Tee Kay skimmed, while other horses slogged, through the soft turf at Pimlico yesterday in what looked like a perfect front-running trip en route to a $34,230 paycheck in the Lady Baltimore Stakes.
But the youthful team that showed up to collect the silverware has overcome more than its share of adversity this spring.
The winning filly had recently been diagnosed as a bleeder and ran on Lasix for the first time.
Her jockey, Steve Hamilton, has had a tough year -- even for a resilient former Oklahoma cowboy, who rode bulls before he sat on a horse.
A couple of months ago one of Hamilton's mounts fell and rolled over him at Laurel Park. He had barely recovered from the spill when he developed flu-like symptoms. A doctor diagnosed a massive lump in his chest as possibly cancer or Hodgkin's Disease.
Hamilton, 21, was told to expect the worst.
Instead, the lump turned out to be an infection, quickly cleared up with a treatment of antibiotics and the incident turned out to be merely a blip on the radar of Hamilton's career.
He won with his first horse back, followed that up with a win and a pair of seconds in stakes company with Robert Meyerhoff's Up An Eighth and then landed his biggest paycheck of the year yesterday with Tee Kay.
Winning trainer, John Salzman, has also had his share of bad luck. He has recently recovered from being hospitalized with third degree burns which were caused while he was working on restoring a sports car.
Yesterday's stakes win looked easy for Tee Kay, Hamilton and Salzman. But that's just part of the story.
Entry restriction lifted
When the Laurel summer meet starts June 13, trainers, who are not stabled at a Maryland Jockey Club track, will no longer be required to have foal papers for their runners on file in the racing office before they enter a horse.
That's good news to horsemen who are stabled at various farms and at such places as the Fair Hill Training Center in Cecil County, said manager Art Kretz.
"It didn't make running a horse at Pimlico or Laurel an impossibility," he said. "But it sure caused a major inconvenience."
Kretz added that last year 18.1 percent of all Fair Hill starters ran at a Maryland track.
"During January, February and March of this year, 21 percent of our starters ran at Laurel," he said.
Fair Hill is privately maintained, which means trainers there ship to a variety of East Coast tracks and aren't obligated to race at Pimlico/Laurel.