There are no bionic mares in the Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Bowie today. Nor are they any flying fillies among the field of 10 set to compete over seven furlongs. All this particular running of the stakes has to offer is several tough, experienced female thoroughbreds who know their way around the track. Often they run for nickels and dimes. Today the purse is $57,800. Barbara Fritchie risked a lot more for a lot less, in old Frederick town.
Ordinarily I couldn't care less about the outcome of a race. May the best horse win, and may I be fortunate enough to have risked $2 on the best horse.
Todat I care a little.
Susie's Last deserves the victory if thereis any poetic justice left in the game. Susie is a gray 5-year-old mare that ven Whittier would have enjoyed.
At 2, in 1974, the Maryland-bred daughter of Count Brook started five times and never finished 1-2-3, earning $390. The next season, she made 23 trips to the starting gate and was 4-3-6 in terms of being in the money, accumulating $46,756. Last year, Susie's Last earned $122,957. So far in 1977 in three outsings, she has made $17,640.
Her career record, then, consists of 56 races with 14 wins, 10 seconds and 12 thirds and earnings of $187,743. Excellent. She has beaten a host of stakes winners many, many times, in allowance races or overnight handicaps, but [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] shame for such a mare to have to go to the breeding barn barren of big, bold-faced type (denoting a stakes winner) under her pedigree.
Today, perhaps. The distance, unfortunately, is one furlong farther than Susie's Last likes to run. She is a sprinter who tries at the thought of seeing the mile pole. But seven furlongs: That's not possible.
Except there is the racing secretary, Larry Abbundi.
Abbundi must have thought he was Stonewall Jackson when he assigned one Fritchie weights. Certainly he was stonewalling it so far as Susie's Last is concerned. Our heroine won a handicap at Aqueduct in her last start, Feb. 11, defeating Shy Dawn by two lengths at six furlongs. The first two finishers carried 122 pounds apiece.
As a reward for that effort, Abbundi assigned Susie's Last starting high weight of 121 pounds for the Fritchie. She must concede her rivals three to 12 pounds, giving four to Shy Dawn even though Shy Dawn has won six stakes, earned $442,076, and is certain to appreciate today's seventh furlong much more than you-know-who.
Boo! Abbundi. Shoot if you must that old gray head (of Susie's Last) but spare her back a little bit, please, under all that weight.
Shy Dawn, at the weight and at the distance, is distinctly the one to beat today talthough the Fritchie is a fairly open event and Forty Nine Sunsets, up from Florida, could be a genuine article. Shark's Jaws and Enchanted Native, while entered at Bowie also entered in the Valley Forge Handicap at Garden State.
Another problem Susie's Last may face today is her owner, trainer and breeder, Ray Vogelman Jr. He reportedly may not run his mare, believing the opposition to be too tough at the distance under the weight Vogelman may be right, but there is only way one way to find out.
Just don't anybody go picking on my mare out there today. Anyone who touches a hair of yon gray head dries like a dog, I hope, in the wagering. I am prepared to risk all the $2 in the hope this good old girl will forget to stop at the furlong pole. She is as honest as they come. She will give me her best. What more can you ask?