Fewer than 50 Thoroughbred owners earned more than a million dollars in a single year, but the Mid-Atlantic region was home to six who did in 1996. Carolyn Hine, owner of champion Skip Away, had stable earnings of $2,822,396. New Farm, owned by Hine’s fellow New Jersey resident Everett Novak, and Pennsylvania breeder/owner George Strawbridge’s Augustin Stable also broke the $2 million mark. Other top earners in the region included Marylander Robert E. Meyerhoff ($1,425,062) and Virginians Edward P. Evans ($1,146,995) and David P. Reynolds ($1,056,284).
- The accolades rolled in for Maryland-bred Cigar, who received the Eclipse Award as the nation’s Horse of the Year for the second year in a row. The son of Palace Music also topped the international classifications for the second consecutive season, his 135-pound weight assignment placing him one pound higher than top-ranked 3-year-old Helissio (Fr) and three pounds above his own high mark of 1995, and was highweighted on the Canadian Free Handicap. In honor of Cigar’s achievements, Aqueduct’s Grade 1 NYRA Mile – Cigar’s first stakes win that helped launch his record-equaling streak of 16 wins in a row – was renamed the Cigar Mile. A life-sized statue was also placed on display in the Garden of Champions at Gulfstream Park.
- The West Virginia Breeders Classics had a new, expanded format for the 11th renewal, with Breeders Classics events set to be held at Charles Town and Mountaineer as the number of races increased from six to nine and purses totaled a record $500,000. The Frank Gall Memorial, a long mainstay on the Charles Town schedule, became a Breeders Classic event as a preparation for the traditional Breeders Classics Day card.
- Korea underwent a total restructuring of its Thoroughbred racing program and welcomed a planeload of 87 Thoroughbreds, from Baltimore-Washington International airport, in late March. The government-owned Korean racing association was being privatized, with plans for three more racetracks put into motion with the issuance of permits. Purchasing was being handled by S & K Trading and Consulting of Ellicott City, Md., with the Maryland Department of Agriculture working to facilitate the process.
“They’ll be competing against each other, so the idea is for them to be roughly equivalent in ability. You wouldn’t want one horse winning everything. Improving the breed will come gradually,” said Marilyn Bassford of the MDA.
- After she was sent to New Bolton Center with a life-threatening infection in mid-February, multiple stakes-winning Maryland-bred Miss Slewpy was retired from racing, though she was expected to recover in time for breeding that spring. The 6-year-old daughter of Slewpy raced for her breeder C. Oliver Goldsmith until she was sold to John Kluge’s Morven Stud just before her illness. In 26 starts she recorded 14 wins (eight stakes) and eight placings (five stakes), and $535,863 in earnings. Her last start was in the Maryland Racing Writers’ Association Handicap at Laurel, where she triumphed by a half-length.
Sadly Miss Slewpy, a granddaughter of Goldsmith’s foundation mare Turn Capp, succumbed to the infection and subsequent laminitis two months later.