“Exactly 34 years to the day after the Cohen brothers purchased Pimlico back in 1952, Frank De Francis and his partners–Robert and John [Tommy] Manfuso Jr. and attorney Martin Jacobs–announced they had bought America’s second oldest racetrack on December 30, 1986,” reported The Maryland Horse. Included in the sale was Pimlico’s half-interest in Bowie.
For the first time in Maryland’s modern racing history, all of the state’s 306 racing dates, with the exception of Timonium’s 10-day meeting, were controlled by one organization.
•For the Cohen brothers–Ben, 87, and Herman, 92–it was the end of a highly successful era at Old Hilltop, during which time the Preakness evolved into a spectacle attracting a crowd second only to the Kentucky Derby.
• A second Maryland landmark changed hands when 575-acre Sagamore Farm was purchased from Alfred G. Vanderbilt by 40-year-old real estate developer James Ward III. Ward stated that he had no intention of subdividing the property and noted plans called for expansion of the horse breeding facility. The stallions in residence–Restless Native, Salutely and Cold Reception–would remain under the new ownership. Vanderbilt, 74, planned to keep about 40 of his own horses at the farm. Vanderbilt, who received Sagamore as a gift from his mother on his 21st birthday, had never resided year-round at Sagamore, instead maintaining a residence in New York.
• The leading sire in the region in 1986 by North American earnings was the late King’s Bishop, who made his home at Windfields Farm in Chesapeake City, Md., until his death in 1981 at age 12. With his youngest crop being 4-year-olds in 1986, King’s Bishop was the sire of six stakes winners, and his runners earned in excess of $1.6 million.
When counting foreign earnings, no regional horse could top another Windfields stallion, The Minstrel. The striking chestnut son of Northern Dancer had nine stakes winners, led by his daughter Minstrella, the champion 2-year-old in Ireland.
Bred in Virginia by Edward P. Evans, Minstrella won four of her seven starts and was second twice during her championship season. Three of her wins came in Group 1 company.
• Emma Warner Smithwick, the mother of two sons in the Racing Hall of Fame–steeplechase greats D.M. (Mikey) and A.P. (Paddy) Smithwick–died at the age of 98 on Jan. 1. A horsewoman in her own right, Mrs. Smithwick remained active almost right up until her death, and foxhunted well into her 80s. She was also a partner in her sons’ steeplechase operation.
• Jim McKay was voted the 1986 Big Sport of Turfdom Award by the Turf Publicists of America, an honor bestowed annually to an outstanding representative of the Thoroughbred racing industry.