The Maryland racing community lost one of its most prominent members when owner and breeder Sondra Bender passed away Wednesday afternoon, February 22, after a battle with uterine cancer. She was 78 years old.
A resident of Bethesda, Sondra and her husband Howard owned Glade Valley Farms in Frederick.
“I considered her the first lady of Maryland racing,” said Larry Murray, who has trained for Bender since 1988 and is the farm manager at Glade Valley. “She enjoyed the game and was very classy. She took the bad just as well as the good. They enjoyed it together. It was very rare to see them apart. I hope Mr. Bender can find some solace in the races without her.”
The Benders owned two horses who competed in Triple Crown races. Southern Appeal finished 13th in the 1986 Kentucky Derby, while Foufa’s Warrior was seventh in the 2003 Preakness Stakes.
Bender is all over the Maryland Million record books. She is tied atop the owner rankings with five victories and has bred four winners.
La Reine’s Terms had two of those Maryland Million scores and was the stable’s most successful runner. The son of Private Terms, who was bred by Bender in 1995, won 11 stakes races including five in 2002 on five different turf courses. La Reine’s Terms retired with $804,591 in earnings after a score in the 2005 Maryland Million Turf at the age of 10, off a year layoff.
“I am thinking about all the good times we had,” added Murray, who has won 488 races for more than $14 million for the family. “We had some horses that took us a lot of places and gave us a lot of thrills. La Reine’s Terms went to Texas and won (2002 NTRA Great State Challenge Turf at Sam Houston). She will be sorely missed and I have great memories of her. I will cherish those.”
The 2002 season was Bender’s best when she captured 13 stakes races with seven different horses and finished 53rd on the North American money list with $1.3 million. She bred nine stakes winners that year, including seven who competed in her familiar gold and black colors.
Bender and Murray combined to win seven stakes races at Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park in 2003 and bred six stakes winners, including five that ran in the Bender colors.
Some of her other favorite horses were Don’s Choice (second in the Jim Dandy), Secret Odds (second in the Champagne), G2 winner Promenade Girl and multiple stakes winner King’s Nest.
A memorial service will be held at Beth El Synagogue in Bethesda at 10 a.m. Friday morning.