The Triple Crown trail.
It's a tortured route, even more so this year when only one horse, Thunder Gulch, made it through all three races.
The buildup to the series started with a falling star, Afternoon Deelites, tripping on more than his dosage. The horse grabbed the early headlines, then bowed a tendon after an eighth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. The trail ended on a bizarre note when a feverish Timber Country was pulled out of the Belmont Stakes.
In between, there were lots of memorable moments:
* Nick Zito, standing up at the Kentucky Derby Trainers' Dinner, referring to D. Wayne Lukas' three-horse entry of Timber Country, Serena's Song and Thunder Gulch as "Me, Myself and I."
Lukas, whose monstrous ego is legendary, fired back at the Preakness, calling Zito's entry "Sub Standard" instead of Star Standard.
* Has there ever been a Preakness when an animal companion, the black Labrador named Blinkers, received more attention than his equine pal, Tejano Run? At the Belmont, Citadeed's goat, Deuce, also attracted attention when he made a habit of eating reporters' cigarettes.
* Although Serena's Song flopped in the Derby, the filly rebounded in a couple of female showcases at Pimlico (the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes) and Belmont (the Mother Goose Stakes). Should she have run in the Kentucky Oaks instead of the Derby? Trainer Lukas suggested that he should have established a 900 telephone line to gauge fan response.
* When has the Far Eastern seaport of Hong Kong received so much attention in an American horse racing series? Jockey Gary Stevens revived his career there. Trainer Rick Violette picked up his best horse, Citadeed, by running a horse at the Sha Tin track and bumping into new owner Ivan Allen.
* Maryland trainer Billy Boniface almost pulled off a sequel to Deputed Testamony's 1983 score when Oliver's Twist lost the Preakness by a half-length to Timber Country. Does anyone in Maryland other than Robert Meyerhoff and the Boniface family have horses good enough to place in the Preakness?
My Frenchman retires at 10
My Frenchman, the classy old gelding that's almost a Maryland institution, has been retired by his owner, Phil Torsney of Red Bank, N.J.
Torsney decided to call it quits when an old injury to the horse's suspensory ligament flared up and the area filled with swelling.
Instead of medicating the leg and dropping the horse down into claimers and squeezing a few more races out of the old guy, Torsney did the noble thing and retired the 10-year-old gelding to the life of a hunter at Barbara Graham's farm in Purcellville, Va.
For six consecutive years, My Frenchman virtually owned the Roman Handicap at Pimlico.
He won the five-furlong turf stakes three times, from 1989 through 1991, and then finished second three times, from 1992 to 1994. He finished third in a prep for the race this year, but then was scratched when the turf came up too soft.
My Frenchman made 68 starts, won 23, including a dozen stakes, and earned $612,100, mostly in sprints on the turf. For most of his career, he was trained by Jim Murphy.
Casino deal nears completion
The Cloverleaf Standardbred Owners' Association is moving at breakneck speed to close its deal with the Bally casino corporation to purchase Rosecroft and Delmarva raceways from Colt Enterprises before a June 28 deadline.
Ken Schertle, executive director of the Maryland Racing Commission, said he expects a written agreement between Cloverleaf, Bally and the bank holding the tracks' mortgage to be completed by tomorrow or Tuesday and in time for the racing board to discuss the matter in executive session before Wednesday's regular monthly public meeting at Timonium Race Course.
Sources said that on Friday the bank received a draft of the agreement between Cloverleaf and Bally, which stipulates terms the gaming corporation's $4 million loan to the harness horsemen's organization as well as details of its management contract to operate the facilities.
Cloverleaf's executive board is expected to meet to discuss the matter at Rosecroft early this week.
Cloverleaf's subsidiary corporation which will operate the tracks is tentatively called the Cloverleaf Racing Association, but it has yet to be formally named or established.