09/24/2013 1:30PM

Dick Jerardi: Rich stakes across Mid-Atlantic made for a memorable day

Tom Keyser
Will Take Charge, under Luis Saez, wins the Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing last Saturday.

Who had a better Saturday than Luis Saez?

A little before 6 p.m., the jockey broke away from the winner’s circle at Parx Racing to head for Charles Town. He had just won the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby on the favored Will Take Charge. A little before 10 p.m., he won the $400,000 Researcher in West Virginia on Take It Like a Man.

Take It Like a Man, like two other 3-year-olds who ran in the Researcher, also had been entered in the $300,000 Gallant Bob at Parx. There actually were 16 horses entered in the Gallant Bob, but only 14 could go. After scratches, nine ran.

I certainly am not opposed to terrific racing all over the Mid-Atlantic on the third Saturday in September. Parx had its two $1 million races and a $3 million card. Laurel had a terrific card of stakes, anchored by the $350,000 De Francis Memorial Dash and another grass-sprint win for the incredible Ben’s Cat. Charles Town also had another $400,000 stakes for 3-year-old fillies and solid stakes all over its night card.

I am not ascribing any blame here because I don’t know if there is blame to be ascribed. I do wonder if the tracks could talk a bit more about not having stakes for similar groups of horses on the same day.

Now that slot machines have given tracks like Parx, Penn National, Delaware Park, Charles Town, and Laurel a chance to throw serious money into stakes to attract top horses and stables, there really is a need to coordinate it all. Given the shortage of horses that is going to become even more pronounced with the foal crops continuing to drop, cooperation is going to be imperative.

That said, last Saturday was an absolute feast for a Mid-Atlantic native who grew up on Maryland racing, made many trips to Charles Town back in the day, and has been living north of Philadelphia since 1985.

I was at Parx but watched most of the races at Laurel. And then, during a very long night at Parx Casino across the parking lot from the track, I caught some of the races from Charles Town, including one where it had been strongly suggested that I should make a substantial investment.

I shared that information with a dinner table of 11 that included veterans, first-timers, and a few who probably were true believers until they actually ran the race, and the horse who shall remain nameless got good position and then began to retreat steadily.

The night continued with me standing behind a blackjack table, where I watched one of my friends get a six-card 21. That had to be a good sign. It was not.

I watched the dealer find more ways than I ever imagined to get 21 or whatever it took to sweep away all the chips hand after hand.

I headed home at midnight. It really was a day like no other in Mid-Atlantic racing history. I had cashed no bets, and that included one spin of an unkind roulette wheel. Yet I was smiling when I disappeared from the Parx parking lot.

Penn National great Thompson dies

Harry Thompson, the leading trainer at Penn National in seven different years who won 2,671 career races (35th all time), died Sept. 17 at Hershey Medical Center. He was 75.

Thompson ranks third in the 40-year history of Penn with 2,187 wins there. Thompson, a U.S. Marine, will be buried with full military honors at Quantico, Va.

Jockey Russell still out

Jockey Sheldon Russell had surgery in mid-July to repair a torn biceps tendon in his left arm. Russell, the leading rider at Pimlico’s spring meet, hoped to be back for the start of Laurel Park’s meet last week. He did not make it.

“I was right on track, doing therapy and seeing a personal trainer every other day,” Russell said. “Last week, I started galloping and working horses. I worked five at Laurel Saturday and another at Fair Hill Sunday, but Monday something didn’t feel right. Maybe I did a little too much, too soon.”

Gary Capuano gets win No. 1,000

Gary Capuano, best known as the trainer of Captain Bodgit, winner of the 1997 Florida Derby and Wood Memorial and the runner-up in the Kentucky Derby, got his 1,000th win at Delaware Park last week when Miss Speaker won a $5,000 claimer by a neck. Capuano’s first win came at Pimlico in 1988.