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 Features

Featured stories from our publication.  For archived features, click here.

Big Job: Lillis steps in, stands up for backstretch community

Bobby Lillis may be physically small, as he measures just 60 inches. But he stands tall and, like Secretariat, he has an outsized heart.

Most days, he sits at his aging desk in a cramped office inside the building that houses the backstretch cafeteria at Laurel Park. He has two titles – executive director of the Maryland Horsemen’s Assistance Foundation (MHAF) and director of benefits for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (MTHA) – and his door is always open.

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Creature Comforts: At Maryland agriculture center, rescued and retired Thoroughbreds redefine aftercare by helping humans in need

After 30 years of military service that included two overseas deployments, Gail Watts returned to civilian life – an unfamiliar, less regimented life – and discovered she needed help getting back to who she was.

Strong and willing in the military, Watts engaged civilian life with an array of new emotions that left her tired and miffed. When Veterans Affairs doctors and medications failed to help, she agreed in 2015 to participate in a nascent therapy program called Saratoga WarHorse, a nonprofit venture established in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

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All About Bob-Justify sets stage for Triple Crown bid as Baffert ties record with seventh Preakness victory

Long after training hours the day before the 143rd Preakness Stakes-G1, Bob Baffert kicked around Pimlico Race Course. His horses ate hay or dozed in the stakes barn, his staffers attended to their duties, he’d done his interviews and was – for a Hall of Fame trainer who has made the Triple Crown his personal playground for the better part of 20 years – briefly alone without much purpose.

He chatted with fellow Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas for a while, stepped in and out of the stakes barn to avoid intermittent rain that settled into the Baltimore area for what seemed like weeks and chit-chatted with various members of the press corps lingering around, digging for details or making up for lost time. 

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Doubling Up-Senior Senator collects a second Maryland Hunt Cup

Twenty-two times Senior Senator sized up a timber fence at the Maryland Hunt Cup. His eyes saw it first, then his ears – instantly flicked forward. The signals went to his feet, his knees, shoulders, those long muscles across his back, his stifles, gaskins, hocks and he was up and over and galloping off to the next one. 

Behind him, eight foes tried to do the same. And mostly failed.

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Why Timonium?: Mix of factors push May sale to new heights

Why Timonium? Hey, it’s a question. Especially when you start to think about most of the other venues for North America’s public Thoroughbred auctions – Lexington, Saratoga, Ocala, Gulfstream Park, Del Mar and so on. 

Good old Timonium would not win anyone’s glitz and glamour contest, nor would the sales pavilion next to a McDonald’s capture the imagination of an equine artist or resident historian. But, there it is – as important a cog in the Thoroughbred sales engine as the Humphrey S. Finney pavilion, Newtown Paddocks or that weathervane atop the Keeneland pavilion. Never is that more evident than in May, when the 2-year-olds arrive. Fasig-Tipton’s Midlantic sale runs May 21-22, with public workouts May 15-17. The catalog includes 600 horses, up 25 over last year and pretty much the maximum for the barn area and racetrack. 

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Catalog Surfing: Two-year-olds boast plenty of promise in advance of sale

Some 600 horses will fill the stable area at Timonium, Md., for Fasig-Tipton Midlantic’s annual sale of 2-year-olds this month. Though some people do manage – somehow – seeing them all is a challenge.  

Simply, it’s a big group of horses. They were bred in 15 states (one each from Arkansas and Kansas if you’re keeping score of the obscure), one Canadian province, plus Ireland and Korea. They represent consignors from Florida, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Louisiana, Texas and Kentucky. They are by stallions whose names begin with every letter of the alphabet save X and Z. 

 

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Den Mother: Holden makes it work at Country Life

The first assignment Christy Holden was given when she showedup to work at Country Life Farm as a 15-year-old may have sealed her future.

“Josh Pons handed me a piece of paper, a pen and a thermometer and told me to go out in the field and take the temperatures of the foals,” Holden, now 48 and general manager of Country Life and Merryland farms in Maryland, remembers on a cold, snowy morning early in 2018.

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