Howie Tesher, the fun-loving New York trainer, got a lot of ink at the Kentucky Derby this year with Bull inthe Heather, the big roan colt who nearly went off the favorite but finished a distant 11th.
Now the loquacious horseman is surfacing again, but this time at Laurel Race Course.
Tesher is bound for Saturday's Maryland Million with Baron de Vaux, an old has-been among the local horse colony until he was bought for what seems like an unbelievably low price of $50,000 earlier this summer by a couple of Tesher's buddies, Dick Kumble and Aron Yagoda.
Kumble is one of Tesher's old sidekicks from his days as a University of Miami journalism major. Yagoda, 26, is a newcomer in the game whose family owns Streit Products, a maker of kosher goods in the New York area.
"I got a call from Maryland and was told this horse was available," Tesher said. "At the time he had made nearly $800,000 and I told these guys he's a steal. I figured there wasn't much of a downside since he should be worth that much as a stud."
The Baron arrived in Tesher's barn after he finished a well-beaten fifth in the Chieftain Handicap at Laurel in June. It had been nearly a year since he had won a race.
"You know he's an old class horse, but he's got an attitude," Tesher said. "He's a pain in the neck. He was used to being trained off the farm [at Middletown, Del., former owner-breeder Bayard Sharp's place.] So it was an adjustment for him to be stabled at the track."
It wasn't long before Tesher got the old boy sharpened up and won a race with him at Saratoga, going nine furlongs on the main track. Since then he finished third on the grass, but in his last start on the final Saturday at the Spa, he finished last in an overnight allowance event.
"He bled in that race, so he's going to be running on Lasix for the first time in the Million," Tesher said.
It is Baron de Vaux's second try in the featured $150,000 Maryland Million Classic. He finished third in 1991.
Jorge Chavez rides the Baron and Tesher will be trying to keep a flawless Maryland Million record.
He started one other horse in the rich event, winning a starter handicap in 1986 with London Market.
As for Bull inthe Heather, Tesher said the horse is now returning to training after a long summer's rest.
"He wasn't right after the Derby," Tesher said. "He injured a foot. So after the Belmont [he finished off the board], we gave him a good long rest."
Tesher expects to have the horse ready to run, probably in February at Gulfstream Park.
What's in a name?
The working name for Laurel/Pimlico owner Joe De Francis' proposed Virginia track was Colonial Downs.
But it is also the choice of Arnold Stansley and Jeffrey Taylor, who plan to submit it as part of their licensing application for their proposed track, which is on the same New Kent County site as the De Francis enterprise.
It is Tim Capps, vice president of communications at Pimlico/Laurel, who thought up "Patriot Park." De Francis might stick with the name, but he's considering letting Virginians name their own track if he's awarded the license.
"I'm thinking of having some sort of contest, perhaps run through the Richmond Times-Dispatch, where people can submit their own ideas for a name for the track," he said.
Maryland Million festivities
There are all sorts of Maryland Million activities this week leading up to Saturday's 12-race card.
Today and tomorrow the Fasig-Tipton Co., a Maryland Million sponsor for the last three years, is auctioning off nearly 350 yearlings at the Timonium sales pavilion.
Tomorrow is Backstretch Appreciation Day at Laurel, where the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association is throwing a party for stable employees.
Later in the week there will be a golf tournament and then a reception in Columbia the night before the big race. Julie Krone, all-time leading Maryland Million jockey, is the guest of honor.
Maryland Million entries will be drawn at Laurel on Thursday.
Emergency jockey care
When jockey Steve Hamilton fell and broke his elbow at Pimlico several weeks ago, owner Phyllis Dixon of the Mea Culpa Stable thought it took far too long for him to be moved to nearby Sinai Hospital.
Under current rules, an injured jockey goes to the Pimlico First Aid Room first before a city ambulance is called for the transfer to Sinai.
Dixon has asked the Maryland Racing Commission to change the tracks' emergency medical procedures to speed up care for injured jockeys and exercise riders.
She'd like the Maryland tracks to adopt the same sort of innovative program recently set up by the New York Racing Association.
The NYRA created an Emergency Medical Care team that reduces the time it takes for the injured jockeys to go from the track to the closest hospital or care unit. Hospitals have medical histories of the jockeys on file and necessary specialists on call.
"Now, one call sets the whole procedure in motion," Jockeys Guild president Jerry Bailey said. "We're able to cut through the red tape of insurance and payment. The hospital has our records and knows of any past medical problems or allergies. And we've got top professionals on call 24 hours a day. It's a one-stop deal and eliminates a hundred phone calls to a hundred doctors."
Goals of the new program are to develop a state-of-the-art evacuation system; to ensure an equal level of care at all three tracks (Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga) and to coordinate care of injured athletes after they leave the hospital.
There is also a Professional Sports Care unit nearby where slightly injured jockeys, who are hurt early in the card, can go immediately to get checked out, X-rayed, given the OK to ride and be back in action in an hour. Under the old system a jockey went to a hospital and missed riding the rest of the card.