01/25/2002 1:00AM

Include led way in banner year


Maryland-breds affirmed their class in 2001, with a total of 81 winning stakes. In addition, 59 Maryland-breds bankrolled more than $100,000 (based on U.S. totals).

Some highlights from the 2001 racing season:

Leading earner: Include, with $1,435,400.

A shoo-in to be named Maryland-bred Horse of the Year for 2001, Include won five of nine starts, all in stakes company. The highlight of his campaign was his hometown victory in the Grade 1 Pimlico Special, in which he wore down Albert the Great in the stretch to win by a neck. Include's only off-the-board finish came in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Bred and owned by Robert Meyerhoff and trained by Bud Delp, Include boosted his lifetime earnings to $1,532,560 from 16 starts, placing him eighth on Maryland's all-time leading money-earners list, directly behind another Meyerhoff homebred, Valley Crossing.

Should Include take Maryland's top honors, it will be the fifth such accomplishment for his breeder, following Broad Brush (1986-1987), Valley Crossing (1993) and Concern (1994). Both Concern and Include are sons of Broad Brush.

Graded stakes winners: Nine. Grade 1 winners: Two.

Counting winners of National Steeplechase Association graded races, the nine are Include (Pimlico Special as well as the Massachusetts and New Orleans Handicaps, both Grade 2's), Shine Again (Ballerina, a Grade 1, and First Flight Handicap, Grade 2), Duckhorn (Hawthorne Gold Cup, Grade 2), Touch Love (Schuylerville Stakes, Grade 2), Disco Rico (Maryland Breeders' Cup Handicap, Grade 3), Lightning Paces (Baltimore Ravens Breeders' Cup Handicap, Grade 3) Indispensable (David L. Zeke Ferguson Memorial, a NSA Grade 2), Tres Touche (Foxbrook Supreme Novice Hurdle, NSA Grade 2, and the Beaulieu of America Spring Novice Hurdle, NSA Grade 3), and Spring Salute (Appleton Hurdle, a NSA Grade 3).

Most stakes wins: Disco Rico and Include, with five each.

Both horses made nine starts and competed exclusively in stakes. In addition to his graded victories, Include won the Whirlaway and Jennings Handicaps.

A son of Citidancer owned by Alfred and Joe DiRico and trained by Lori Testerman, Disco Rico also scored in the Hoover, Endless Surprise, Fire Plug, and Lite the Fuse Stakes. Disco Rico was injured in the Lite the Fuse and retired with earnings of $532,244 from 17 starts.

Longest winning streak by a stakes winner: All the Marbles, A Lot of Mary, and Include, at five victories.

Trainer Scott Lake sent out both A Lot of Mary, a 6-year-old mare by Clever Champ, and All the Marbles, a 5-year-old gelding by Caveat, to early-season successes, racing primarily at Charles Town.

During her streak, which began on Jan. 4, A Lot of Mary won three stakes - the Behave Yourself and Bubbling Over Handicaps at Charles Town, and the Conniver Stakes at Laurel. After missing by a neck going for her sixth straight for owner Richard Englander, she was back in the winner's circle next the out on May 23, in what would be her final victory of the year.

All the Marbles, campaigned by Leo Gaspari Racing Stables, captured his first four starts by a combined margin of nearly 21 lengths before winning Charles Town's Ben Jones Handicap. He would add one more victory later in the season.

Undefeated stakes winners: Ironfist, Touch Love, and Private Slip.

Steeplechase horse Ironfist and a 2-year-old Not For Love filly, Touch Love, each had undefeated three-race campaigns. The filly earned more money, with victories in the Schuylerville Stakes, Astoria Stakes, and a maiden special weight yielding $148,560.

Ironfist's soaring victory in the Virginia Gold Cup was his most valuable and helped push his year-end total to $51,000.

Private Slip made his only start of the year a winning one by taking the Henry S. Clark Stakes at Pimlico on April 29.

Leading juvenile earner: Heavyweight Champ, with $149,258.

Although he didn't win a stakes race, Heavyweight Champ, a handsome son of Two Punch, proved the most prolific graded stakes-performing 2-year-old of the year. Tackling the best juveniles on the East Coast, he finished second in the Saratoga Special Stakes, a Grade 2, beaten three-quarters of a length by Jump Start, and was third in the Grade 1 Champagne (to Officer and Jump Start) and the Grade 2 Sanford (to Buster1s Daydream and Seeking the Money).

Twice a winner in allowance company, Heavyweight Champ was on the board in five of his six starts.