The return of Magic Weisner and King Leatherbury's pursuit of his 6,000th win could highlight an unusually spicy opening day at Laurel Park when racing resumes Thursday at the Maryland track after a six-week break for competition at Colonial Downs.
Leatherbury, 70, is two wins shy of becoming the third trainer ever to win 6,000 races. Dale Baird and Jack Van Berg are the others. Leatherbury, who saddled his first winner in 1959, has 51 training titles at Pimlico and Laurel Park.
"What can I say? We've been grinding down to it one by one," Leatherbury said. "It's important for me to reach the milestone in Maryland."
Assuming Leatherbury reaches the mark by then, the Maryland Jockey Club has designated Aug. 9 as the day to "toast and roast the King."
Eight races will be named after Leatherbury's favorite horses, and Keith Mills, a Baltimore TV sports personality, will conduct a "roast" of Leatherbury between races.
Opening day at Laurel could also mark the return of Magic Weisner, last year's Preakness runner-up who nearly died of West Nile virus. Nancy Alberts, his owner, trainer, breeder and exercise rider, has brought him back slowly and picked out a seven-furlong race for him on opening day. Her goal is to have him primed for the Maryland Million Classic on Oct. 11 at Laurel.
"He's getting better," Alberts said. "He's been working slow, but each time he's worked a little better. The vet told me a long time ago he might not come back as good as he was. But last month he started acting like Magic. Maybe in another month he'll start running like Magic."