Looking Back

This month in mid-atlantic thoroughbred history! For Looking Back archives click here.

The mighty Cigar, seeking to defend his title in the Breeders’ Cup Classic-G1, fell a nose and a head short when third behind Pennsylvania-bred Alphabet Soup in the $4-million feature at Woodbine.

Nearly white 5-year-old Alphabet Soup, bred by Virginian Roy Lerman, who sent his mare Illiterate (by Arts and Letters) to Pennsylvania in 1991 to take advantage of that state-bred program, was the third Classic winner in a row for the Mid-Atlantic region (Maryland-bred Concern won in 1994). Offered by his breeder twice at auction, Alphabet Soup was a $29,000 RNA at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic’s May sale. Sold privately after that sale to Georgia B. Ridder, he was sent to California, where he raced exclusively until the Breeders’ Cup. The six-time graded stakes winner pushed his earnings to $2,930,270 from 23 starts.

  • Fair Hill-based Michael Dickinson, a three-time champion steeplechase trainer in England, sent out his first Breeders’ Cup winner when Da Hoss captured the Mile-G1.

    Dickinson, in the U.S. for a decade, got his first North American winner with his first starter in June 1987, and became known for “doing things his own way.”

    Described as “intelligent, driven, highly focused, starkly self-critical, and an absolute stickler for detail,” Dickinson walked the Woodbine turf course three consecutive days, for a total of nine trips, and told Da Hoss’ new rider Gary Stevens to ride the rail in the Mile. “I said to Gary, ‘These are dreadful instructions I’m going to give you. If they don’t work, I’ll take responsibility.’ They were dangerous tactics [from the sixth of 14 posts]. With a slow pace, I could have looked stupid,” said Dickinson.

    He and his partner Joan Wakefield had recently purchased property on the banks of Maryland’s Elk River to develop a training center.

  • Voters in Jefferson County, W.Va., overwhelmingly approved video lottery terminals at Charles Town Races. The referendum, far beyond the U.S. presidential election and West Virginia’s gubernatorial race, was the most prominent issue for the local electorate. With the results locked in, Penn National Gaming immediately moved on the option to purchase the track. “A year or two from now, people are going to drive past Charles Town and say, ‘Hey, look at that! Isn’t that great? Isn’t that beautiful?’ said Peter Carlino, president and board chairman of Penn National Gaming.

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