Bill Berkshire got into the horse business in an unusual way.
About four years ago the former Secret Service agent traded a membership in his golf course, the Crofton Country Club in Crofton, for a racing filly named Deltatare.
Now he owns part of a 3-year-old colt, Demaloot Demashoot, who is running on Saturday at Santa Anita Park in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Sprint.
Berkshire is part of the California-based Team Valor syndicate that purchased the Canadian-bred colt last year and turned him over to their up-and-coming young trainer Mark Hennig.
It was a Hennig-trained Team Valor-owned mare, Lady Blessington, that won the All Along Stakes at Laurel's International Turf Festival last weekend. Since being acquired by Team Valor, Demaloot Dema-shoot has won an overnight stakes at Saratoga and placed in five other graded events, including a near-miss to Premier Explosion last March in the Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The horse seems best suited to sprints and ranked eighth in points among the 25 horses on the Breeders' Cup Sprint preliminary entry list released last week.
Berkshire's participation adds to the Maryland presence at the 10th Breeders' Cup. Howard and Sondra Bender are running their 4-year-old grass colt, Maryland Moon, in the Mile and as breeders are represented by Rhapsodic in the Juvenile Fillies.
Berkshire is president of the Lancer Corp., which in addition to the Crofton Country Club, is involved in the ownership of other recreational activities such as racquet and handball clubs and racehorses.
The company name "Lancer" is derived from Berkshire's experience as a Secret Service agent. "Lancer was the code name of President Kennedy," Berkshire said.
He added that the Lancer equine operation breeds as well as campaigns a racing stable. The corporation has eight horses in training spread between Dale Capuano at Laurel, Harry Thompson Jr. at Penn National and Jeff Runco at Charles Town as well as its interest in Demaloot Demashoot. Mares, including the 19-year-old dam of the venerable Little Bold John, are boarded in Kentucky and Maryland and are being bred to such horses as Wild Again, Affirmed, Smarten and Norquestor.
Berkshire said local racing personalities such as owners Rocco DeMilio, Randy Williams, Pat O'Brien and Phil Capuano play golf at his club as well as trainers Robbie Bailes, Jerry Robb and Dale and Gary Capuano.
"I'm still trying to educate myself in the horse business," Berkshire said. "But I'm surrounded by a lot of free advice."
Berkshire will be accompanied to the Breeders' Cup to watch Demaloot Demashoot perform by his wife Linda and son, Adam.
Business boost continues
The Laurel/Pimlico business upswing of the past five months is continuing at the Laurel fall meet.
During the first 17 days of the meet, overall gross handle at the track is up 30.6 percent from a year ago and the percentage bet on the live vs. simulcast races is 61 percent live and 39 percent simulcast.
Track operator Joe De Francis said that's a healthy sign "and indicates what can be accomplished when all segments of the industry work together."
The boost is attributed to the introduction of full-card, out-of-state simulcasts, inter-track wagering between thoroughbred and harness tracks, improved live racing cards at Laurel and the opening of three off-track betting parlors.
Horsemen soon will be asked to kick in a percentage of their betting receipts to pay for costs of the expanded inter-track operations.
Laurel/Pimlico is not simulcasting full cards from Churchill Downs during that track's November meet.
"For one thing it's a short meet," De Francis said. "Also, the racing is not as good as what Churchill cards offer in the spring."
Instead, Laurel/Pimlico is simulcasting full cards from Calder Race Course, Aqueduct, Philadelphia and Santa Anita parks.
"We started Calder now so that fans can familiarize themselves with Florida horses going into the upcoming Gulfstream Park winter meet," De Francis said.
folo Claim of the year
When Baltimore lawyer/horse owner Mark Lapidus reached in and claimed My Marchesa for $11,500, he thought the filly had a future in turf racing.
Turns out he was right.
Since being haltered last April by Lapidus, the 3-year-old filly has won four races, all on grass, including the Gala Lil Stakes at Pimlico. She might wrap up her 1993 campaign on Saturday in the Chrysanthemum Handicap against older fillies and mares at Laurel.
So far, she's earned about $57,000 for Lapidus.
The filly's trainers are Damon Dilodovico and Mike Geralis, lifelong friends from the Temple Hills area of Prince George's County who started out with their own three-horse operation four years ago and now have a dozen runners in training for four owners -- Nick Rinaldi, Dan and Helen Westland and Lapidus.
Until My Marchesa, the most successful runner trained by Dilodovico, 28, and Geralis, 29, had been Snow's Dynasty, the aged Rollicking horse that won a Maryland Million Starter Handicap last year.
Both Dilodovico and Geralis got their start working as grooms for Dale Capuano.
Rick Wilson returns
Baltimore doctors at Johns Hopkins and Children's hospitals can take the credit for successful diagnosis and operation on jockey Rick Wilson, who staged a winning return to the races last week after being sidelined for three months with a shoulder injury.
Wilson partially tore a rotator cuff in a shoulder at Monmouth Park in early July after being banged up in the starting gate. "But since we have such great doctors in this area, he came home for treatment," said his wife, Jean. The Wilson family lives in Sykesville.
During his recuperation from arthroscopic surgery, Wilson accompanied his children to a number of their athletic events.
His young sons, Ricky and Kenny, play soccer and Kristy, 12, rides in local horse shows.
Wilson will compete at Laurel this fall and then might go to Florida.