Inside Track: A Natural
Photo: Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club
Maggie Wolfendale, Miss Preakness 2008
She may have been Miss Preakness 2008, but Maggie Wolfendale spent more time on Pimlico’s backstretch than she did around the grandstand in the days leading up to the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), and this comes as no surprise to those who know her.

Born and raised on the Maryland racing circuit, the 21-year-old Wolfendale is well acquainted with the inner workings of a Thoroughbred racing stable. She knows her way around the track. Daughter of trainer Howard Wolfendale, one of the state’s top conditioners, this “Miss” is a third-generation racetracker. Her experiences on the backside trace to mornings spent in a playpen set up in her father’s tack room. With that kind of background, it’s no wonder she doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty when it comes to managing top stock.

“I’m not a pageant girl, I’m a horse girl,” Wolfendale said. “I’m out there every morning; I have been for years.”  

Wolfendale rode ponies as a child and eventually went on to compete in dressage aboard a retired Thoroughbred named Colonel Hill, a Temperence Hill gelding who made 55 starts as a hard-knocking competitor for her parents’ stable. In spite of multiple off-track activities, however, racehorses never lost their magnetic appeal for this young horsewoman. She added exercise rider duties to her horse-filled schedule when she turned 16.

Growing up in Maryland also gave Wolfendale a front row seat to the Preakness, which has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember.

“When I was younger we had Preakness parties and I was always one of the kids running around,” she said. “I remember in 1995 when Timber Country won the Preakness; I don’t know why he caught my attention, but he did. Two years ago we had a horse named Roth Ticket win a race on Preakness day, and that was pretty exciting.”

Now a student at Towson University, Wolfendale is majoring in mass communications with a minor in electronic media and film. She wants to become a racing reporter.

“I definitely want to be in the industry, either in public relations with a track in Maryland or Kentucky, or even California or New York,” said the aspiring young broadcaster, who covered this year’s Preakness for Towson University’s television station. “In broadcasting, my ultimate goal would be to work for HRTV or TVG.”

In addition to her college studies and active show schedule, Wolfendale recently passed her assistant trainer’s test. Her hands-on work with her father’s horses includes the care and supervision of their Preakness day starter, Granny Stable’s Hesa Big Star.

“He’s my baby, I love this horse,” she said of the 6-year-old Hesabull gelding, who ran unplaced in the Old Mutual Turf Sprint after winning the May 2 Tony Gatto Dream Big Stakes at Atlantic City.

That love for Maryland racing made Wolfendale a lock for the Miss Preakness contest, to which applications were available online for the first time this year.

“They’d previously just handed out information at pageants, which I’m not a part of,” Wolfendale said. “This was the first time I knew how to enter.”

Wolfendale came out ahead of a record number of applicants in the contest this year. She represented Pimlico at all of the Preakness Celebration activities, including the Preakness Parade and the post position draw.

As for her own pick in the Preakness, it was slightly predictable. Big Brown, baby. All the way.

“I loved to see Big Brown win,” she said. “That was so cool because (trainer Rick) Dutrow grew up here and (jockey Kent) Desormeaux rode a lot of races for my dad. The way he was after winning the Derby was impressive; there wasn’t any sweat on him and he wasn’t blowing either. I’m hoping he heads on to the Triple Crown because it would be good for the industry to have something to look forward to.”

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