Julia Oughton and her "pub" horses are beginning to make an impact on the Maryland thoroughbred scene.
It's probably not the first time the origins of a racing stable can be traced to a bar on Capitol Hill, but few similar ventures have gotten off to such a rousing start.
It all began when Oughton and a friend, Washington attorney Bill Finn, approached George Liapis, owner of a popular Capitol Hill hangout called Bullfeathers, and asked him to help sponsor a string of racehorses.
The idea was to form a limited partnership called Blue Streak Stable, to hold racing nights at the bar/restaurant with special drink and food prices and to sell shares at $2,000 each to customers who wanted to buy thoroughbreds.
Oughton, a British-born horsewoman who describes herself as "once being Princess Anne's personal slave," would train the stable.
Lloyd Gentry, a Washington marketing executive, also joined in the project. Five months and three wins later, the outfit which has 17 partners, including Finn's 82-year-old mother and about a half-dozen others who never before had been to a racetrack, turned a $10,000 profit with their first claim, Idiot's Delight.
Their other runner, the 2-year-old filly, Pauper's Revenge, is undefeated in two starts and may run Dec. 6 at Laurel Park in the Heavenly Cause Stakes.
Both horses won on the same program at Laurel on Oct. 24.
For years, Oughton has exercised horses at the Bowie Training Center and operated a small breeding, breaking and racing outfit with her husband, Mac. She ended up in southern Maryland after she left a job working as Princess Anne's three-day event groom and work rider.
"I thought I'd do an around-the-world-with-horses trip," Oughton said. "After working in Portugal, Holland and Austria, I ended up in the States with two suitcases, $100 and the phone number of a friend in California. Those are the kinds of things you do when you're 18."
Oughton never got to California, but wound up via the Virginia hunt country at Bowie, where she has been for about 10 years. After a divorce a couple of years ago, Oughton decided to start her own training business. As every other trainer has discovered, Oughton's problem was finding owners.
"You can either wait for the Aga Khan to call or go out and get to work," said Oughton, who has never been described as being timid. "As a result, we've introduced a whole new group of people to racing, as well as having a lot of fun."
Added Finn: "But we bought a lot of drinks and hors d'oeuvres to do it."
Laurel may go on-line
There is a possibility that race entries and results, simulcast schedules, news releases, merchandising items and other kinds of Maryland racing information soon will go on-line to several million Internet users.
Other tracks, such as Churchill Downs, Santa Anita, Louisiana Downs and Remington Park, have already joined the computer web, as have the Blood-Horse Magazine, the Thoroughbred Times and Equi-base past performance information.
The Blood-Horse is offering its Interactive Magazine with no access, space or creative fees.
"The virtual world of bits, bytes and baud rates is totally new turf for us," said Stacy Bearse, president and CEO of the Blood-Horse Inc. "We expect a considerable amount of trial-and-error as we learn the who, what, when, where and why of Internet usage."
The Blood-Horse magazine began publishing in 1916.
"But it is increasingly evident," Bearse added, "that the future of publishing will involve more than putting ink on paper."
TV ratings increase
National television ratings for NBC Sports' four-hour Breeders' Cup telecast from Belmont Park on Oct. 28 increased slightly over the 1994 telecast. This year's telecast earned a 2.8 rating and a 9.0 share, a 4 percent increase over the 2.7 rating and 8.0 share of a year ago.
The final half-hour of the telecast (3-3:30 p.m.), which featured Cigar's victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic, drew a 3.5 rating and a 10.0 share.
Jacobs joins Stansley
A new racetrack in Virginia is apparently coming closer to reality. Arnold Stansley, developer of the proposed Colonial Downs facility near Richmond, completed an agreement last week with Jeffrey Jacobs, from the family that owns the Cleveland Indians baseball team, to sell Jacobs half-ownership in the unbuilt plant for $5 million.
Jacobs will provide an immediate infusion of $2.25 million into the project, which will most likely go to developing off-track betting parlors. The balance of the investment, $2.75 million, will be made available upon resolution of an appeal filed by losing track applicant Jim Wilson.
Stansley has also worked out a managerial agreement with Laurel/Pimlico operator Joe De Francis about running the thoroughbred portion of Colonial Downs' meet. That will involve shutting down Maryland racing during the summer, probably starting in 1997.
De Francis said he is still undecided about what kind of live racing schedule he will present in Maryland next year. Plans to shut down for at least four weeks are still being studied despite the tracks' request for a full 1996 dates schedule.
Due Process connection
Barbara Graham, who saddled her home-bred 3-year-old Algarto win the Northern Dancer Stakes at Laurel, said last week that she is breaking and training 35 yearlings at the Middleburg Training Center, including a large draft of horses owned by Bob Brennan's Due Process Stable. The animals will be sold this winter at the Calder 2-Year-Old-In-Training Sale in Florida.
Brennan also recently sold his Kentucky horse holdings.
National poll recap
Ten Maryland-bred or -based horses were among the top 100 thoroughbreds in the nation last year, according to votes taken during the year by Thoroughbred Racing Communications.
Maryland-bred Cigar topped the list for 34 consecutive weeks or during the entire duration of the poll, the first time that has happened since the list's inception in 1988.
Other horses with Maryland connections that were top vote getters include Concern (No. 4), Awad (19), Taking Risks (48), Unfinished Symph (57), Da Hoss (63), Urbane (67), Smart 'n Noble (78), Oliver's Twist (85) and Who Wouldn't (90).