Tong Po gives Odd Couple a winner


Call them Maryland racing's Odd Couple.

Owner Bob Quinichett lives in suburban Washington, shuns publicity and thrives on selling a horse for a score.

Trainer Leon Blusiewicz lives in "Bawlmer Counny," seeks out reporters, and thrives on cashing a bet for a score.

Together, Quinichett (pronounced Keh-NEE-chee) and Blusiewicz have come up with another good horse. Their colt, Tong Po, will leave Sunday for Aqueduct, where he will begin training for the $500,000 Wood Memorial on April 20.

The colt won the Tesio Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on March 17 by eight lengths. Blusiewicz said afterward that he would bypass the Kentucky Derby on May 4, but Quinichett has been shopping a half-interest for the colt, and a sale could change the agenda.

Blusiewicz, 58, is a former tugboat worker who loved racing so much that he took out a trainer's license in 1969. He has trained more than his share of top-caliber horses -- Isella, Snow Plow, Skipat, Lejoli and Willa On the Move among them -- but he calls Tong Po "the best I've ever had."

"Believe me, I've been around good horses," he said yesterday. "But this one is special. I really think he's in the top five [3-year-olds] in the country."

Tong Po was making just his third start in the Tesio, accounting for his 31-1 odds. With Wayne Barnett riding, he launched a dazzling move in the final turn, establishing himself as Maryland's top 3-year-old.

Blusiewicz said the Tesio was not a fluke, that Tong Po continues to train well, and a strong effort in the Wood can be expected.

Quinichett, 54, has become wealthy in the computer business. Although his involvement in racing has been on a relatively small scale, his success has not been. He raised and raced Singing Susan, Willa On the Move and Citidancer, then sold them for huge profits.

Quinichett makes most of the decisions concerning his trainers and horses, and that suits Blusiewicz fine. "He gives some to Hank and some to me," said Blusiewicz. "There's no problem with that. We communicate well, and we both know what we want."

NOTES: Saturday's $200,000 Pimlico Oaks is coming up light. Without Meadow Star, Withallprobability or Fancy Ribbons, the heavy favorite should be Wide Country. Silver Tango (4-for-4) is also skipping the race. . . . The $500,000 Jim Beam Stakes will be simulcast to Pimlico on Saturday. Trainer Jerry Robb has shipped He Is Risen, second to Tong Po in the Tesio, to Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., for the Beam. . . . Rumgumption won the $18,000 feature at Pimlico yesterday, carrying Rick Wilson to his second of three victories of the card. Mike Luzzi also won twice. . . . The Double Triple pool has not been emptied in the first 10 days of the Pimlico meet. The carry-over stands at $116,359.90 for tomorrow's card. . . .

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