Looking Back

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

• The region lost one of its most successful breeders when Alice duPont Mills died at 89. Mills and her late husband, James P. Mills, owned and operated Hickory Tree Farm near Middleburg, Va., which they established in the mid-1940s. Among the more than 40 stakes winners bred in the name of Mrs. Mills or Hickory Tree Farm were Believe It and Terpsichorist; the Millses also campaigned champion Devil’s Bag and top-class Gone West.

Mrs. Mills ranked among the leading owners in England in 1966, when the Irish-bred filly *Glad Rags II, whom she purchased as a yearling, won the 1,000 Guineas. *Glad Rags II became an outstanding member of the broodmare band, as the dam of three stakes winners, including Terpsichorist.
Involved in numerous philanthropic endeavours on behalf of the racing industry, Mrs. Mills was a founding member of the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center. In the past year, the family of *Glad Rags II is back in the news through the accomplishments of her great-grandson Union Rags. The Dixie Union colt is out of Tempo, a daughter of Gone West and Terpsichorist bred by Mrs. Mills. Union Rags was bred and is owned by the Millses’ daughter Phyllis Wyeth.
• The newly renovated Belair Stable Museum near Bowie, Md., was ready to be officially unveiled. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973, the stable had undergone $750,000 in improvements to make it more visitor-friendly and informative.
Nearly lost to development decades earlier, the stable is one of the last remnants of the vast Belair Stud, one of the most important breeding establishments in Colonial times, and home to the stellar stable of William Woodward Sr. Among the legendary horses to inhabit the stable, which was built for Woodward in 1907, were Triple Crown winners Gallant Fox and Omaha.
• After arriving in Maryland the previous October, Mike Gill shot to the top of the owners’ rankings during the Laurel winter meet. His 49 wins (from 254 starts) were more than the previous year’s leading owner, Richard Englander, had for the entire 2001 season.
In less than six months, Gill claimed 58 horses for more than $1.1 million at Laurel. But the driven owner had bigger plans. He had recently entered the sales market, purchasing a 2-year-old Seattle Slew colt for $800,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale in February. At the February Ocala Breeders’ Sale, he spent $1.04 million for four juveniles.
Gill tried to purchase a half-interest in 3-year-old Harlan’s Holiday around the same time, but balked when the price went to $1.5 million. “I said no, but in hindsight, I should have done it,” said Gill. “Actually, I’m not good with partners. If I make a mistake, I want it to be all mine.”
Gill was more than willing to share his ambitious plans: “Winning the Kentucky Derby is not a dream,” he said. “It WILL happen for me. I don’t believe it’s all luck getting to and winning the Derby.”
Larry Abbundi, believed to be the longest active racing secretary at any major track in the country when he retired in 1993, died at 75.
One of Abbundi’s first jobs in racing came in 1952, when he was named assistant racing secretary for the National Steeplechase and Hunt Association. Soon he became clerk of scales at Charles Town and Waterford Park, and within four years was a patrol judge and placing judge on Maryland’s half-mile circuit.
By 1962, Abbundi was assistant racing secretary at Delaware Park, and one year later, took on the same role at Laurel. In 1967, Abbundi was the racing secretary at all three of Maryland’s mile tracks. He became known as “a tough taskmaster, and a master at writing a condition book.”


Archives | Looking Back

Click here to view our online Looking Back archives.

The Mill Leaders