LAUREL -- Festive Feathers started in the Goss L. Stryker Stakes yesterday as a maiden that had never earned a cent.
He emerged 1 minute, 45 seconds later a stakes winner of $36,000.
It turned out be one of those once-in-a-lifetime kind of days for the horse's trainer, Ricky Sillaman.
Sillaman only trains seven horses at the Bowie Training Center. Prior to yesterday, he had never won a stakes.
By day's end, not only had Festive Feathers won at Laurel, but Golden Phase, another one of his 3-year-olds, had beaten Sticks And Bricks in the Patriot Stakes at Philadelphia Park.
In the Stryker Stakes, More Paces, winner of the Maryland Juvenile Championship, had won more than twice as much money as the rest of the seven-horse field combined.
He went off at 2-5 odds, the shortest-priced favorite of any horse in a stakes race at Laurel this year.
But he threw in a clunker. Gregg McCarron had him in perfect position on the rail at the top of the stretch, but the colt never
Instead, a pair of inexperienced maidens dominated the stretch run. Festive Feathers, who drifted wide on the final turn, and Neoptolemus, who lugged in during the final sixteenth, finished just a nose apart.
Mike Luzzi, who won the Maryland Racing Writers' Handicap last Saturday with Risen Colony, rode the winner.
Nick and Elaine Bassford, of Davidsonville, who own Festive Feathers, sent Sillaman the gelding and one other filly to train last fall.
"We keep between 15-20 horses in training and have most of them with King Leatherbury and Carlos Garcia," Nick Bassford said. "But when Ricky was 16, he worked for us on our farm. I promised him that if he became a trainer and I had the opportunity, I'd send him a horse."
Festive Feathers paid $30, $13 and $3.80. Neoptolemus returned $7.20 and $3.20, and More Paces, who finished third, paid $2.20.
* Joe Rocco was sent to Greater Laurel-Beltsville Hospital after he fell off his mount, Embassy Mill, about three strides past the finish of the seventh race.
Embassy Mill, who finished second, "barely brushed with the winner [Echo On To Glory, ridden by Lynn Cline]," said steward )) Clinton P. Pitts Jr. But it appeared that Rocco might have lost his balance and had his left foot knocked out of the stirrup iron.
The stewards took no action.
A hospital spokesman said last night that Rocco is being checked for possible damage to his kidneys.
NOTES: The season opening of Rosecroft Raceway Friday night was "a total success," said the track's general manager, Ted Snell. The crowd of 4,481 fans bet over $592,000, both substantial increases over last year's comparative date. Rosecroft is still operating out of it's clubhouse since fire detroyed the track's grandstand in November. Snell said the grandstand will be rebuilt, and "hopefully we'll have a Grand Re-Opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony by Labor Day.". . . Pat My Feathers, the dam of Festive Feathers, has produced three other stakes horses for the Bassfords. They are stakes winner Brilliant Stepper and stakes-placed Flying Feet and Fancy Feathers. The mare is being bred this spring to Norquestor at Murmur Farm in Darlington.