Bill Borchardt has become a man in demand on the backstretch at Pimlico, Laurel Park and the Bowie Training Center.
Since July, Borchardt, 49, a resident of Woodlawn, has served as therapist and drug counselor to the riders, grooms and hot walkers who work on track with the state's thoroughbreds. Although experienced in his field, he had never worked at a racetrack.
"I was the outsider looking in, for sure," Borchardt said. "But when the big bust came down in November, things really picked up."
In November, Maryland Racing Commission inspectors, backed by Baltimore police officers, swept into Pimlico and tested 74 stable employees for illegal drug use. Thirty tested positive and were ordered off the grounds. Sweeps later occurred at Bowie and Laurel Park, resulting in far fewer positives. Workers wanting their jobs back had to undergo counseling with Borchardt.
"Of the approximately 37 who were discharged, 27 returned to work," Borchardt said. "And of the 27, only two have failed so far, meaning they got caught a second time."
About 70 percent of the trainers at the three tracks have signed contracts making their barns drug-free. Their employees must agree to drug testing.
Borchardt said he believes drug use among backstretch workers is no higher or lower than in society outside the gates. The situation at Pimlico was worse because many workers came from the neighborhood, where drugs were readily available, he said.
"Our goal is to make the backstretch at Pimlico an oasis of security and safety," Borchardt said. "We've still got a long way to go, but we're making strides."
Prado, Rushing part
Edgar Prado and Steve Rushing, a fixture around Maryland racetracks throughout the 1990s, parted company last week when Prado decided to ride full time in New York beginning this week.
Maryland's leading jockey for years, Prado became a national sensation last summer by riding at Saratoga and finishing second in the jockey standings. In Florida this winter, he ranked third among jockeys at Gulfstream Park.
Despite pressure to hire a New York agent for the Saratoga meet, Prado insisted that Rushing, his longtime friend and agent, continue booking his mounts. But last week, after working together 13 years, the two split.
"No hard feelings," Rushing said. "We're still great friends. All the moving got a little hectic. I just decided I didn't want the lifestyle anymore."
Rushing got married last June, and his wife is expecting a baby in August.
"Edgar's an even better person than he is a rider, and that's saying something," Rushing said. "He should go to New York. He belongs there. But it's my decision to stay here."
Rushing has taken over the book of promising jockey Ramon Dominguez, who rides in Maryland and Delaware.
"He's 23. He's a very good rider. Everybody likes him," Rushing said. "He's exactly like Edgar was when he started here."
Prado, 32, who spent the week vacationing in his native Peru, promptly hired Bob Frieze, who booked mounts 15 years for Jerry Bailey. They parted company last month.
"Believe me, this is a real blessing for me," Frieze told the Daily Racing Form. "This is a good kid and a very good rider. All I have to do is find fast horses for him to ride."
The mystery remains. Who impregnated Speak Compelling?
The 3-year-old Maryland-bred daughter of Compelling Sound delivered a healthy female foal Jan. 30 in her stall at Philadelphia Park. Nobody had known she was pregnant. Nobody has since identified the sire.
But Lynda Gallagher, who owns mother and daughter with her husband, Bill, is trying to solve the mystery. A resident of Pennsylvania, Lynda believes Speak Compelling became pregnant last year in late February or early March while at the Barretts sale in Southern California. But she can't find anyone who knows anything about it.
"I wish someone would come forward and say they know what happened," Gallagher said. "In my mind it's another 2-year-old. I can almost picture it. Someone's out walking Speak Compelling, who's in heat. Someone's out walking a colt, who gets a whiff of her. Then nature takes its course."
After Californians bought Speak Compelling at the Barretts sale, they transported her to a farm in Southern California. Six stallions reside there. Although Gallagher is "99 percent sure it didn't happen there," she is having the foal's blood matched against the stallions, just in case.
Meanwhile, Speak Compelling has returned to training at Philadelphia Park and is about three weeks from a race, Gallagher said. The 2-month-old remains at a Pennsylvania farm for orphan foals.
If she can't identify the father and register the foal as a racehorse, Gallagher said, she and her husband will probably try to sell the filly as a riding horse.
"If you saw this little horse run," she said, "you'd say she's all thoroughbred."
Track intruder sentenced
Lee Chang Ferrell, 23, was sentenced last week for impeding horses during a race at Pimlico last year on Preakness day.
In Baltimore circuit court, Judge William Quarles sentenced Ferrell to a three-year suspended sentence and five years probation. Quarles ordered him to continue psychological counseling and enroll in a vocational-skills training program. The judge also ruled that Ferrell did not have to pay restitution to the Maryland Jockey Club, which lost about $95,000 in refunded bets on Artax, the horse Ferrell impeded, said Ferrell's attorney, Fred Heyman.
"It's a long story; it's a tragic story," Heyman said of Ferrell's life. "But it has a silver lining, and that is the support of his family."
Nancy and Jim Ferrell, who live in Harford County, adopted the boy from a South Korean orphanage. He had lived there two or three years after being abandoned by his father and sister in the Korean countryside at age 4 or 5, Heyman said.
Lee Chang Ferrell has been found to have "borderline personality disorder," his lawyer said. Ferrell does not remember walking onto the track from the infield and trying to punch Artax, Heyman said.
"There's not a day goes by that the family isn't thankful that no one got hurt," Heyman said.
John Alden dead
John Alden, the 26-year-old sire of Little Bold John and 19 other stakes winners, died March 25 in his paddock at Green Willow Farms in Westminster. His sons and daughters have so far earned $11,288,907.
Said Snowden Carter, syndicate manager: "He was a grand and wonderful stallion. I feel that we have lost a member of the family.
"He covered mares as recently as 1999 and was a gentleman to the end, collapsing in his paddock and dying almost instantly from an apparent heart attack."
Record at Charles Town
Travis Dunkelberger, who rides thoroughbreds in Maryland and West Virginia, broke a Charles Town record Thursday by winning seven races on the 10-race card.
That afternoon he also won one race at Pimlico. And that morning he had galloped seven horses for trainer Dale Capuano at Laurel and then played nine holes of golf.
"This hasn't sunk in yet," Dunkelberger said Thursday night. "I'm too tired to think."
Around the tracks
Colonial Downs, the Maryland Jockey Club's partner track in southern Virginia, reported net losses of $1,139,000 for fiscal year 1999. That is down substantially from the previous year's losses of $5,288,000.
Delaware Park opens its 141-day season Saturday. Post time is 12: 45 p.m. Saturday through Tuesday, until the week of May 21, when it becomes Saturday through Wednesday.
You won't see many lists of horses finer than the one containing nominees to the Grade I $750,000 Pimlico Special on May 13: General Challenge (trainer Bob Baffert), Pleasant Breeze (James Bond), K One King (Akiko Gothard), Almutawakel (Mark Hennig), Allen's Oop (Dallas Keen), Cat Thief (D. Wayne Lukas), Big Ten, Puerto Madero and Hook Call (Richard Mandella), Golden Missile (Joe Orseno), Thunder Flash (Timothy Ritchey), Lemon Drop Kid (Scotty Schulhofer), Fred Bear Claw (Archie Smith Jr.), Budroyle (Ted West), and Adonis and Stephen Got Even (Nick Zito).