Leatherbury Honored at Pimlico

(from Maryland Jockey Club report)
The Maryland Jockey Club honored King Leatherbury Saturday at Pimlico after he became the third trainer in history to win 6,000 races last month.

Fans received a complimentary 6,000-win button, while WMAR-TV sportscaster Keith Mills interviewed friends and colleagues of the King in-between races. The MJC presented Leatherbury with gifts, including a new barn sign for his Laurel Park stable, and a video tribute. The non-stakes races of the day were named after some of the conditioner's top horses.

"This was a first-class event," said Leatherbury, who joined Dale Baird and Jack Van Berg in the 6,000-win club when Cherokee Sunrise won at Timonium on Aug. 23. "It was very touching the way the track produced the video and showed highlights of all the old horses winning races. It was more than I expected."

"In order to win 6,000 races you must win one race a day for 24 years," said Maryland Jockey Club president and chief executive officer Joe De Francis told the crowd during a ceremony after the seventh race. "That's what it took for King to reach this milestone."

"King is King. There is nobody like him," said former stable rider Donnie Miller, who roasted the trainer after the sixth race. "King always rode the best guys. When you ride for him he doesn't tell you how to ride. One time Mark Johnston and I were riding an entry and he put his arm around us, looked us straight in the eye and said 'you guys figure out what you are going to do, just make sure you stay out of each other's way. I'm going to bet the Pick Six.' He just walked away. Mark won the race. King was very astute in gambling and I think it made him a better trainer because he knew exactly where to put his horses."

Bill Passmore, Alberto Delgado, Bill Boniface, Dr. Jim Stewart and Leatherbury's twin sons Taylor and Todd also took part in the festivities. Southern California-based jockey Kent Desormeaux, who became a star in Maryland riding for Leatherbury in the late 1980s, participated via video. The Maryland Horse Breeders Association also presented tokens of appreciation. The 70-year old conditioner, who now has 6,003 victories, saddled Irish Baroness to a second-place finish in the 10th race of the afternoon.

Leatherbury has 51 Maryland training titles at Pimlico and Laurel Park on his resume, while his horses have won nearly $52 million. From 1974-1997 he won or shared 26 of the 35 meets at Pimlico and took 24 of 28 titles at Laurel from 1981-1997. In the mid 1970's, the King had four consecutive 300-win campaigns and was the nation's leading conditioner in 1977 and 1978. He finished in the top three for six straight years (1975-1980).

He earned his stripes with the bread and butter horses of racing – the claiming horse. But has trained and/or owned some of the better stakes horses in the region, including Taking Risks, who won nine of 12 races in 1994 with five graded stakes victories and grade I winner Catatonic. The University of Maryland graduate also saddled three Preakness horses (Indigo Star, Thirty Eight Paces and I Am the Game).