When Maryland owner-breeder Phil Capuano bought the mare Marchpane at the Timonium sales a couple of years ago, the auctioneer pointed to a newborn bay colt the mare had foaled only a few days earlier in Virginia and told Capuano: "This little fellow goes with her."
Now that "little fellow," named Secreto de Estado, is one of 13 colts who will run for a $1 million purse Saturday in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Belmont Park.
Capuano no longer owns the colt, who has taken a circuitous route in a short time to get into big-league racing.
That path took him from Virginia through Timonium to Capuano's farm in Upper Marlboro, back through the sales ring at Timonium as a yearling and eventually to the Remon racetrack in Panama, where he was purchased earlier this month by Bob Perez of New York after winning his first two starts.
The colt assumed his Spanish identity after Capuano, who was swamped with horseflesh at the time, reduced his inventory at the Timonium auctions a year ago and sold the horse, who is sired by Secretariat's son, General Assembly, to a Latin American bloodstock agent for $6,000.
Perez has earned a reputation for importing such Panamanian runners as El Bakan and Ulises and running them, at tremendous betting odds, in that country's most visible races. His best effort so far has been El Bakan's third-place Preakness finish in 1993.
It is no surprise that Perez would end up with Secreto de Estado, which is Spanish for "State Secret," after the colt won his first two races at Remon by a combined margin of 13 lengths.
But the horse faces an awesome task in the Breeders' Cup. He has never raced farther than 5 1/2 furlongs and will be asked to go 1-1/16th miles against proven stakes-caliber colts like Hennessy, Diligence, Unbridled's Song and Appealing Skier.
Capuano knows Secreto de Estado will be among the longest of long shots. Still, he says, he'll be glued to the TV.
Capuano nominated Secreto de Estado to the Breeders' Cup at a cost of $500. If the horse wins, he will earn a nominator's award of $26,000.
Md.-breds in Breeders' Cup
There will be four Maryland-bred horses running in three of the seven Breeders' Cup races. They are Allen Paulson's Cigar, the day's headliner; Bob Meyerhoff's Concern, last year's winner, in the $3 million Breeders' Cup Classic; Jim Ryan's Awad in the $2 million Turf, and David and Joanne Hayden's Goldminer's Dream in the $1 million Sprint.
Goldminer's Dream is on the also-eligible list for the Sprint, but the Haydens are confident he'll draw in. They scratched the horse from a potentially easy spot in the $52,000 Mario Beneito Stakes last night at Penn National to go for the big prize in the Breeders' Cup.
Only two Maryland-breds have won Breeders' Cup races -- Safely Kept, in the 1990 Sprint, and Concern, in the 1994 Classic.
Other horses with Maryland connections are two recent winners at Laurel Park: Laurel Futurity winner Appealing Skier, who will run in the Juvenile Colts, and Maryland Million Lassie winner Mystic Rhythms, entered in the Juvenile Fillies.
Maryland-based Da Hoss, headquartered at the Fair Hill Training Center with Michael Dickinson, likely will go in the $1 million Mile.
White Cliffs back in training
White Cliffs, the 3-year-old filly who won a pair of Maryland pTC stakes this summer after becoming pregnant to the stallion Caller I.D., has apparently absorbed the fetus and is being put back into training.
The filly's trainer, Carlos Garcia, said White Cliffs was examined by veterinarians in Kentucky, was determined not to be in foal and will race again this fall.
"The idea is to point her towards the Barbara Fritchie Handicap [at Laurel in February], and then try once again to breed and retire her," Garcia said.
Stansley's solo try in Va.
The recent correspondence, and ensuing feud, between attorneys for Virginia track developer Arnold Stansley and Laurel/Pimlico operator Joe De Francis clearly indicate Stansley's desire to push De Francis out of a key role in the development of a Maryland-Virginia racing circuit.
It happened to De Francis in Texas. Once the Maryland Jockey Club was instrumental in gaining the Lone Star Jockey Club a license, Lone Star operators threw De Francis out the door.
Not only are Stansley's recent actions contrary to what he said in his bid to gain the license, but the Virginia Racing Commission is not buying it.
When Ron Tice, Stansley's attorney, told the commission last week that it's "desirable, but not necessary," to have a detailed written agreement with De Francis to operate the thoroughbred portion of Stansley's track, board chairman John Shenefield quickly shot back, "No, it's imperative."
Time and again during the application process, Stansley said the only way for a Virginia track to succeed is for it to be populated with Maryland horses. "There are no horses in Virginia," he said.
The circuit concept is even more crucial now that Delaware Park looms as a major player to draw horses from both Maryland and Virginia tracks.
But Stansley seems to think he can build Colonial Downs without Maryland's help.
Either his effort is doomed to go the way of those involving such tracks as Birmingham and Canterbury downs, and Sam Houston and Retama parks, which floundered without the benefit of a two-state circuit, or he's simply interested in developing an OTB network in Virginia and running a perfunctory 30-day live meet with cheap racing that satisfies statutory requirements.