by Teresa Genaro

Charles “Chip” Reed and Mike Zanella first met on a gambling trip organized by a mutual friend.

“He said to me, ‘I want you to meet my friend Chip. I think you’re really going to like this guy,’ ” recalled Zanella recently. “That’s how it started.”
It was, as they say, the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Reed, now 67, had lived in Maryland his whole life; he owns the iconic Corner Stable restaurant in Cockeysville, recently opening a second one in Columbia. A New York native, Zanella moved down from his upstate New York home about 30 years ago; his A to Z Looseleaf printing company is based in Baltimore. Both of them now live in Reisterstown.

Zanella had grown up going to the races in Saratoga, while Reed discovered the racetrack when he began his first job.

“I was right out of high school and working at Fort Meade, about 15 or 20 minutes from Laurel Park,” he recounted. “I was working for the Department of Defense, and it takes about a year to get your final clearance. In the meantime, you don’t have a whole lot to do.”

His supervisor, he said, was an “everyday horseplayer.”

“So every day at lunch, we’d go over to Laurel Park and play the horses,” he said. “That’s where I developed my love for horses. It was 1976.” He claimed his first horse not long after that, with three of his friends. “It was two years before we hit the board,” he recalled with mock – or maybe real – dismay.His partner Zanella had it a little easier.

“He’d ask me if I ever wanted to get involved in the game, and I’d say, ‘By all means, but I have to wait a little while.’ I had a daughter in college, and I said, ‘Once she graduates, we’ll go,’” said Zanella. A littler sooner than planned, he got a call from Reed, who was at a Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale at Timonium. “He said, ‘I know you told me you weren’t ready, but I think I got one for us,’” Zanella remembered. “I said, ‘I’ll talk to my wife, but I’m ready. Let’s do it.’ 

“The rest is history.”

The horse they bought that day in 1999, a Colonial Affair yearling out of the Raja Baba mare Bunka Bunka, became Hunka Hunka Lori Z. They paid $7,000 for her. “She was very, very good-
looking,” said Reed. “But she had no X-rays. She was a very tough mare and when they tried to do the X-rays, she field goal-kicked the machine about 50 feet. I looked at her and thought she was fine, and I was prepared to go quite a bit higher than we ended up paying. I loved her breeding and I loved her look, and when the bidding stopped at $7,000, I looked around. I didn’t think I had the last bid, but sure enough, I did.”

Predictably excited about his first race horse, Zanella made a big deal about the filly’s first race. “It was a maiden special weight at Delaware Park,” he remembered, laughing. “I had about 30 people there. People came from New York, my relatives were there. . . 
and she finished last.”

Bucked shins resulted in a three-month layoff, and Hunka Hunka Lori Z returned in December at Laurel Park for her second start. “Of course she wins,” Zan-ella said, “and we had like four people there.”
She was one of those horses that make racing look like an easy game: “Hunka Hunka” earned $266,533, a pretty nice introduction to racing for first-time owner Zanella. Little did he know when she retired that the success was just beginning.

Hunka Hunka Lori Z’s first two foals, Lori Z’s Punch (by Two Punch) and Hunka’s Victory (by Victory Gallop), were both winners, earning $209,635 and $62,370. Her third foal was the horse of racing – and breeding – dreams. Reed owned a share in Two Punch, and in 2007 bred Hunka Hunka Lori Z back to him. Bold Affair was born on May 12, 2008, at Green Willow Farm in Westminster.

She didn’t race as a 2-year-old, but when she hit the track the next year, she made up for lost time, breaking her maiden first out and winning four of six races in 2011, including the $200,000 Jostle Stakes at Parx. She raced 10 times last year, notching five wins, including three consecutive stakes victories in Maryland. She crushed her rivals in the Maryland Million Distaff at Laurel in October by a daunting 131⁄4 lengths. Unsurprisingly, the Maryland-bred filly with Maryland connections who raced primarily in Maryland built up quite a local fan club. Trained by Howard Wolfendale, she came back and reeled off three victories to start 2013, repeating her 2012 scores in the Conniver at Laurel and the Primonetta at Pimlico.

The plan, said Reed, was to start her next in the Skipat at Pimlico on Preakness Day, a race she won last year, then give her the summer off before bringing her back in the Maryland Million in October. But within days of her Primonetta victory April 20, Zanella and Reed made quite a different decision, saying that Bold Affair would be retired and bred to Ghostzapper. “She’s raced 19 times and won nine stakes races,” said Reed. “She’s been good to us, and it was time. There wasn’t a whole lot more we could prove with her.”

“The decision had been on the back burner,” said Zanella. “She ran her race and won it, and we said, ‘Well, maybe this is the time.’ We got the opportunity to go to Ghostzapper, so we decided not to lose this season.”
Still, he admitted, “It’s a sad day. Exciting, but sad.”

Their horse-of-a-lifetime has left them with few regrets, retiring with earnings of $719,540 and a record of 

“It’s just been a tremendous ride,” said Reed. “We wished we’d been able to run in Saratoga or in the Barbara Fritchie at Laurel, but it didn’t work out. We thought we’d run in the Fritchie this year, but the track came up bad, and she hadn’t trained well over the mud. We thought we’d run in Saratoga last year, but we ended up giving her the summer off.

“But we had a ball with her.”

Reed knows what it’s like to own a good horse; he raced and bred Chip’s Dancer, champ-ion Maryland-bred 3-year-old of 1993. But for Zanella, “beginner’s luck” may be something of an understatement. The only horses he’s ever owned, all in Bold Affair’s family, have been winners.

“I’ve been very fortunate,” he acknowledged. “They’re all winners. I’m afraid to go outside the family. Why ruin a good thing?”
Even he admits, though, that he may end up with another horse sooner rather than later.

With the retirement of Bold Affair, Reed and Zanella have no horses racing. Hunka Hunka Lori Z has Cushing’s Disease and has not been in foal for the last three years. She’s with a specialist in Kentucky, and they are hopeful that she’ll be bred this year. Lori Z’s Punch retired at the end of 2012 and is in foal to Majestic Warrior. Hunka’s Victory was given to a local school with a riding program. “That was our last race,” said Zanella, referring to Bold Affair’s win in the Primonetta. “That’s why it was a pretty sad day, and it’s going to be long drought for three years.”

Both Lori Z’s Punch and Bold Affair will, if all goes as planned, have foals in 2014; those foals wouldn’t race before 2016, which might just be too long for these partners to wait to have a horse to root for.
“We might go to an auction and buy something,” said Zanella.

But first, they celebrated their mare one more time, when she was named champion Maryland-bred older female at the Maryland Horse Breeders Association Awards Dinner at Pimlico May 11. And when Bold Affair is bred, she’ll come back to Maryland to Green Willow Farm, where she was born, to foal.

“Her foal will absolutely be a Maryland-bred,” Reed declared. “We breed to race, not to sell, and we want to race in Maryland.”

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