11/17/2006 1:00AM

Tartlet latest star for Rickman clan


William M. Rickman Sr. is best remembered, in the racing world, as the track owner who ushered in the current slots-rich era at Delaware Park.

But Rickman, who died September 30, 2005, at age 84, was known to derive more pleasure from breeding and racing his own horses than he did from his racetrack.

"Dad truly loved his horses," said Rickman's daughter Cynthia Rickman. "And he wanted the family to stay involved."

While Rickman's son William M. Rickman Jr., many years ago took over the day-to-day operation of Delaware Park, Cynthia Rickman has only recently stepped into the limelight as the heir to the racing operation and breeding stock.

The second youngest of Rickman Sr.'s five children, Cynthia, shared her father's interest in horses from an early age, and rode and showed while growing up in Potomac, Md.

She drifted afield, however, and pursued her own business career, retiring two years ago as director of stores for the Lillian Vernon company, based near her home in Virginia Beach, Va.

As a relative neophyte in the horse business, Cynthia Rickman is learning quickly. Helping to spur her own passion for racing is the 4-year-old homebred Tartlet, an ultra-consistent Maryland-bred who ran the race of his life in winning the Mountaineer Mile on Nov. 11 at Mountaineer Race Track.

A son of the Danzig stallion Zignew, who stood three seasons at William Rickman Sr.'s Williams Grove Farm in Chesapeake City, Md., until his death in 2001, Tartlet made his debut in a maiden special weight race at Laurel Park on December 11, 2005, and proceeded to reel off four straight victories.

Trained throughout his career by Ron Alfano, the one-time leading Maryland trainer who has trained exclusively for Rickman Racing since 2004, Tartlet has finished off the board only once in his 13 career starts. He led up to the Mountaineer Mile with second-place finishes in two Delaware Park stakes, including the Sept. 9 Owners' Day Handicap in which he was beaten 2 1/4 lengths by 2005 Maryland-bred horse of the year Cherokee's Boy.

In the Mountaineer Mile, Tartlet rated behind the early leader, Maryland-based Forest Park, and then took command on the home turn and drew off to an easy four-length score. His final time of 1:39.53 was the fastest running of the Mountaineer Mile in four years, although it was recorded over a deep, muddy track, and he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 103.

The stakes win boosted Tartlet's career earnings to $234,726.

Tartlet is one of 98 horses currently owned by Rickman Racing - a number that Cynthia Rickman noted is down significantly from several years ago.

Cynthia Rickman has nearly 30 horses in training, all but one with Alfano; the other is trained by Linda Rice in New York.

Williams Grove, currently home to the stallions Dumyat (by Rahy) and Fleet Foot (by Gone West), who are bred almost exclusively to Rickman's own mares, has a broodmare band of approximately 20.

Among them is Tartlet's dam, Pie I'd, a 9-year-old daughter of You and I out of Moon Pie (by Theatrical). Pie I'd retired as a maiden after five starts, and completed her racing career for William Rickman Sr. after being claimed for $15,000 at Fair Grounds in 2000.

Tartlet is Pie I'd's first foal. Her daughter Pie a la Mode (by Dumyat) showed good promise before suffering a catastrophic racing injury earlier this season, at 3. Still to make their appearance on the track are a 2-year-old Dumyat filly, Cupcake Lover, and a yearling daughter of Parker's Storm Cat, I'll Be the Boss.

Barren for 2006, Pie I'd is in foal to Outflanker.

Tartlet is the second stakes winner to carry the banner for Rickman Racing within the past 13 months. Ebony Star (also by Zignew) captured the Delaware Certified Distaff Stakes at Delaware Park on October 2, 2005, just two days after the death of William Rickman Sr.

The best runner ever to campaign for William Rickman Sr. was Challenge My Duty (My Gallant-Social Duty, by Road at Sea), who earned $440,710 while winning or placing in five stakes (three in graded company). His victories included the Grade 3 Gallant Fox Handicap and the 1990 running of the West Virginia Derby, which happens to be the premier event at Mountaineer.