Helen Pitts had a plane to catch back to Kentucky, but she couldn't get out of the Laurel Park winner's circle as long as the victory by her filly, Sweet Talker, was under objection. With owner Eliah Kahn back in Chicago keeping her occupied by cell phone, Pitts paced while the giant screen in the track's infield replayed the action on the far turn of the $150,000 Martha Washington Breeders' Cup over and over.
"I don't know," Pitts said into the phone at one point, "but I'm going to miss this flight."
In the end, the racing stewards decided jockey Ryan Fogelsonger's move off the rail into the path of last-place finisher Frost Princess didn't cause enough interference to merit a disqualification, giving Pitts and Sweet Talker the win in the turf race for 3-year-old fillies.
Track announcer Dave Rodman said, "The stewards have ruled no change," and Fogelsonger ran into Pitts's arms.
Frost Princess's rider, Steve Hamilton, was "on a dead horse not going anywhere," Fogelsonger said. "We angled out. I don't believe we bothered them."
Fogelsonger did not want any more trouble with the stewards; he will begin serving a five-day suspension Thursday for careless riding on Sept. 22.
Pitts, meantime, entered the race already on edge. The Churchill Downs-based trainer, who grew up in Monkton, Md., had watched a simulcast earlier in the afternoon of her fast 4-year-old Durban Thunder winning a $100,000 stakes race at Kentucky Downs and also surviving a foul claim.
Formerly an assistant, Pitts inherited both Durban Thunder and Sweet Talker this summer when she took over the well-stocked stable of trainer Ken McPeek, who retired to become a bloodstock agent. Having worked for five years for Francis Campitelli at Pimlico, Pitts's victory in the Martha Washington was her first in Maryland under her own name.
"It means the world to me," she said. "I was hoping to be able to come here and win my first stakes in my own home town. It's been a lot of fun. I miss Maryland, but I can't say I don't love Kentucky."
Even though it lost its status this year as a graded stakes race, the Martha Washington's big purse still drew entries from top New York-based trainers Christophe Clement, Kiaran McLaughlin and Robert Barbara, who saddled favorite Victory Lap.
Sweet Talker had not raced since a second-place finish in the Grade III Regret in June at Churchill Downs, but she ran the 11/16-mile race in a sharp 1 minute 41.63 seconds for her second stakes victory this year.
Racing Notes: Crypto's Laurel, a 5-year-old gelding owned and trained by Joseph Ayres, broke a shoulder and collapsed after finishing fourth in the 10th race. The horse was euthanized on the track.