After five years of massaging Little Bold John, Rick Sillaman's career has a new rub.
Sillaman, a groom and assistant trainer for Jerry Robb, also has been training a few horses of his own. Two of the three ran yesterday at Laurel and gave him a sweep of the daily double, which paid $90.20.
Neither horse gave Sillaman much worry. Prince Of Spades, 9 to 1 in the opener, took the lead over $5,000 claimers early and turned it on in the stretch for a nine-length victory.
In the following race, 3-year-old Ironed Out (3 to 1) took on older horses for the first time and found it a breeze. Ahead by more than six lengths early in the stretch, he galloped home to win the $6,500 claiming race by two.
"The two cheapest races on the card," Sillaman said with a grin, but any win -- let alone a double dose -- is invaluable to a burgeoning trainer.
Actually, Sillaman has had a training license about nine years, but only recently started conditioning his own. He's still committed to Robb as second in command, and to Little Bold John, the active Maryland-bred money leader who just yesterday returned to his stall following a month of farm life prompted by a wrenched suspensory ligament.
"He's a monster," Sillaman said. "Came in squealing like a 2-year-old."
With Robb's large stable, Sillaman has had a chance to try his hand at training with little risk. Robb has given him three stalls at Bowie, and Sillaman has made good use of them.
"I've told him I'm going to go on my own at some point," Sillaman said. "Right now, I'm comfortable there -- as long as I can keep the stalls. If I get three or four more horses, then we'll see."
With yesterday's return of Little Bold John, Sillaman, 29, will resume as his groom -- feeding him, bathing him, brushing him, bandaging him, cleaning his stall, checking his legs, taking him to the races. Between that, assisting Robb and training his three horses -- including Rifleman, a New Zealand-bred turf sprinter who's the most accomplished of the lot -- he isn't able to groom his own.
"I wish I could do it all myself," he said, "but I don't have the time."
Sillaman has seen the gratification of working in a large stable -- with his 50 horses, Robb nearly won a Pimlico training title two years ago -- but has also found its drawbacks.
"I don't ever want to be as big as Jerry," he said. "I see all the headaches he has to go through. Ten or 12 will be fine."
Russian Diplomacy in the Rubles
Russian Diplomacy won a $20,000 claiming race yesterday to extend his 1990 in-the-money streak to 12 races. With five wins, five seconds and two thirds, the 5-year-old has made $43,420 this year. . . .
Iceycindy took the $23,000 feature, moving past pacesetter Breeder's Flight near the far turn, opening a four-length lead early in the stretch and lasting for a one-length decision over Moolicop. The favorite paid $4.40 and gave trainer Vinnie Blengs his fourth victory from seven starts this young meeting. . . .
Groscar ($32.60), ridden by Rick Wilson, took the $35,000 John McSorley Stakes at Monmouth Park. Dawn Quixote was second, Preppy Pappy third.