Bernie Houghton grew up a farm boy in Maryland and Pennsylvania, rode hundreds of steeplechase races, went skydiving. He’s nobody’s sissy, but even he struggled with his emotions after Crabcakes won the Maryland Million Distaff at Laurel Park Oct. 21.
“It’s hard not to cry,” he said just before doing just that – for a few seconds – during an on-camera interview in the winner’s circle after the 3-year-old filly ousted eight rivals in the $100,000 race as part of the 32nd annual Jim McKay Maryland Million Day. Bred by Houghton’s aunt Binnie Houghton, who died in August, Crabcakes won for just about everybody in the crowd of 22,682 and spread the tears all around.
“I’d like to say hi to my Aunt Binnie who’s up in heaven,” Houghton said in a post-race interview. “She started this whole thing. . . it’s kind of emotional every time I win for her because she got the ball rolling.”
Binnie Houghton and her husband Eddie (who died in 2008) owned Buckingham Farm in Chestertown and ran a breed-to-race operation for decades. They campaigned Maryland-bred stars Castelets and Forry Cow How – the latter a Maryland Million Classic winner – among others. Further back, Binnie Houghton’s father Anderson Fowler was an early supporter of the Maryland Million – winning three Classics with Master Speaker and Timely Warning. Back to Bernie Houghton’s days as a jump jockey, including a riding championship in 1985, he frequently rode Buckingham horses including multiple stakes winner Give a Whirl.
Before Binnie Houghton died, she willed her Thoroughbreds to longtime friends Wayne and Susie Chatfield-Taylor of Morgan’s Ford Farm. Crabcakes now races for Morgan’s Ford, though she competes in the distinctive yellow and green Buckingham silks. She may be one of the last active Buckingham Farm-breds, but she’s a long way from finished. The Distaff was her sixth win (to go with three seconds) in 10 starts while pushing her career earnings to $286,417.
Sent off at 1-5, Crabcakes sat second while four wide on the turn as longshot She Rolls went to the early lead through fractions of :23.14 and :46.51. The favorite responded to Forest Boyce in the stretch, took over at the eighth pole and won by a half-length over My Magician with She Rolls third. The winner covered 7 furlongs in 1:23.03 while conceding 2-10 pounds to her rivals (most of them older).
“She has a lot of natural speed, she relaxes and you can do whatever you want,” Houghton said. “I was a little concerned about the distance, but she had won going that far last year as a 2-year-old. I knew she could do it, but now you’re going against older horses.
“My Aunt Binnie would be so happy with this win. Her daughters Gen and Kim are here. It means a lot.”
For Morgan’s Ford, Crabcakes represents a long association with the Houghtons and a gracious gift.
“Binnie kept saying, ‘Get ready,’ when she wasn’t feeling well and I’d tell her ‘No, that can wait,’ ” said Susie Chatfield-Taylor. “Nobody wants this to happen, but it’s an honor.”
Since 1979, the Chatfield-Taylors have raised horses for the sales ring and the racetrack at Morgan’s Ford in Front Royal, Va. Now covering 1,000 acres, the farm is frequently among Virginia’s leading breeders and is a regular at regional and national sales. Graduates include major winners Redeemed, Bank Audit, Tizahit and others.
Years ago, Morgan’s Ford bought Crabcakes’ great-granddam Elsoma from Binnie Houghton’s father. The mare had already produced Grade 3 winner Annie Cake, Crabcakes’ second dam, and would go on to produce $233,075-earner Coturnix for Morgan’s Ford. Elsoma’s half-sister, La Ville Rouge, gained fame by producing Kentucky Derby-G1 winner Barbaro among others.
Susie Chatfield-Taylor first met Binnie Houghton on a class trip to Buckingham with the Gunston School in nearby Centreville, and later worked with horses there including Silver Betsy, Elsoma’s granddam.
The connections, human and equine, are deep and Crabcakes may someday join the broodmare band at Morgan’s Ford to continue the cycle – although that can wait a bit.
“Susie and I are hugely humbled by this whole thing,” said Wayne Chatfield-Taylor. “We’ve been on our farm for 38 years and Buckingham was easily 20 years in front of that. I’m sure we’ve modeled our whole career after the path that they’ve taken. It’s a wonderful thing to carry it a step further. They’ve been very good friends for a long time. They got nice, nice horses all along. This is one more.”
New Stallion Names
They’ve got a long way to go to reach Not For Love, Allen’s Prospect, Two Punch and the other deans of the Maryland Million but Buffum, Freedom Child and Etched spoke up for the state’s current class with Maryland Million wins.
