Breeder of the Year: HOWARD M. BENDER

Longtime Maryland breeder Howard Bender, one of the state’s most admired and respected figures, earned his fifth Maryland Breeder of the Year award posthumously for a year in which runners he bred earned more than $1.2 million and included Maryland-bred champion finalists Blu Moon Ace and Just Howard.


For decades, he and his late wife Sondra were Maryland racetrack regulars, campaigning a stable of homebreds and steady stream of stakes winners born and raised at Glade Valley Farms in Frederick. Four previous years Bender was honored as the state’s top breeder – he and Sondra received three consecutive awards from 2001 through 2003, and he received the award again in 2014, two years following his wife’s death.

The two 2017 stakes winners were the latest from long lines of Bender stakes-producing families. Blu Moon Ace, a son of Malibu Moon who captured the inaugural running of the Coalition Stakes at Timonium, represented three generations. He was out of the Benders’ stakes-winning Access Fee (by Menifee), herself out of the Bender-bred and campaigned stakes winner Denied Access (by Cryptoclearance).

Graded stakes winner Just Howard, named by his owners Skeedattle Associates for the late breeder, descends from the Benders’ famed foundation mare Foufa, the dam of five stakes winners. Just Howard (by English Channel out of Aruban Sandwich) was the richest Bender-bred runner of 2017, earning $266,410. In all, Bender-bred runners made 198 starts, with 37 wins, 28 seconds and 21 thirds, for earnings of $1,226,298.

Broodmare of the Year: PARLEZ

B.m., 1999, by French Deputy—Speak Halory, by Verbatim. Bred and owned by Robert Manfuso and Katharine Voss.

Ask Bob Manfuso about Parlez, and he’ll be quick to say she has been one special mare. From eight named foals, she is the dam of six winners, four stakes horses: multiple graded stakes-winning millionaire International Star and three Maryland-bred stakes performers, led by Maryland Million Sprint winner D C Dancer. In 2017, her 3-year-old son No More Talk (by Not For Love) finished third in the Miracle Wood Stakes. And her stakes-winning Not For Love daughter Fools in Love made headlines last fall when selling for $1 million to top the third-day session of the Keeneland November sale. From three foals of racing age, Fools in Love is the dam of Seahenge, one of the top 2-year-olds in England in 2017, as well as two other stakes performers.

Parlez’s progeny have earned just shy of $2.1 mllion. The 19-year-old mare produced a filly by Lemon Drop Kid in 2017 and is in foal to Maryland stallion Imagining.

Stallion of the Year: GREAT NOTION

B.h., 2000, by Elusive Quality—Evening Primrose, by Dayjur. Stands at Northview Stallion Station, Chesapeake City.

Great Notion had his best year ever in 2017 and earns his second consecutive Maryland Stallion of the Year title. His progeny earnings exceeded $2 million for the second year in a row, and his average earnings per runner of $32,642 was the highest in the state among stallions with six or more starters.

He led all Maryland sires with 10 stakes performers in 2017, topped by stakes winners Crabcakes (a 2017 Maryland-bred champion finalist), Great Soul and 2015 Maryland-bred champion turf horse Phlash Phelps. On Monday, Feb. 5, Great Soul sold as a broodmare or racing prospect at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Winter Mixed sale $220,000 to Donato Lanni as agent for Glen Hill.

Of Great Notion’s 82 runners in 2017 (who earned $2,676,637), 49 were winners (60 percent winners/starters), and those winners won 86 races.

A stakes-winning Grade 1-placed sprinter, Great Notion has stood his entire career at Northview Stallion Station.

The awards will be presented at the inaugural Maryland Thoroughbred Industry Renaissance Awards, which will take place on Monday, Feb. 12, at the Sagamore Pendry Baltimore in Fells Point.

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