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 Looking Back

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

Laffit Pincay Jr. brought home longshot Sean’s Ferrari (on rail) in the 1987 Nursery to the delight of his connections (from left): trainer Bill Boniface, co-owner Joan Boniface, Maryland Million founder Jim McKay, and his wife Margaret McManus who bred and co-owned the colt, and the McManuses’ friend and race sponsor Jim McManus (no relation).Trainer Bill Boniface set the bar high, sending out the winners of three Maryland Million Day races on the nine race card at Pimlico. Boniface brought in a big gun to help, flying in Laffit Pincay Jr. from California to ride. “I have always admired Pincay,” revealed the trainer. “I knew his style of riding fit with my horses who were closers. Also, I had a sufficient number of horses to justify the cost of the retainer, and the transportation fees.” 

Pincay won three races on the card, two for Boniface (Sean’s Ferrari and Gold Glove) and one for Ron Alfano (Ringing). Mario Pino guided Boniface’s other winner, Angelina County.

King Leatherbury won two races, with 2-year-old filly Thirty Eight Go Go (ridden by Chris McCarron) and Ms. Rutledge (Kent Desormeaux).

The owners of Sean’s Ferrari, winner of the Maryland Million Nursery, provided one of the event’s greatest storylines. The gelding’s breeder/co-owner, Margaret McManus, was the wife of famed ABC Sports commentator Jim McKay, creator of the Maryland Million.

Hesitant to even start their 2-year-old in the race, Jim McKay remarked, “I was afraid people would say we didn’t belong in the race, that we just wanted to be able to say we’d run a horse in the Maryland Million.”

Sent off at 16-1, Sean’s Ferrari, named after the McManuses’ son Sean, a producer and vice-president for NBC Sports, won by a head bob over odds-on favorite King’s Snow.

“For once, the man who has made his career talking about sports contests had a hard time putting his thoughts into words,” wrote Joe Kelly. “It was not only McManus’ first stakes win, but the first time that one of his horses had participated in a stakes.”

In another twist, the Salutely gelding raced for the McManus Stable, a partnership between Margaret McManus, her friend Nancy McManus (no relation) and Joan Boniface. Nancy McManus’ husband, Jim, was the owner of Business Express Airlines, one of Maryland Million’s first sponsors?–?and the sponsor of the Nursery.

Country Life Farm got a new stallion, a son of Danzig named Corridor Key. An allowance-winning half-brother to major winner Palace Music campaigned by Allen Paulson, the gray was in the process of being syndicated. 

He was the second stallion prospect Paulson retired to the Bel Air, Md., farm?–?the first was Allen’s Prospect. 

Corridor Key didn’t come close to having the stud career of Allen’s Prospect, siring just seven black-type winners. But he is a historic footnote in the life of one of racing’s greatest runners, Cigar. Paulson shipped his mare Solar Slew to Maryland to foal and be bred back to Corridor Key. She was carrying Cigar, who was born April 18, 1990, at Country Life Farm.

John D. Marsh, past president and director of the Virginia Thoroughbred Association, member of the board of directors of Breeders’ Cup Ltd. and a trustee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, died at 80.

The insurance company executive became involved with horses relatively late in life, making his first purchase in 1967 at the Keeneland Fall Mixed sale, that being Nashua’s daughter Melanie’s Girl, who would become his foundation broodmare. The stakes producer was the granddam of Marsh’s multimillionaire Majesty’s Prince.

Three days after Marsh’s passing came word that James P. Mills died, also at 80.

One of Virginia’s most prominent horsemen, Mills owned and operated Hickory Tree Farm in Middleburg with his wife Alice du Pont Mills. Owner of 1983 Eclipse Award-winning juvenile Devil’s Bag, he also campaigned Gone West, one of the best 3-year-olds of 1987.

Onion Juice captured the $100,000 Jim Beam Classic, the featured event of eight races at the first West Virginia Breeders Classics. Held at Charles Town, the program also included four $25,000 stakes, a $15,000 and two $10,000 allowance races. It was richest day of Thoroughbred racing in the state’s history.

“We took some ideas already established by the Maryland Million folks and incorporated them into our own racing showcase,” said Sam Huff, originator of the event. 

The two highest-priced yearlings sold at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Fall Selected Yearling sale were by Maryland’s leading sire Rollicking

Sondra and Howard Bender purchased the sales-topper for $75,000. The colt out of Snow Lady was a full-brother to their current 2-year-old multiple stakes winner King’s Snow. Sam Morrell from New York spent $62,000 for the other.

Both colts appeared in the Maryland Million the next year. Snow King won the Nursery, with Twilight Roll finishing third. 

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