Jeanette Morton owns a half brother of one of America's winningest racehorses this year, but until this week, she didn't know it.
Five years ago Mrs. Morton, a dog kennel owner in Ravenswood, W. Va., bought a 13-year-old mare named Graceful Swap for $700 at the Timonium sales.
Last Saturday, Graceful Swap's 5-year-old son, Irish Swap -- a Maryland-bred son of Kentucky stallion Irish Tower -- beat such horses as Sea Cadet and Twilight Agenda in the $400,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup.
It was the sixth stakes victory in nine starts this year for Irish Swap and increased his career earnings to a whopping $759,461.
But few people in this part of the country have heard of Irish Swap, who has raced mainly in the Midwest.
The horse was bred and is still owned by Randal Hendricks, a Houston lawyer and agent who represents such major-league ballplayers as Greg Maddux, Doug Drabek, Greg Swindell and John Smiley.
Several years ago Hendricks had some luck with a colt named Critical Berth, a son of Eminency, a $700,000 earner and son of European champion Vaguely Noble, who Hendricks owned part of and stood at Sunset Hill Farm in Woodbine.
Hendricks shipped a mare, Graceful Swap, to Maryland to be bred to Eminency, and while she was there she gave birth to Irish Swap.
Irish Swap was slow to get to the races -- he didn't start until he was a 4-year-old. But with his recent performances, he could give the mare Brilliant Brass a run for her money in the Maryland-bred Horse of the Year competition.
Both have similar 1992 records. Irish Swap has so far earned more money, $615,960, compared with $599,080 for Brilliant Brass. But Brilliant Brass has won eight stakes -- three Grade IIs plus one Grade III -- compared with six stakes wins for Irish Swap, including two Grade IIs and one Grade III.
Mrs. Morton, however, has not cashed in on her seemingly savvy Timonium purchase.
Graceful Swap produced two foals for the West Virginia horsewoman.
Her current 4-year-old, the son of Eminency who is named Go For Grace, has been leased to the Meredith Manor equitation school for use as a dressage horse. Even though his half brother could be a Maryland champion Mrs. Morton said Go For Grace is now "probably too old to start to race."
The other foal, born with a deformed leg, was destroyed.
Mrs. Morton gave Graceful Swap, now 18, away a couple of years ago to a horsewoman in New York, who is breeding her to European warm-blood (non-thoroughbred) stallions.
"I had no idea that the mare had produced a horse like Irish Swap," Mrs. Morton said, when a reporter called to ask her about the horses on Tuesday. "But that's the horse business. You never know when a good horse is going to pop up."
Harness horsemen group optimistic
Charles Lockhart, executive director of Cloverleaf, the organization representing the state's harness horsemen, said yesterday he is "optimistic" that an agreement will be reached with the management of Rosecroft Raceway to allow cross-breed simulcasting at the state's thoroughbred and harness tracks.
Lockhart and representatives of Colt Enterprises Ltd., the company that owns Rosecroft and Delmarva Standardbred tracks, met for three hours in Annapolis on Tuesday.
"There have been offers, counter-offers and everyone is now studying them," Lockhart said. "If you talk to 10 different people you get 10 different scenarios of what's going to happen. But I think we'll come to some accord."
At issue is the financial arrangement for sharing costs of what could be a 30, 60 or 90-day experimental period when thoroughbred races would be simulcast to Rosecroft in the afternoons and harness races shown at Laurel and possibly Pimlico or Timonium at night.
They hope to come up with a final package Monday.
NOTES: Although the Jockeys' Guild pleaded guilty on Monday to bribing a Kentucky legislator, Jack Mosner, chairman of the Maryland Racing Commission, said yesterday that action doesn't taint the organization. "I don't know all the facts, just what I've read," Mosner said. "But I don't think you can indict the whole organization on the action taken by one individual or individuals, although it was certainly bad judgment."