When the beloved Gin Talking retired in 2001, her trainer Robin Graham removed the filly's bridle and preserved it, like a mother's cherished necklace, for future generations. Three years later, Graham bestowed the bridle upon Dixie Talking, Gin Talking's first baby. The young filly wears it with distinction.
Yesterday at Pimlico Race Course, Dixie Talking captured the $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship Stakes, a race her mother won in 1999. The 2-year-old Dixie Talking has now won both her starts, rekindling memories of Gin Talking, who was Maryland-bred Horse of the Year in 2000.
"She's very similar to Gin," Graham said of Dixie Talking in the winner's circle. "She's always acted like an old horse, from the very beginning. She's really cool."
Dixie Talking won her debut Dec. 8 at Pimlico, a 5 1/2 -furlong sprint against maidens. That was all it took for Graham to test Dixie Talking against more experienced runners at a longer distance. She said that was the plan since May, to race Dixie Talking in this prestigious stakes of 1 1/16 miles for 2-year-old Maryland-bred fillies.
"The only thing she was lacking was the experience," said Graham, who gallops Dixie Talking in the morning. "But she knows how to do things. I wasn't worried about that."
After being squeezed between horses at the break, Dixie Talking and her jockey Abel Castellano Jr. settled into fourth down the backstretch. Dixie Talking accelerated around the turn and straightened for home the fifth-widest of six horses. She outran them convincingly, winning by 1 1/4 lengths in 1 minute, 47.71 seconds.
Take a Check, the 3-5 favorite, raced wide the entire race and rallied for second. Sweetsoutherndessa, a 20-1 long shot, was third after setting the pace.
Dixie Talking, the 3-1 second choice, paid $8.40 to win. The exacta paid $25.80, the trifecta $188.80.
Graham was impressed with Dixie Talking's performance. Asked whether she planned on shipping the filly out of state for stakes, she said: "Oh yeah. We'll go places."
Willie White, one of Dixie Talking's three owners as well as an owner of Gin Talking, was perhaps even more impressed. Of Dixie Talking, White said, "I think this filly's better than her mother."
Gin Talking won seven of 11 races and earned $348,206. Six of her victories came in stakes, including two Maryland Million scores. White, Lou Rehak and Bob Orndorff - longtime friends from Clarksville who race as Skeedattle Associates - campaigned Gin Talking and then bred her to the Kentucky sire Dixieland Band. Dixie Talking was the result.
Gin Talking, 7, resides at Dance Forth Farm on the Eastern Shore.
As soon as Gin Talking's firstborn crossed the wire yesterday at Pimlico, White began receiving calls on his cell phone from bloodstock agents interested in buying her. He said the calls had begun after the filly's first victory.
Is she for sale? No, White said. Then he added: "It would take a lot, an awful lot. ... It would break Robin's heart, and my heart, and Lou's heart, and Bob's heart."
He said it would be terribly difficult to give up Gin Talking's first baby.
"Everybody loves Gin," White said.
NOTES: Recent wet and freezing weather forced a delay in putting down the cushion (the actual dirt racing surface) at Laurel Park, said Lou Raffetto Jr., chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club. Raffetto said he hopes workers can put down the cushion beginning Sunday so the track can open for training next week. Laurel Park is still scheduled to open for racing Jan. 22, he said. ...
Purses for the Maryland Million next year will be increased to $1.5 million, making it the richest state-sire stakes program in the country, said Mike Pons, president of the Maryland Million.