Local horsemen have begun the trek to Saratoga, possibly the nation's premier race meeting, which opens for a 34-day stand on Friday.
Howard Battle, in his first year as racing secretary at the upstate New York track, said he expects four major Maryland outfits to have horses stabled on the grounds. These are trainers Jimmy Murphy, Katy Voss, Vinnie Blengs and Barclay Tagg.
"We also gave stalls to Ferris Allen, but he turned them down," Battle said. "Of course, we expect a number of Maryland horses to ship in for our races and then return home."
As usual, horseplayers at Maryland betting outlets should have plenty of local action to follow on the Spa TV screens. Included in the mix of outfits are the regular high-profile New York stables plus a smattering of Kentucky outfits such as Neil Howard, Carl Nafzger, Pete Vestal, John Ward and Eliot Walden.
"We'll also have Jeff Jacobs and Alex Hassinger for the first time," Battle said. Jacobs ran Hot Jaws yesterday in the De Francis Dash and then put him on a van today for Saratoga.
The first major added-money attraction is the Test Stakes on Saturday. Battle said the big name so far is Canadian filly Scotzanna, recent winner of the Prioress Stakes at Belmont Park. Also included in the Test lineup is Conquistadoress, owned by Maryland Million president Stuart Janney III.
On Sunday, Heavenly Prize starts in the Go For Wand Stakes.
Michael Moran said last week that he'll ship recent Laurel stakes winner Glenbarra to Saratoga for the Grade II Sword Dancer Handicap on July 29. The horse won the Sir Ivor Stakes, then was runner-up to Warning Glance in the Fort McHenry Handicap on July 4.
Last year, Moran ran the horse for a $20,000 claiming tag before he discovered the animal had stomach ulcers. Needless to say, the colt, who cost Moran's mother, Betty Moran, $280,000 at the Kentucky yearling sales, has made a stunning turn around.
Saratoga opens unofficially today with a betless card of seven races -- three on the flat for maidens and four over jumps. It's called the Saratoga Open House. One-third of the bulky jump entries come from Maryland's 'chasing colony. Trainers Jack Fisher, Tom Voss, Charlie Fenwick Jr., Joe Gillet, Billy Meister, Alicia Murphy and Mike Smithwick are running horses. Riders from Maryland include Greg Ryan, Jonathan Kiser, Cort Marzullo, Simon Hobson, Matt McCarron, Joe Delozier and Brooks Durkee.
The yearling sales, which run for three days starting Aug. 8, have also attracted a large number of Marylanders as sellers. Among the offerings -- David Hayden's Danzig, half-brother to champion Safely Kept; Gulch colts from Frank and Ginny Wright's Huntingfields Farm and Wylie Tuttle's Rock Hall Stud; Jim Ryan's sister to Awad; Jim Lewis' half-sister by Private Terms to Oliver's Twist; and a number of yearlings to be sold from Bob Levy's Muirfield East and the farms of Don Litz, Kitty Merryman and Herb Moelis.
Although Saratoga will race on Mondays, Maryland's betting outlets will not be open for simulcasting on that day.
"As good as Saratoga is," said Marty Jacobs, co-owner of Laurel/Pimlico, "it still does not generate enough business here to open up on what is our regularly scheduled dark day."
Polish Numbers stampede
The nearest thing to a sure bet these days seems to be the offspring of the young Maryland sire Polish Numbers.
Just about everything that has started from his first crop has won or hit the board. His four winners include Bug River, impressive at Laurel last week and a scheduled starter for Pimlico's Aug. 5 Primer Stakes; Monmouth Park allowance winner Foolish Pole and New Jersey-bred stakes winner Forever Pals.
When the son of Danzig went to stud at Northview Stallion Station in Cecil County a few years ago, he was syndicated at $17,500 per share. Shareholders are now turning down more than $50,000 per share.
The horse is the leading freshman sire in the nation. Fortunately for Maryland, Northview mastermind Richard Golden seems intent on keeping the young stallions that he makes at the farm in Maryland instead of shipping them abroad or to Kentucky. Golden should be in line for an award of some kind from the state's breeding and racing industry.
Another hot young sire is the former Bud Delp-trained runner Dispersal, who stands in Florida.
Dispersal's first runner, Cold Snap, won his first start, and then followed that up with a win last week in Monmouth Park's Gilded Time Stakes. Delp likes the Dispersal colt C'est La Vie that he runs today in Laurel's seventh race. And Blengs is high on a Dispersal colt that he'll take to Saratoga.
End of Lasix barns near
Maryland racing commissioners are inclined to phase out the barns where runners treated with Lasix are quarantined before post time.
An experimental program, where a quantitative test can detect if a horse has been treated with an excessive amount of Lasix, has been tried and is successful.
However, there has been no standard set to determine what is the minimum amount of Lasix that can be used.
A commission-appointed medication committee is going to study the issue further and hopes that the Lasix barns can be phased out this fall..