01/09/2009 12:00AM

Good Night Shirt's encore was outstanding

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The economy may have been in a free fall in 2008, but a number of Maryland-bred runners jumped up to have a terrific year. Topping the list is Good Night Shirt, who looks a lock to repeat for an Eclipse Award as champion steeplechaser.

Good Night Shirt led all Maryland-breds by money won and number of stakes wins in 2008, taking all five of his starts in Grade 1 company and earning $485,520 for the year.

Owned by Sonny and Ann Via and trained by Jack Fisher, Good Night Shirt launched his 7-year-old campaign with a solid victory in the $100,000 Georgia Cup Hurdle Stakes at Atlanta on April 12 and concluded his season with a hard-fought effort in the $150,000 Colonial Cup at Camden on Nov. 16. In between were dominant runs in the $150,000 Iroquois at Percy Warner in May; the $150,000 Lonesome Glory at Belmont in September; and the $250,000 Grand National at Far Hills in October.

For his career, which includes 10 starts on the flat, Good Night Shirt has started 31 times, winning 13 races and earning $969,083. All but $34,590 of that total was won over jumps.

Four other Maryland-breds captured three or more stakes last year - steeplechase mare Guelph with four, and three each for 3-year-old filly Hartigan, older mare All Giving, and turf runner Heros Reward.

The Maryland-bred horse of the year of 2007, Heros Reward, owned Rob Ry Farm and Jayne Marie Slysz and trained by Dale Capuano, earned the most money of any statebred runner on the flat last season, with $367,600, which boosted his lifetime earnings to $911,216.

Good Night Shirt, Heros Reward, and Silmaril, who retired after winning the What a Summer Stakes in January, moved up on the list of all-time Maryland-bred money winners. Silmaril, who surpassed $1 million, now ranks 16th, Good Night Shirt is 18th, and Heros Reward 20th. Cigar remains atop the list with $9,999,815.

Good Night Shirt was one of four stakes horses bred (including those bred in partnerships) by renowned equine veterinarian Tom Bowman and his wife, Chris.

Maryland's breeders of the year in 1998 as well as 2005, 2006, and 2007, the Bowmans were also represented by turf sprinting mare Smart and Fancy, 2-year-old colt Peace Town and turf horse Willsboro Point.

It was no contest for the award as leading Maryland sire, as Not for Love ran away with the title in a record-breaking year.

It was the sixth consecutive time that Not for Love, a son of Mr. Prospector who has made his career at Northview Stallion Station in Chesapeake City, has ranked as the top stallion in the nation standing outside of Kentucky (he was 15th on the national list), and he established an earnings record of more than $6.4 million. His 14 stakes winners included Maryland Million Classic winner Cuba and multiple graded stakes winner Akronism.

Not for Love was once again Maryland's leading sire of 2-year-olds, with earnings of $669,203 and two stakes winners.

Lion Hearted, a son of Storm Cat who also makes his home at Northview Stallion Station, ranked third among Maryland sires (behind Outflanker) for earnings, with $3.2 million, and was the leading 2-year-old sire by number of winners, with 14.

The battle for the title of leading Maryland freshman sire between Great Notion and Domestic Dispute came down to the afternoon on the last day of the year. Great Notion held on by less than $7,000.

Great Notion had 10 starters in 2008, four of them winners, who earned a total of $214,388. His top runner was his stakes-winning daughter Gonna Dash, who amassed $67,400 from three starts. Great Notion's final starter of the year, What's the Deal, made his debut in the last race of the Calder card on Dec. 31, shot to the lead, and was caught in the final yards to finish second, earning $2,573.

Domestic Dispute had 26 juvenile starters and nine winners, for progeny earnings of $207,571. His final starter of 2008, Life by R R, a maiden special weight winner on Dec. 7 at Hollywood Park, had the chance to snare the title for her sire when she returned in allowance company at Santa Anita less than a half-hour after What's the Deal's race. Sent off as the second choice in the five-horse field, and needing to be first or second, Life by R R weakened late to finish a close fourth.

Both Great Notion and Domestic Dispute stand at Northview Stallion Station.