Northview Stallion Station’s Buffum started the party when Clever Mind ruled in the $100,000 Nursery for 2-year-olds. Breaking – slowly – from the inside, the first-time starter spotted seven rivals a dozen lengths early before finding his stride for jockey Nik Juarez and roaring past everyone in the stretch. Forced wide on the turn, Clever Mind stayed outside and won by 2 lengths over favorite Jamaican Don with Onemoregreattime third.
The winner covered 6 furlongs in 1:10.05, and made breeder Sycamore Hall Thoroughbreds look smart for setting a high reserve at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic yearling sale in 2016. The bidding stopped at $100,000 for the bay colt, who went back to Sycamore Hall and ultimately to trainer Graham Motion at Fair Hill Training Center.
“It makes you look a little bit smarter now,” said David Wade of Northview, which consigned the yearling to the sale. “He’s always been a good-looking horse, and he came to the sale looking beautiful and for a horse like that, by Buffum, to have live bidding up to a $100,000 was really cool. He looked the part then, and it looks like he might run the part too.”
Clever Mind is out of Sycamore Hall’s Cozzene mare Two’s Cozy, whose foals include Grade 1 steeplechase winner Top Striker and three other winners. The Nursery winner is one of just six named foals in Buffum’s first crop and one of three winners. The statistics are not lost on Wade.
“Hopefully it’ll mean more mares,” Wade said of the success. “He’s been overlooked. He gets good-looking horses. They look nice and they can run a little bit. For a horse with a small crop, it’s a good thing to have some success like this early.”
Owner/breeder Richard Golden left the Maryland Million winner’s circle to his son Michael, a small-animal veterinarian in Crofton, Md.
“I know we’ve always liked this horse very much and Graham apparently likes the horse a lot too and put him in this race,” said Michael. “I couldn’t believe how calm and cool he was in the paddock before the race. He knows what he’s doing. It’s just a thrill for us to have a first-time starter win a stakes race like this.”
Two races after Clever Mind’s win for Buffum, Country Life Farm’s Freedom Child got in on the act as his daughter Limited View put on an equally dazzling (if different) display in the $100,000 Lassie for 2-year-old fillies.
The nearly 3-1 third choice broke from the outside, then made it worse by veering sharply to her right and spotting her 10 foes 13 lengths. Up front, favorite Margie’s Money set contested fractions of :22.85 and :46.45 before yielding to Pikachu Princess in the stretch. Behind them, Hall of Famer Edgar Prado let Limited View find herself. Still ninth after a half-mile, she rallied six wide on the turn, leveled off in the stretch and swept past to win by three-quarters of a length in 1:12.15. Pikachu Princess held second with Buff’s in Love (a daughter of Buffum) third.
The winner collected her third victory in four lifetime starts for trainer John Salzman Jr. and partners Fred Wasserloos and George Greenwalt. Salzman spent $5,200 on the bay filly at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic’s yearling sale because she looked “fast, I mean fast.” He’s been battling a mix of pride and regret ever since.
Limited View won her debut at Laurel in June, then went to Saratoga for the Grade 3 Schuylerville. She melted down on the way to the paddock, got worse in the paddock itself and was scratched.
“It was a whole crowd thing,” Salzman said. “She had to walk through the crowd and these guys fell off a bench, pulled a tent over in front of her and it blew her mind. Once she gets it in her head that she’s scared, you’re not going to do anything with her. I took her myself, handled her myself, I tried everything. You couldn’t get near her. It just wasn’t going to work. Even if we could have gotten the tack on her she wasn’t going to run her race. It just took too much out of her.”
Salzman tried again in the Adirondack-G2 there Aug. 12 and things went a little better pre-race, but Limited View broke a step slow, engaged eventual winner Pure Silver on the turn and faded to finish sixth of eight. Back home at Laurel, and reunited with Prado, the Maryland-bred overcame another rough start to win an allowance while heavily favored. Next came the Maryland Million, where Limited View behaved in the paddock but got upset behind the gate. She was fractious in the gate, and broke behind the field before angling out and losing all chance at a decent early position.
The trainer paid full credit to Prado.
“He didn’t panic,” Salzman said. “He had all the confidence in the world. Edgar never got nervous. Did I get nervous? I was standing here hiding and I started for the paddock, that’s how nervous I was. Then she started running and I said, ‘Well, she’s not going to get there. These are nice fillies she’s trying to run down.’ ”
Limited View, bred by Barbara Smith, ran down them all. The success rewarded Salzman’s judgment of a yearling strolling the ring at Timonium, and his work ethic for sticking with it despite her antics.
