Updated on 09/15/2011 12:20PM

Pair of claimers are winning big


Maryland-breds A Lot of Mary and Sonofaqueen stand out from the crowd. If you want to find them, look in the winner's circle.

Both runners have streaked to six victories from seven starts in 2001. That number places them each second on the nation's list of top horses by wins for the first five months of the year.

Maybe not so coincidentally, both are from the barn of the nation's winningest trainer, Scott Lake, who surrounds himself with gutsy, determined runners. A Lot of Mary and Sonofaqueen have filled the bill since joining Lake's barn in 2000.

"Both give 110 percent every time they run," said Lake. "A Lot of Mary has been just phenomenal, since she's been going strong for us for over a year."

A Lot of Mary was claimed by her owner, Richard Englander, two summers ago at Charles Town. A remarkably consistent mare then racing exclusively at the West Virginia track, A Lot of Mary had been on the board in eight of her first 11 starts - although the daughter of Maryland stallion Clever Champ had only one victory - when Englander and trainer Ronney Brown haltered her for $12,500. Over the next 10 months she won six races and placed second twice from a dozen starts before being turned over to Lake.

The first four times Lake sent her out, A Lot of Mary won. Among her victories was the Glass Slipper Stakes on Claiming Crown Day at Canterbury Downs. She has been first or second in all 17 races since joining Lake's barn, winning four stakes, including Laurel Park's Conniver Stakes in March.

One of three horses who topped Maryland-breds by number of wins (eight) in 2000, A Lot of Mary got her sixth victory of this season by winning an allowance at Charles Town on May 23. To date, the 6-year-old has won 20 of her 41 career starts, with 11 seconds and 3 thirds - an 83 percent in-the-money ratio - and has earned $347,090.

Lake claimed Sonofaqueen at Delaware Park on Oct. 30 for $25,000, after the horse had won or placed in 10 of 14 starts last year, mostly in mid-level claiming races. Sonofaqueen won his first start for Lake at the same level at Delaware Park two weeks later.

Since the end of December, Sonofaqueen has won eight of nine races, with one second-place finish, at four different tracks. He made a trip to Aqueduct in April and won a $75,000 claiming race by 4 1/2 lengths in a time of 1:09.49 for six furlongs. Twelve of Sonofaqueen's 18 lifetime victories have come over the past two years; the most recent was May 15 at Philadelphia Park. A 7-year-old Believe the Queen gelding who has started 66 times, Sonofaqueen is being pointed toward this year's Claiming Crown, with a scheduled prep in the Rapid Transit starter allowance on June 2, Philadelphia Park's Claiming Crown Preview Day.

A Lot of Mary and Sonofaqueen are both on a pace to notch double-digit victories for the year. The last time a Maryland-bred won at least 10 races was 1995, when the incomparable Cigar was undefeated in 10 starts. Earlier in the decade, however, seven other state-breds finished the year with 10 wins or better, topped by Kelly's Class in 1992, with 13.

Over the course of a career, the winningest Maryland-bred to retire in recent years was Time to Bid. A foal of 1975, Time to Bid was once second in a stakes, but the consistent horse made his career in lower-level claiming races. Over 12 seasons, the gelding started 179 times and was retired immediately after getting his 50th and final victory in 1988. He earned $241,247.

The winningest Maryland-bred currently competing is 13-year-old Sawmill Run. Through the end of April, the gelding has started 160 times, with 40 victories.