The future of Maryland’s Thoroughbred industry was in the hands of the state’s voters. A referendum on the November ballot would allow voters to decide for or against the slots program crafted in a special session of the state legislature the previous November.
Approval of the referendum named “Authorizing Video Lottery Terminals [Slot Machines] to Fund Education” would allow Senate Bill 3 to take effect and move the slots program forward. While the majority of the revenue from slots was earmarked for education, 7 percent would go to Maryland’s racing industry.
Kentucky Derby/Preakness winner Big Brown flopped in the Belmont Stakes but redeemed himself with a gutsy win in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth. Bettors hadn’t been discouraged, sending Big Brown off at 1-5, the shortest-priced favorite since Holy Bull 14 years earlier. When the Nick Zito-trained Coal Play spurted away from Big Brown at the head of the stretch, it appeared another shocking loss was imminent until the bay colt “found a new gear,” according to his rider Kent Desormeaux, who frantically drove the colt home to a 13⁄4-length victory. With his sixth win in seven career starts, the colt owned by IEAH Stables, Paul Pompa Jr., Gary Tolchin, Andrew Cohen and Pegasus Holdings Group increased his earnings to $3,314,500.
New records in handle were established, with $17.6 million bet on the 14-race card ($3.5 million more than the previous year) and $4,257,409 on the Haskell itself.
Bert and Diana Firestone’s lightly raced homebred Winchester (above) made his first start in the U.S. after racing in the British Isles, and turned in a rousing performance in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes for 3-year-olds at Arlington Park, winning by 71⁄4 lengths. His time for 11⁄4 miles on the turf was 2:01.76, .41 seconds faster than older horses ran the distance in the Arlington Million-G1 two races later. It was the first stakes win for the son of Theatrical (Ire), the Eclipse Award-winning turf horse also bred and campaigned by the Firestones.
Winchester became a world traveler, racing in Australia, Hong Kong, Ireland and England. He won four stakes, all Grade 1s, and retired at age 7 with earnings of $1,607,774.