Commuters traveling on U.S. Route 1 in North Laurel, Md. around 9 a.m. Jan. 11 saw something they'll never forget—a loose Thoroughbred heading south without its rider.
Bullet Catcher, a 4-year-old gelding from the Jerry Robb stable based at Laurel Park, tossed jockey Jeremy Rose while heading back to the barn after his morning exercise.
The son of Strong Hope then made his way out of the stable gate, made a left on Whiskey Bottom Road, and took another left onto Route 1 before being caught, relatively uninjured, after a 1.6-mile journey. The trip included parts of Anne Arundel, Howard, and Prince George's Counties.
"You think you've seen it all," said former rider Mark Rosenthal, who co-owns the gelding through No Guts No Glory Stable.
Jockey Abel Castellano captured part of the adventure down Route 1 on his mobile phone.
"I had finished working a horse and was coming to the jocks room when I saw a horse run by heading out of the stable gate," Castellano said. "I decided to follow the horse and maybe when he stopped I could catch him. All of a sudden we got to Route 1 and there was a red light. I saw the cars driving by and I said 'oh my God, we're going to have an accident' but at that moment it changed to a green light to make a left and the horse just made a left.
"I went 'oh, we're so lucky so far,'" the jockey continued. "Then we got the point where the road splits (and) you go right, so that horse he keeps to the right, so we follow him. The horse is still running 30 miles an hour. Finally he slowed down in front of the Chrysler dealership almost to Main Street and we were able to catch him. The story had a happy ending but it was scary."
Trainer Charles "Snake" Frock was also part of the group that caught the Maryland-bred, who has one win and three on the board finishes in six lifetime starts.
"I have never seen anything like it and I have been at the racetrack for more than 50 years," Frock said. "I was coming from the farm in Westminster and saw him on Whiskey Bottom Road and did a U-turn to try to help. My trailer was full with hay and I had another horse in the van. When we finally caught him we were able to bring him back to the track in my van. I told Robb later, 'it's unreal the horse galloped out the gate and all the way to Main Street on the blacktop and never shredded a shoe.' God was on his side."
Robb indicated Bullet Catcher had some abrasions on his feet but he would not know the full extent of any injuries for a few days. Bred in Maryland by Mr. & Mrs. Charles McGinnes out of the Wild Rush mare Polo Ridge, Bullet Catcher has a 1-1-1 record from six starts, with earnings of $29,862. He has not recorded a win since breaking his maiden first out at Pimlico going 4 1/2 furlongs on the dirt on May 5, 2011. He was a $9,500 purchase from the 2010 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic eastern fall yearling sale.