After months of rumors that Magna Entertainment Corp. would purchase Maryland’s two major Thoroughbred tracks, Pimlico and Laurel Park, it appeared a deal was close to reality. In mid-July, the Maryland Jockey Club (corporate owner of Laurel and Pimlico) and Magna jointly unveiled an agreement that would make Magna the majority owner of the two tracks?–?and establish their combined value at $117.5 million.
While MJC president Joe DeFrancis would continue to manage the tracks on a day-to-day basis, Magna would have a 51 percent voting interest.
But in early August, comments made by Frank Stronach that he would raze Pimlico and, during rebuilding, move the Preakness, rattled everyone in Maryland racing. Efforts were underway to ensure that the Preakness could not be moved out of state.
Pennsylvania’s leading breeder, George Strawbridge, was represented by five stakes winners in July.
The victories came at five different tracks, and the diverse group ranged from a 7-year-old Grade 1 winner on turf to a 2-year-old graded stakes-winning filly on the dirt.
The headliner was Strawbridge’s own With Anticipation. The eyecatching, nearly white gelding hit the wire first for the second consecutive year in the Grade 1 United Nations Handicap. The son of Relaunch had “unfinished business,” according to trainer Jonathan Sheppard, after being disqualified from a course record-setting effort in the race the previous year.
With Pat Day aboard, With Anticipation tracked the early leaders through modest fractions before unleashing a furious stretch drive, battling Denon and Sarafan to win by a neck. He broke the course record again, this time getting 13?8 miles in 2:12.81. It was the gelding’s third career Grade 1 win and pushed his earnings past $1.5 million.
On the other end of the spectrum, Freedom’s Daughter, whom Strawbridge sold as a yearling at Saratoga for $525,000, took the Grade 2 Schuylerville Stakes on the Spa’s opening day. Racing for Padua Stables and trained by Todd Pletcher, the daughter of Saint Ballado was undefeated in two starts.
The other Strawbridge Pennsylvania-bred stakes winners were homebreds Rochester and Invest West, and Canadian-based juvenile Rights Reserved, who was also sold as a yearling.
A heavy-hitter joined the New Jersey sire ranks when Joe and Karen Jennings announced that Defrere would stand the 2003 season at their Walnford Stud in Allentown. A full brother to champion Dehere, the 10-year-old son of Deputy Minister out of Sister Dot, by Secretariat, had immediate success by siring the likes of graded winner Sister Fiona and 2002 stakes-winning sophomore President Butler.
“He’s gotten a lot of 2-year-old winners,” said Joe Jennings. “His runners have speed?–?he is a young stallion with a lot of potential.”
Defrere has led the New Jersey sires list every year since 2003 and was named New Jersey’s stallion of the year the past four years.
Edward P. Evans’ homebred Summer Colony caught Eugene Ford’s Maryland-bred filly Your Out at the wire to win the $600,000 Delaware Handicap-G3. The two 4-year-olds were separated by a neck.
It was a breakout year for Summer Colony, a daughter of Summer Squall trained by Mark Hennig. One of the nation’s leading distaffers, the Kentucky-bred launched her season defeating Azeri in the Grade 2 La Canada at Santa Anita while giving Azeri weight.
Your Out’s trainer, Graham Motion, was nearly in a state of shock. “For me to be disappointed is kind of crazy. If someone would have asked me two months ago if I thought I could have been second in the Delaware Handicap with Your Out against one of the best fillies in the country, I would have thought they were from another planet.”
Summer Colony won the Personal Ensign Handicap-G1 at Saratoga in her next start. Campaigned through her 5-year-old season, she retired with earnings of $1,448,930. Your Out raced three more times, to push her bankroll to $518,710. The next year, the Delaware Handicap was elevated to Grade 2 status.