In just five years, Baltimore born and bred jockey Forest Boyce has established herself as a contender in the competitive sport of flat racing. Last year, she ranked seventh in local standings with 57 wins. With the Preakness approaching, she’s eyeing the stakes races, hoping for mounts on both Black Eyed Susan and Preakness days.
Sometimes life challenges us to redefine our adversities.
On June 17, 2011, Romeo Santos turned his greatest loss into a gift that continues to inspire others. For Romeo, it was the day his best friend from high school and wife of six years, Tracy Santos, succumbed to cancer.
In her honor, Romeo heads Tracy’s Bark Brigade, one of the leading supporters of the Maryland SPCA’s March for the Animals. A pack originally formed in 2006 by Tracy and her co-workers at Eastern Animal Hospital, the Bark Brigade has consistently increased its annual fundraising efforts, hitting its $50,000 fundraising milestone last March. The event, this year on Sunday, April 27, features a 1.5 mile walk (for two and four legged participants) as well as a showcase of adoptable dogs, training tips, vendors and a pet costume contest.
The secret is clearly out.
A cursory look at the Valley Inn’s crowded parking lot reveals what many have eagerly anticipated since it changed ownership two years ago: The Valley Inn has re-opened its doors. Step inside and new and old customers alike will revel in the ways in which new owner, Ted Bauer, has melded the property’s rich past with its vibrant future.
As kids, my brother and I spent hours on the bottom bunk of his bed, trading autographed Orioles headshots. The collection we had amassed (Eddie Murray, Rick Dempsey, Scotty McGregor, Ken Singleton) fanned out across his red bedspread, a tribute to our hometown heroes. Our love of the Birds was fueled by our dad who not only helped add to our collection but took us to countless games at Memorial Stadium, just blocks from our house. Even though we complained about the walk to the stadium, the excitement of chasing the Oriole Bird and scanning the field for our favorite players soon dispelled our grumblings.
Thanks to hours logged watching the Royals, my dad’s Roland Park Little League team, I learned to keep the scorebook. Soon, I became a student at the Orioles games, tracking at-bats and stats on the blank pages of his score book. Before the All-Star break, I scoured the ground around our upper deck seats for the punch out All-Star ballots, popping holes next to my favorite players.
I was nine when the Orioles took the World Series from their I-95 rivals in Philadelphia. Like so many of my peers, this was a monumental moment in both my childhood and the history of my hometown. My own excitement was fueled by the love of the game instilled in me by my dad. As a parent now, I recognize that same urge to perpetuate the same joys of my childhood into my own children. Trips to Camden Yards are highlighted by Oriole Bird sightings, renditions of “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” and, of course, loud cheers for our beloved players.
When the starting gates open on Preakness weekend, two months of intensive planning and collaboration will have come to fruition. Overseeing the incredible endeavor is Mike Gathagan, vice-president of communications for the Maryland Jockey Club. Since 2001, Gathagan has coordinated all aspects of Preakness weekend. For the past two months, Gathagan had devoted himself seven days a week to the job, logging in 12-20 hour days. Still, he admits, there are often “still not enough bodies” to fully promote the twelve stakes races that run in addition to the better known Black Eyed Susan, Dixie, Jockey Challenge, Lady Legends and Preakness Stakes.
As the Preakness approaches, Gathagan’s focus shifts from chasing down credentials to the horses themselves. For this, he relies on Georgeanne Hale, the racing secretary. Hale and her team have spent the last two months hustling horses to fill each of the sixteen races that run Preakness weekend. Gathagan cautions, “it’s not just the one race.” In fact, for months, the team has traveled across the country, from Charlestown to Florida to California, to fill their Preakness weekend race cards.
Gathagan calls Hale’s efforts “a science” and “a labor of love.” She tirelessly works the phones and email seven days a week. Hale must persuade trainers that running their horses in one of the Preakness weekend stakes races is both worth the purse and will promise a good shot at winning. Once the Kentucky Derby approaches, she turns her focus on the would-be stakes horses. The finishers at Churchhill Downs determine not only the Preakness Stakes runners but those in lesser races too. As Gathagan puts it, the real work begins, “as soon as they cross the finish line on the first Saturday in May.”
It’s six days before the 117th running of the Maryland Hunt Cup on April 27 and to the casual observer, it looks as though three jockeys are in full race mode. Former Hunt Cup riders Stewart Strawbridge, Charlie Fenwick, and Jason Griswold hover over a laptop, scrutinizing the results of the past three weeks of the Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia steeplechase circuit to assess a field of sixteen competitors for this year’s Hunt Cup, the final jewel in the state’s triple crown of steeplechase racing.
For most amateur jockeys, riding in the grueling, four-mile race over twenty-two fences, some five feet high, means fulfilling a lifelong dream.
That was certainly the case for Strawbridge, Fenwick and Griswold when they raced. While all three hung up their tack two years ago, they remain as passionate about the race and as interested in its outcome as ever. Collectively, the three have ridden the race thirteen times: Strawbridge won the Hunt Cup in 2007; Fenwick rode the race seven times, finishing only twice, once with a win in 2008; and Griswold has ridden the race five times.
Most Hunt Cup jockeys are plagued by the superstition that any public recognition can jinx the race. To spare the sixteen jockeys in this year’s race, we reached out to the three former competitors to reflect on what it’s like for jockeys in the days leading up to the Hunt Cup as they prepare for the race of a lifetime.
The U.S. Naval Academy made history last month when Midshipman Kevin Hillery became the first paraplegic to graduate. At the May 29 graduation, he commemorated the landmark occasion with a wheelie off the stage, to the thrill of his 1,098 classmates and an awestruck audience. Among those in the crowd that morning was 10-year old Charlie, a rising fifth grader at Calvert School in Baltimore, who, along with his grandparents and cousin, was watching a relative graduate. For Charlie, seeing the Blue Angels fly over Naval Stadium, participating in the famous hat toss, and witnessing Hillery’s wheelie were thrills he would never forget. Little did he know how intertwined the memories would become.