Chris McCarron, hero of last year's mud-splattered Kentucky Derby, is a jockey in search of a mount.
The Hall of Fame rider, who has ridden in a dozen Derbies, is horseless this year for the first time since 1989.
"A lot of good 3-year-olds came out of California, but we aren't on them," said Scotty McClellan, McCarron's longtime agent.
McCarron not only suffered some setbacks this winter - bruised ribs in a spill on the opening day at Santa Anita and later an operation for an umbilical hernia - but his potential Derby mounts, Mr. Purple and American Day, fell by the wayside.
"Mr. Purple is a nice horse, but not Derby material," McClellan said. "And American Day developed physical problems."
McCarron has been offered mounts on some Derby long shots - "Horses that will be 30-1 or more," McClellan said. "But we haven't made any commitments, just in case a live one comes along at the last minute."
McClellan recalled that McCarron picked up the mount on English import Bold Arrangement right before the 1986 Derby and finished second.
"And we've had some other good last-minute mounts, such as Alysheba, who we got just before the Blue Grass Stakes [in 1987]; and then Go For Gin last year, who we picked up just a couple of weeks before the Derby."
McCarron won the Derby on both horses.
Even if McCarron misses the Derby, he will still be in action on Derby Day at Churchill Downs.
"Chris rides Blues Traveller in the Early Times Turf Classic, and that's a pretty nice mount to have," McClellan said.
Among the big-name jockeys with mounts in this year are Mike Smith (on early favorite Talkin Man), Jerry Bailey (Tejano Run), Pat Day (Timber Country), Gary Stevens (Thunder Gulch), Kent Desormeaux (Afternoon Deelites), Julie Krone (Suave Prospect), Eddie Delahoussaye (Eltish) and Corey Nakatani (Serena's Song).
Local leaders gain clout
A lot of good horses, trainers and jockeys have emerged from Maryland over the years.
Now some of the people comprising the state's new generation of racing leaders, including Alan Foreman, local attorney for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association as well as the Cloverleaf harness horsemen's group, and Pimlico/Laurel president Joe De Francis are asserting themselves in the upheaval that has occurred among two long-established national racing organizations.
Foreman is the brains behind the newly formed Thoroughbred Horsemen's Associations, Inc., which is beginning to rival, and outdistance, the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, as the national voice for thoroughbred horsemen.
Within the last few years, horsemen's groups from major racing areas such as California, New York and Illinois, as well as New Jersey and Maryland, have pulled out of the HBPA, and the influence of the once-powerful organization has drastically deteriorated.
Many of the regional groups that broke away from the HBPA have been seeking a unified voice, and in the last couple of months have found one under Foreman's guidance with the establishment of the THA.
The new national organization, which includes recognized horsemen's groups from New York, New England, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Chicago-area tracks, is headquartered at Foreman's Columbia office. He serves as national executive director.
Among the group's immediate goals: uniform medication in all racing jurisdictions, including the expected legalization of Lasix at the New York tracks by fall; and reciprocal licensing of racing personnel in THA-affiliated areas.
De Francis, meanwhile, is a member of the newly-formed seven-person national executive committee of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, which includes national commissioner Brian McGrath, president Cliff Goodrich of Santa Anita Park and five regional representatives. De Francis represents the Middle Atlantic region.
Like the HBPA, the TRA has lost influence as members, in this case, racetrack owners, have begun abandoning the organization. The new emphasis is on solving problems on a regional basis in a last-ditch effort not only to save the TRA but to help set national policies.
Harness stakes find new homes
Maryland's richest standardbred stakes, abandoned last month by the management of financially troubled Rosecroft Raceway, have been moved to new locations.
The Messenger, first leg of pacing's Triple Crown, will now be contested at the Ladbroke at The Meadows raceway near Pittsburgh on July 1.
The William E. and John W. Miller Memorials for 3-year-old pacing colts and fillies, respectively, will take place at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and the Colonial Trot has been relocated to Foxboro Park near Boston.
Top trotter goes abroad
Without much fanfare, Maryland's top trotter, S J Photo, left the state last week for Helsinki, Finland, and an invasion of European's top trotting races. The horse's primary goal is the $300,000 Elitlopp international race at the Solvalla track in Stockholm, Sweden, on May 28.
S J Photo is trained and driven by Dave Wade and is owned by the Three Continent Stable from Cecil County in partnership with Kosmos Horse Breeders Inc. of Pennsylvania.
British-style Hunt Cup
Three-time Maryland Hunt Cup winner Louis "Paddy" Neilson III returned from spending a couple of days in England last week, where he helped British horsemen organize a Maryland Hunt Cup-style timber race.
The three-mile race over 18 timber fences, averaging about 4 feet in height, is set at the Barbary Castle course near Marlborough.
"The course rolls right through the heart of the Marlborough Downs," Neilson said. The race, known as the Marlborough Cup, carries a $35,000 purse and will be run for the first time on May 14. Among the initial qualifiers is American jockey Michael Traurig.
Eventually, it is hoped Marlborough Cup winners will cross the Atlantic to try the Maryland Hunt Cup, and vice versa.
"It's the first bona fide attempt to establish timber racing on an
international level," Neilson said.
Herman Greenberg's He's Got Gall came out of the Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico with a bone chip and is indefinitely sidelined. Trainer Carlos Garcia said the horse underwent surgery last week.... Kent Desormeaux defeated Corey Nakatani the heated race for leading rider at the recently completed Santa Anita Park winter/spring meet. Desormeaux rode 112 winners, compared to 107 for Nakatani. At one point, Desormeaux was 17 wins behind Nakatani.... Nancy Hannum's good jumping mare, Ski Lift, who is related to many Maryland and Pennsylvania Hunt Cup winners, is being bred this spring to versatile Eastern Shore stallion Horatius.... Frank Douglas was ecstatic last week when he rode three winners on Thursday's card. One winner, for owner/trainer Greg Wilson, came aboard $60 winner Carousel Waltz.... Pimlico management is moving the infield fence back several feet from the inner rail of the turf course to allow the Early Times Dixie Handicap to be run for the first time this year on the Preakness card.