After their bizarre encounter at Pimlico on Preakness day, Artax and Lee Chang Ferrell will soon re-enter the spotlight: Artax as the possible favorite in the Breeders' Cup Sprint Nov. 6 at Gulfstream Park, and Ferrell as the defendant at his trial 11 days later in Baltimore Circuit Court.
When Ferrell walked onto the track May 15 during the finish of the Maryland Breeders' Cup Handicap -- three races before the Preakness -- he triggered one of the stranger episodes in racing history. As eight thoroughbreds thundered toward him, he stood his ground, clenched his fists and threw a wild punch at one of the horses: Artax.
"He was looking straight at my horse," a shaken Jorge Chavez, Artax's jockey, said after the race.
Chavez waited until the last moment to jerk Artax to the inside, narrowly missing Ferrell but causing a chain reaction of bumping among horses. Ferrell was not injured, nor were any jockeys. Artax and one of the impeded horses, Purple Passion, each wrenched an ankle.
Artax missed his next race but has since returned to form as one of the country's fastest horses. In the Forest Hills Handicap last weekend at Belmont Park, he streaked six furlongs in 1 minute, 7.66 seconds, breaking Groovy's 1987 track record of 1: 07.80.
It was Artax's second record of the year. In early May at Aqueduct, he won the seven-furlong Carter Handicap in 1: 20.04, besting the 30-year-old standard set by Dr. Fager.
As Artax has attempted to regain the limelight, Ferrell, 22, has remained out of the public eye. His lawyer, Frederic Heyman, says that Ferrell and his parents, who live in Bel Air, do not want to talk to a reporter.
Heyman says Ferrell still doesn't remember the incident. And he says Ferrell suffers from "a multitude of psychological disorders" for which he's undergoing treatment. Other than that, Heyman says, he's not at liberty to comment.
Ferrell's trial is scheduled Nov. 17 on charges of first- and second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, intoxication, trespassing and trying to injure a horse in competition.
JoAnn and David Hayden, owners of Dark Hollow Farm in Upperco, have yet to come down to earth after their stellar performance earlier this month at the yearling sale at Timonium.
They sold horses for $120,000, $122,000 and $190,000 from the "boutique operation," as David calls it, that they've operated for three decades. They've built Dark Hollow from the ground up until it's home to 25 broodmares, 12 of which they own. Before the sale, the Haydens tended to 62 horses in all: broodmares, yearlings and weanlings.
Their mission is selling the offspring of their mares. Although they've sold five horses for more than $300,000, their consignment of 13 at Timonium was their strongest at a Maryland sale.
The Haydens' greatest success was Safely Home, whom they claimed in 1980 for $11,500 at Bowie. Her progeny earned $3.5 million on the racetrack (primarily Safety Kept and Partner's Hero), and the Haydens sold her babies for more than $1 million. Now 26, Safely Home is retired, but looking good, at Dark Hollow.
An Angelos winner
The sales topper at that yearling auction was a $320,000 Lord Carson-Monarch's Lady colt owned by Peter Angelos.
Marshall Silverman, who has advised the Orioles owner the past few years on equine matters, persuaded Angelos to part with the colt. On Silverman's advice, Angelos had paid $87,000 for the horse as a weanling last November.
That's a nifty profit for an 11-month turnaround, the result of wise counsel, the type Angelos could use with the Orioles. So has he offered Silverman the job of Orioles general manager?
"No, not yet," Silverman said, laughing. Then he uttered this statement that could just as easily apply to baseball: "It's fun when you go good."
In a story previewing the Maryland Million, I wrote that the state's highest stud fee was the $20,000 for Two Punch and Polish Numbers, who stand at Northview Stallion Station in Chesapeake City. That was their 1999 fee. Polish Numbers' has been increased to $25,000 for the 2000 breeding season.
Also, in the Maryland Million notebook after last Saturday's races, I called the Oaks winner "Saratoga Springs" on first reference. We got it right every other time, but that reference was the one used to write the headline. Saratoga Springs is a horse trained by Bob Baffert. Saratoga Friends, trained by Tony Dutrow, won the Maryland Million Oaks.
My apologies to the connections of Polish Numbers and Saratoga Friends.
Perfect to a Tee, winner of the Maryland Million Classic, came out of the race fine, said his trainer, Linda Albert, and will likely race next in the Congressional Handicap Nov. 27 at Laurel Park.
Grapeshot, who has yet to finish off the board for his daring owners (Ted Mudge, Ann Merryman, Richie Blue, Tom McDonough and Mike Drummond), became a graded-stakes winner last weekend with a valiant seven-wide charge in the Grade III Laurel Dash.
The owners paid about $42,000 for Grapeshot last October in England. In seven races since, the 5-year-old gelding has won four and earned $236,570. He may even run again today in the Bald Eagle Breeders' Cup.
"This is what dreams are made of," said Merryman, who trains him.
Jim McKay, who lives in Monkton, has been named guest of honor by the Thoroughbred Club of America at its 68th Testimonial Dinner Saturday at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky. Ray Paulick, editor-in-chief of The Blood-Horse magazine, wrote: "There is not a better man to honor or a better time to honor him."
In the crunch of reporting the results of the Maryland Million races, we neglected to say who won the 2000 Toyota Tundra pickup truck given away at Laurel Park. It was Ken Ortegel, a warehouse manager from Jessup. He said he owned a pickup, but this would replace it.
The Maryland Jockey Club has beefed up security at Pimlico and Laurel Park and has hired experts to study how to improve security at those tracks and the Bowie Training Center. Partly the result of the halter and shank thefts at Pimlico, racetrack management has tightened security at the stable gates and added off-duty police officers outside Pimlico and Laurel Park at night.
In addition, Bob Di Pietro, MJC executive vice president, is leading an effort to work more closely on security issues with neighborhood and business groups near the racetracks.