Other trainers and owners, Bill Beatson said, took a look at the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap, saw the name "Shackleford" and passed.
Even Beatson, and his partners at Dark Hollow Farms, David and JoAnn Hayden, knew that a win against the 2011 Preakness winner would be unlikely. They decided to enter the horse, Poseidon's Warrior, anyway, and so on Sunday the Maryland-bred horse was at the gate of an off track at the grade I race at Saratoga. His odds were 36-1, the second longest shot in the field.
"It was a very long shot," said Beatson, who bred Poseidon's Warrior, along with the Haydens of Dark Hollow Farm. "The fact that Shackleford was in the race scared away a lot of other qualified potential entrants."
Something happened. It wasn't Shackleford in the winner's circle. Instead, it was Poseidon's Warrior. Shackleford had finished last in the field of eight.
The win represented a small victory for Maryland racing, and for the Maryland farm David Hayden calls a "boutique operation." The small Dark Hollow Farm has now produced two grade I winners.
"A grade 1 win at Saratoga is the pinnacle. There's no question about it," Hayden said. "It bodes well for Maryland racing."
Hayden cautions that the win wasn't a fluke. Poseidon's Warrior had already won more than $390,000 in his career, and Beatson noted that he is a proven performer on off tracks, like the one he raced on Sunday.
The win carried a $240,000 purse for the horse that sold for $90,000 at auction as a two-year-old. Poseidon's Warrior, a four-year-old, is the son of Speightstown and Posied to Pounce, two horses Hayden had been following.
Some passed over the horse because he lacked in size and demeanor, but Hayden viewed him as "a neat, tidy package." The purchase paid off for the farm that has also produced horses like Safely Kept, recently voted into the horse racing Hall of Fame.
"To produce out of what we did, two grade I winners, that's pretty astounding," Beatson said of Dark Hollow Farm. "There are people who have been in this game many, many years who spent tens and tens in the millions of dollars and never get close to a grade 1. We have two grade 1 winners, that's really something in itself."
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