Ashes of Pimlico's Gillespie scattered at finish line


Bill Gillespie became the latest racing man to have his ashes strewn on the finish line at Pimlico Race Course.

It happened early Friday for the man who was security directothere in the mid-1970s, and was a jockey and trainer before that.

The ashes ceremony at Pimlico has an unusual history. As far aold-timers can recall, it began in 1944 with a request by Percy Longstreet Barry, a musician and businessman.

Barry had been an avid horseplayer who spent many a happhour in the grandstand.

Trainer Dillon Grey's ashes were buried at the base of thflagpole in 1949. Grey, who had worked for years at the half-mile tracks, died at Charles Town, W.Va. His ashes were buried at Pimlico after two of his friends went to the home of Jack Needles, secretary of the Maryland Jockey Club, late one evening. Needles held a flashlight while Grey's friends dug a small hole for the urn.

The friends decided that even though Grey hadn't been able twin races at the mile tracks such as Pimlico, they would put him there in death.

Willie Doyle's ashes were strewn the next year. His desire to be part of Pimlico was well-known. Doyle had ridden the long-shot ++ Effendi to victory in the 1909 Preakness when that race wasn't a big deal.

Doyle became an entry clerk and patrol judge and watched thPreakness grow into a classic. It made him happy to be a part of the big race.

So when he died in 1950, his request to have his ashes spreathere was honored.

When the configuration of the track was changed later, tracofficials wanted to dignify the ashes ceremonies. Before the first race was run over the new route with the finish line farther down toward the first turn, they solemnly took a shovelful of dirt from the old location, then walked to the new line and spread it there.

Their act symbolized all of the old ceremonies dedicated to thpeople who loved racing and wanted to be a part of it always.

Down through the years, perhaps a dozen more have beehonored there. Several were employees. Some were horsemen.

Gillespie joins them.

The speedy Maryland-bred Houston has been retired and sent to Walmac International farm near Lexington, Ky., to stand at stud.

He's a 4-year-old son of Seattle Slew and the champion fillySmart Angle. He cost $2.9 million as part of a consignment by Eleanor Sparenberg of Sparks, where he was born. He was sold at the Keeneland Summer Selected Yearling Sales to L. R. French Jr.

Houston became a red-hot item in the 1989 Kentucky Derby, buran eighth as part of an entry trained by Wayne Lukas, who thought the colt would be a star going long.

He was best at sprinting.

Houston won five of 11 starts. He was voted best Maryland-bre 3-year-old of 1989.* Should the New Jersey politicians work out an acceptable law to govern racehorse betting in the Atlantic City casinos, Maryland racing might be offered for betting there, too.

The voters approved the concept of such betting in referendum last week, but it is up to the legislators to pass a specific law.

The main concern will be including within the law a provision thaallows bets at the hotels along the boardwalk for races at the five tracks in the state. Also, officials are considering a law that would approve taking bets on out-of-state tracks in jurisdictions such as Maryland.

There's no threat to Maryland racing. Under a federal law, thtrack owners and horsemen here would have to approve all such action.

Maryland horsemen foresee possible casino betting on racefrom here as having a positive impact, if any impact at all.

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