March? It's March? St. Patrick's Day is Monday so get out your green. Everyone's Irish, or so it seems sometimes, in horse racing. We've got some quotes, some numbers and (which seems far too common lately) some sad news.
“I got lucky no one claimed him for 25, but at that time I don’t think anyone would have guessed he was going to do what he’s done. Especially based on what he did that day.” – Trainer Jeremiah Englehart on King Kreesa, whose debut was a fifth-place finish in a maiden claiming race back in March 2012
“It’s hard to believe, looking down at the paddock right now, that we’ll be racing in about a month. But the sun is shining.” – Keeneland’s Geoffrey Russell, a few hours after about six inches of snow fell on Central Kentucky in early March
“It’s a good busy though.” – Trainer Rick Violette, jumping between industry meetings, traveling back to New York to run Samraat and Financial Mogul in the Gotham
“I brought it with me.” – Trainer Mike Hushion joking about the weather on his return to New York from South Florida
“I would have called you back but my wife had a baby a few days ago.” – Trainer Manny Coronel to TIHR’s Tom Law; congrats on the baby girl.
“She’s ready to go – unless the feed truck hits her on the way to the racetrack. Every day’s an adventure with horses.” – Trainer Lynn Whiting, about Bread and Butter, who was training forwardly last week (and won this week)
Take A Number
232,000: Total attendance at the four days of the Cheltenham Festival this week.
82,653-1: Odds of a four-win day at Cheltenham Friday for owner Gigginstown Stud, which picked up victories with Tiger Roll (JCB Triumph Hurdle), Very Wood (Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle), Don Poli (Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle) and Savello (Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup).
3,926-1: Odds of a three-win day at Cheltenham Friday for jockey Davy Russell. He rode Very Wood, Lord Windermere and Savello to victories.
Goodbye Arnie Heft . . .
Maryland owner Arnold Heft passed away in his sleep March 12 at Sunrise at Fox Hill Senior Living Facility in Bethesda. He was 94.
Heft pitched four years of minor league baseball in the late 1930s and early 1940s, finishing with a 30-25 record. He won 22 games for Owensboro in the D League in 1941. He then became an NBA referee (1945-1961) and later co-owned the Baltimore Bullets (1964-68).
“He just loved sports,” said Heft’s trainer Tim Keefe. “He was full of life. When he came into a room everyone knew it. He had great stories and had a wonderful personality.”
Heft and his wife Sylvia campaigned multiple stakes winners Pulverizing, Baldski’s Choice, He Is Risen, Eighttofasttocatch and Red’s Round Table.
“Eighttofasttocatch was the first horse I bought for Arnie and Sylvia,” added Keefe. “Arnold loved putting horses in her name but when Sylvia started to have some medical problems he just switched the ownership. He owned all the horses and just loved the business. He was wonderful to train for. He loved coming to the races to watch his horses run but never wanted me to run them unless they were ready.”
Keefe indicated Heft’s horses will either run in his wife’s name or the estate of Arnold Heft.
– Maryland Jockey Club Press Release
. . . And Ann Via
Virginia resident Ann Via, who owned two-time champion steeplechaser Good Night Shirt with her husband Sonny, died March 7. She was 81.
Via was raised in Virginia Beach and later attended The Madeira School and Sweet Briar College. Known for her active lifestyle, she enjoyed walking with her dogs, foxhunting, hunting rabbits on foot with beagles, gardening and traveling. When not engaged in these activities, she could be found on the sidelines of various athletic events supporting her children, grandchildren, or her beloved Virginia Cavaliers. Other interests included preservation, conservation, Virginia history and decorative arts. Together, the Vias enjoyed touring throughout the country and abroad in their antique automobiles.
Via is survived by her husband of 61 years, Harold A. “Sonny” Via Jr.; son, Peyton A. Via; son, Michael A. Via; daughter, Alice R. Via; daughter, Mary V. Cuoco. She is also survived by seven grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Ivy, Va. at 11 a.m. on Friday, March 21.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be made to: The Corp. for Jefferson's Poplar Forest, P.O. Box 49, Forest, VA 24551; Alzheimer's Assoc. of Central Virginia, 1160 Pepsi Pl. Ste. 306, Charlottesville, VA 22901; Hospice of the Piedmont, 675 Peter Jefferson Pkwy. Ste. 300, Charlottesville, VA 22911.