Crabcakes validated her 2-5 favoritism in the $100,000 Maryland Million Distaff Handicap at Laurel Park on Saturday, Oct. 20, successfully defending her title with a half-length triumph over My Magician.
Carrying top weight of 123 pounds, giving three to seven pounds to her six rivals, the Bernie Houghton-trained filly stalked the pace along the backstretch before taking over mid turn. Spurting clear in the stretch, she was soon challenged by My Magician as the two charged for the wire. My Magician tried valiantly to overtake Crabcakes but was second by the same margin for the second straight year.
Said winning rider Forest Boyce: “She was awesome. It was a little frustrating when they started moving on me at the half-mile pole and you’re still a long way from home. This isn’t exactly her distance, but she’s so game and she ran great. She really dug in. She was getting tired but she’s so tough she wasn’t going to let the other horse by without a fight, that’s for sure.”
A 4-year-old daughter of Northview Stallion Station’s leading Maryland sire Great Notion, Crabcakes is owned by Susie and Wayne Chatfield-Taylors’ Morgan’s Ford Farm, but raced in the colors of the Chatfield-Taylors’ dear friend, the late Binnie Houghton of Buckingham Farm, who bred the filly and campaigned her until her death in August 2017.
The Distaff win was the first in a stakes since Crabcake’s 2017 Distaff score. She completed the seven furlongs in 1:22.85.
“I was a little concerned about the distance and also about the weight. I think her distance is six furlongs,” said Bernie Houghton of the favorite, who conceded five pounds to the runner-up. “But Forest knows her so well. I just told her in the paddock, ‘Wait as long as you can.’ Then around the turn, they pushed her sooner than I wanted her to go, but up the stretch she is a game filly. She was not going to let that horse get by her easy. I would have been hard for her to get by easy.”
In getting her ninth win in 15 career starts – and seventh win from nine starts at Laurel Park – Crabcakes pushed her career earnings to $418,532. She has finished in the top three in 14 starts. “I don’t know what we’re going to do with her yet. She loves Maryland. I’d love to keep her in Maryland,” said Houghton, noting that the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie next February is a long-range goal.
Crabcakes is from a long line of stakes winners that Binnie Houghton and her family had developed over nine generations, all the way back to the Man o’ War mare War Feathers, who was purchased by Houghton’s grandfather, James Cox Brady, at the Saratoga sales from the estate of Admiral Cary T. Grayson for a record $50,500 in 1925. Crabcakes’ winning dam Aunt Elaine (by Charismatic) is out of graded stakes-winning juvenile Annie Cake (by Gate Dancer), who in turn is out of a half-sister to Barbaro’s dam La Ville Rouge. The family includes graded winners Emma’s Encore, During, La Reine Elaine (dam of La Reine’s Terms), Green Alligator and Wild Emotions.
Aunt Elaine is the dam of three winners from as many starters, but hadn’t produced a foal since Crabcakes until this year, when she foaled a full brother to the stakes winner in March.