Looking Back

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

One day before the Jan. 21 deadline, Joe De Francis announced he would buy out the stock owned by his estranged partners Bob and Tom Manfuso, thereby maintaining ownership control of Laurel and Pimlico.

De Francis had taken over the management of Maryland’s two major tracks upon the death of his father, Frank De Francis, in August 1989. With his sister Karin and business partner Martin Jacobs, De Francis held slightly more than half the stock. In October 1993 a Russian roulette clause was activated by the Manfusos to force a buy-out; De Francis stepped up. It was noted no additional investors were said to be involved, although the purchase apparently was facilitated by Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke’s intention to purchase 100 acres of land adjacent to the track. 

 Maryland rider Phil Grove was selected to receive two prestigious honors: the 1994 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, and induction into the Maryland Sports Hall of Fame. The Frederick, Md., native based his riding career in Maryland and West Virginia. The nation’s leading apprentice rider in 1967, he had won nearly 4,000 races. 

 Classic winner Bet Twice was moved to Northview Stallion Station in Chesapeake City, Md., for the 1994 season. Winner of the 1987 Belmont Stakes-G1, the son of Sportin’ Life stood his first five seasons in Kentucky.

Compromised by fertility issues, Bet Twice was pensioned after two seasons at Northview, and lived out his life at Robert Levy’s Muirfield East, just down the road from Northview, until his death at age 15 in 1999. Levy’s mother, Blanche, and Sisley Stable had campaigned Bet Twice through a career of 26-10-6-4 and $3,308,599. In seven crops, he sired 26 stakes horses. 

 Junior pony racing proved educational, competitive and fun, and a popular racing circuit created in 1991 was growing. The top two riders in 1993 were 13-year-olds Kelly Conaway and Elizabeth Voss, with Voss taking the series by a single point.

A number of prominent horsemen and women participated in pony races over the years when held largely as pre-race entertainment at local point-to-points and sanctioned NSA meets, including Joe Gillet Davies, James “Chuck” Lawrence, Ricky Hendriks, Charles Fenwick III and Patrick Worrall. “I think that it gives the kids a taste for racing, and that’s all very good,” said Maryland horseman Charlie Fenwick Jr. 


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