150,000 Million Turf by three-quarters of a length over 2004 winner Dr. Detroit, a youngster at age 6, to become the oldest horse ever to win a Million race.

"It's always a big deal to win on Million Day," said Sondra Bender, who with her husband, Howard, bred and own the horse.

Winning record

Jockey Ramon Dominguez set a Maryland Million Day record by riding five winners. No one else rode more than one winner.

Almost like a rally

Gov. Robert L. Ehrich Jr. presented the winner's trophy for the $30,000 Million Sprint Starter Handicap to Foxs Gold Digger's owner and trainer Hubert Cave of Anne Arundel County and reminded the crowd that even on one of Maryland's most prestigious racing days, all is not well with the sport.

"I want to make the point to all racing fans and all farmers, members of organized labor, everybody who constitutes this incredible industry, all of us are dedicated not only to saving this industry but growing this industry," said Ehrlich. "It's part of our heritage. It's part of our present, but it needs to get better and be part of our future as well. Only through collective action in Annapolis can that get done. ... Let your views be known."

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