“You never know what she’s going to do next,” he said. “She’s so tough, she trains so good, she’s one of the best horses I’ve ever had but when she gets it in her head
. . . She trains like a good horse, walks to the track, walks off, jogs off, gallops, does everything perfect, but if she gets scared she can’t control it. I think I named her right, Limited View, I don’t think she sees everything like she’s supposed to see it.”
Wasserloos, a Massachusetts resident who has teamed up with Salzman for the last 10 years or so, watched the Lassie with trepidation.
“When that gate opened a lot of people were questioning it, but I said to my wife, ‘She’s got ’em right where she wants ’em and if you believe that I’ll sell you a bridge,” Wasserloos said. “She’s a little nuts, but she can run. I’m thrilled for John. He cares a lot, works hard. A lot of trainers might not have put everything into her that she needed. It might have been too much work. It probably is too much work, but John’s there and he does it.”
Etched got into the act with a win by My Sistersledge in the $125,000 Ladies for John and Cheryl Banner and trainer Mike Trombetta.
The 3-year-old homebred filly out of the Miesque’s Son mare Blushing Bride, ridden by Julian Pimentel, rallied up the rail in the stretch to edge favorite Great Soul by a nose. For more, see the Maryland Horse section.
Willy d’Rocket rules
Prevented from racing at Laurel this summer because he went a dozen starts –
and almost two years – without finishing in the first four, Willy d’ Rocket did the only thing he could do.
Went to Presque Isle Downs.
There, the 8-year-old started twice for a $12,500 claiming price – finishing second Aug. 16 and winning Sept. 7. The victory was his first since July 2015 and put Roger and Gayle Legg’s homebred back on course for the Maryland Million – where he started in the Turf in 2014 and 2015. This year, the target was a new turf starter handicap and Willy d’Rocket apparently appreciated the opportunity as he blitzed 12 foes, earned $33,000 and delighted the Leggs, trainer Kelly Colgan and her husband/assistant/exercise rider Peter McDermott.
“It’s amazing, it’s been such a long road,” said Colgan. “He is our pet. He is not easy, but he is our pet. We love him. Peter and he are best friends. He lost confidence for sure for a while. Because he’s our pet, we’re scared to run him for a tag too often, so he was over his head a bit and he kind of lost his confidence but he’s definitely got it back now.”
Willy d’Rocket won for the seventh time in 40 starts while pushing his career earnings to $196,310 since making his debut in 2012. Along the way, he finished second to Page McKenney in the 2015 Robellino Stakes at Penn National and fourth (beaten less than a length) in the 2015 Alphabet Soup Stakes at Parx Racing.
The Leggs foaled Willy d’Rocket, a son of Rock Slide and the John Willy mare Fleet Willy, on their farm in Cochranville, Pa., continuing a long association with Thoroughbreds. The Leggs bred and raced Fleet Willy, and her dam Am an Eagle. The latter is a daughter of Stablegirl, the first Thoroughbred purchased by the Leggs.
“We’ve bred 60 or 70 horses and he’s probably the best we’ve bred,” said Roger. “I’m never optimistic. Ever. I always think, ‘Oh we’ll go home with our tail between our legs,’ but every once in a while we don’t. He has improved recently. He’s better for whatever reason. We owe that to Peter and Kelly, or just good luck.”
Whichever, Willy d’Rocket and jockey Forest Boyce rallied into contention from eighth with an inside move and reeled in favorite Grecian Prince in the stretch. From there it was a formality as the winner built a 4-length lead and won by 33⁄4 over Zen’s Land with Feel Proud third.
“Look at him, he won by a lot, wow,” said the Fair Hill-based Colgan, watching the replay. “This is all Peter. He lives and breathes this horse, knows him inside and out.”
Acing the Sprint
With eyes on Timonium’s inaugural Coalition Stakes, owner Robert Cole and trainer Kevin Patterson looked for a horse to claim. Speed mattered, versatility wouldn’t hurt and a Maryland-bred pedigree would really close the deal.
Hello Blu Moon Ace.
Patterson claimed the 4-year-old out of a win for $30,000 at Delaware Park July 20. On Aug. 26, he won the Coalition going 61⁄2 furlongs on Timonium’s tight track. The next month, the dark bay gelding took a shot at the big time and finished a close second in the De Francis Dash-G3 at Laurel. The Maryland Million Sprint came next, but only after the entry box failed to attract six Maryland-sired horses. Let in by the expansion to Maryland-breds, Blu Moon Ace lived up to his 2-5 favoritism. The son of Malibu Moon broke a step slowly, made the lead while four wide after a half-mile in :45.18 and won by 23⁄4 lengths over Rockinn On Bye with Struth third. Julian Pimentel rode the winner, who covered 6 furlongs in 1:09.06 while winning for the seventh time in 21 starts.
