Hal C. B. Clagett muttered that he felt "deflated" after his promising 2-year-old colt, Bullet Valay, finished second yesterday in the $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Championship at Laurel Park.
But a half-hour later, after his 2-year-old filly, Assault John, won the $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship, Clagett changed his tune.
"I feel inflated now," he said in the winner's circle, a glow on his face and with friends and relatives at his side. "But I am disappointed at not having a double win."
The companion races at 1 1/8 miles are the richest of the year for Maryland-bred 2-year-olds. In a state with such a rich breeding and racing history, winning one of these championships is at the top of any breeder and owner's holiday wish list.
"We're Maryland folk," said William T. Fitzgibbons, the breeder of Stormy Cloud, who defeated Bullet Valay by five lengths in the championship for males. "It's so much sweeter when you win one at home."
Fitzgibbons had his arm firmly around his wife, Phyllis, the owner of Stormy Cloud. They both beamed as they celebrated not only their colt's smashing win, but also the unusual success of the colt's dam, Arctic Cloud. Now 12, the Fitzgibbons-owned Arctic Cloud had three sons racing on yesterday's card at Laurel.
"That's almost unheard of," Fitzgibbons said. "I can't tell you how proud that makes us feel."
Stormy Cloud was the only winner -- Irish Cloud finished second two races later and Clouds Forty Four was seventh in the fifth race -- but his score earned $60,000 for the Fitzgibbonses, who live in Riderwood in Baltimore County, but keep their broodmares at Richard Golden's Sycamore Hall Farm in Cecil County. They credited the farm manager, David Wade, for Arctic Cloud's success.
Stormy Cloud, a son of Smarten, slipped inside the early leaders on the far turn and pulled away from Bullet Valay. Ridden by Mario Pino and trained by Richard W. Delp, Stormy Cloud paid $15 to win. The finish was a reversal of the seven-furlong Rollicking Stakes Dec. 8 at Laurel, in which Stormy Cloud lost by the same margin, five lengths, to Bullet Valay.
Clagett, the 80-year-old breeder and owner of Bullet Valay, had high hopes for his gray colt by Carnivalay out of Silent Bullet. An impressive win yesterday would have vaulted him into next spring's Triple Crown picture.
"I haven't given up that hope," Clagett said after his Jerry Robb-trained colt, the even-money favorite, failed to muster a late drive. "The quality is there. The challenge now is to figure out why he hung in the last eighth [of a mile] and correct it."
In the championship for state-bred fillies, Clagett's Assault John, also trained by Robb, pulled away from Snit to win by 3 3/4 lengths. Ridden by Roniel Gerardo, Assault John paid $5.60 to win and topped a $9.20 exacta.
Pub Date: 12/27/96