“I was scared to death when he broke lousy, behind horses,” said Cole. “I wasn’t expecting that. We wanted to be wide, we thought the outside was better from what we saw earlier. He just was the best horse, he overpowered them.”
Cole called the success after the claim part luck and part planning.
“You’ve got to claim hundreds of them to get one like this and it feels real good because it’s tough, it’s tough to get them like this,” he said. “I’d watched his replays. He’d gotten two bad trips in a row. The biggest thing about him, I thought he went turf and dirt and you have to have versatility these days. Of course he’s Maryland-bred, that made a big difference too.”
Bred by Howard Bender, who died in September 2015, Blu Moon Ace won his debut for Bender’s estate in April 2016 and added another win three starts later. By November, the horse was in the Keeneland November Sale and brought $30,000 from owner Marshall Dowell. Blu Moon Ace won for Dowell and trainer Robert Bailes late last year, but was claimed for $25,000 by trainer Jamie Ness’ Jagger Inc. stable in March. Six starts later, Patterson made his claim. The barn changes haven’t bothered Blu Moon Ace, whose career bankroll zoomed to $374,064 in the Sprint.
“He’s really quiet around the barn, a real nice horse to be around,” said Patterson. “When we claimed him we were pointing him for that Coalition at Timonium. That was the whole idea of taking that horse. When he ran down there and ran that big, we were both a little bit shocked, that’s what pointed us in the next direction [De Francis]. I can’t say enough about him. Today, he was a little more wound up than he normally is. When he came out of the paddock he was a little jumpy. Normally he’s just got his head down and makes you worry the other way.”
Rounding out the frame
Spartianos and Nik Juarez took six rivals for a walk in the Turf, getting soft opening fractions of :25.05 and :49.91 with a 2-length lead before digging in late to win a five-horse scramble at the finish by a head over Somekindofmagician. The runner-up was a nose in front of Talk Show Man, who had a neck on Grandiflora who was a head in front of Dothat Dance. A length separated the first six finishers in the 1-mile test.
Spartianos won for the second time this year, and sixth time in his career. Trained by Mike Pino for Nick Sanna Stables and Two Legends Farm, the son of Not For Love had to be tenacious late and covered the final half-mile in :46.93 to collect the $70,970 payday.
“He was just really, really game coming for home,” Juarez said. “You like to ride horses like that. When I was going into the first turn they were anticipating that I was going to go pretty quick and I thought so too, but I was able to get him back into my hands and when I knew that first fraction was slow I said, ‘I got it.’ ”
Spartianos won his first stakes after placing in three including a second in the 2016 Turf. Bred in Maryland by Two Legends and David Wade, the bay 5-year-old was purchased for $36,000 by Pino at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic’s fall yearling sale of 2013. The Turf win gave him $281,014 in earnings, and proved his ability while exiting a 5-furlong sprint in his most recent start.
“You’re asking a horse to go another three-eighths of a mile so I really wasn’t sure he would give it to me,” Juarez said of the stretch run. “We got passed for a couple strides, but when [Somekindofmagician] bumped me a little bit my horse just grabbed the bit and got aggressive.”
n Participate won the opening starter handicap for fillies and mares going 11⁄8 miles on the turf for Ann Merryman and Jeff Musgrove. Merryman handled the training on the 4-year-old Maryland-bred daughter of Include, who won by 51⁄4 lengths while leading most of the way. Jevian Toledo rode the winner.
Favorite Helloitsme scored by a nose over the late-running longshot Captain Alex in the second, the starter handicap at 7 furlongs on the dirt for owner/trainer Carlos Milian. The son of Jump Start was bred in Maryland by Tom and Chris Bowman and Northview Stallion Station and won for the fourth time in 13 starts. Milian claimed the winner for $7,500 at Parx Racing in June.
The finale, the 7-furlong distaff starter handicap, went to Miss Nosy for MCA Racing Stable and trainer Claudio Gonzalez. The 4-year-old daughter of Louis Quatorze took over coming into the stretch and scored by 31⁄4 lengths for her third consecutive win. Bred in Maryland by Allen and Audrey Murray, Miss Nosy finished fourth in the 2016 race.