14 January 2008

Mountaineer to remember legendary trainer

Mountaineer Race Track (actually Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort) will host a "Celebration of Life" gathering today in remembrance of the late Dale Baird who died in a highway accident on December 23. Racing at Mountaineer is on hiatus until January 19th, and the event is being offered to provide "an opportunity for the Mountaineer family, the community, his family and friends to reflect upon his life and to share their memories of a very special person."

The one-time "Wizard of Waterford" owned most of the horses he trained, purchasing them privately and at smaller auctions. In The Blue Collar Thoroughbred, Gene McCormick called him "a giant of the claiming game," an apt description, especially in light of the fact that in a career spanning 45 years, Baird never won a graded stakes. He did, however, receive a Special Eclipse Award after reaching 9,000 wins in November 2004.

After his death, Bloodhorse published a rather lengthy biography of Baird, as well as a more personal portrait of the man from David Mullins. Dan Liebman offered an argument for his inclusion in the Hall of Fame, while over at ESPN, columnist Jeremy Plonk used Baird's career to pay homage to the small tracks, the "backbone" of the industry.

While reading all of this coverage, I noticed that few of the articles mentioned any of the horses Baird trained. True, some note that his first winner was New York, and his 9,000th winner was Frazee's Folly. But what of his Boy Genius, who won the Slipton Fell Handicap in 1999, 2000, and 2001? Or The Dancer, who set the Mountaineer record for 5-1/2 furlongs? Or Hot Hand, who won a $15,000 claimer in a stretch duel one August night in 2005 and paid for the drinks at the Quinella table?

Thanks for the memories, Mr. Baird.

10 comments:

Neal said...

QQ, thanks for the nice post about Mr. Baird. As far as I can tell, he ran a class operation and is well deserving of honor for bring that class to horse racing at Mountaineer.

The memory of particular horses fades with time (so many horses, so little time), but I recall the "fame" of Mr. Baird around Waterford Park when I first started going to the races around 1968.

And of course, "handicapping" the races at Mountaineer will be a bit different now, without having to factor in the Baird horses that he claimed and/or were claimed from him.

John said...

Nice post, who said you were allowed to hibernate for five weeks between posts?

darby said...

It is amazing that not one person who supposedly knew dale Baird has bothered to mention the fact that Baird sent thousands of horses to slaughter over the years. It is disturbing that a man who made his fortune and his legacy from racehorses was so eager to dispose of them in such an inhumane fashion when he had used them up. Mountaineer Park shares the responsibility of the fate of these animals as they facilitated Bairds disposal methods by allowing Dick Rudibaugh to trailer the Baird horss from track to the Sugarcreek auction. I only wish that more of the public knew about Baird and his method of disposal before they invest their money at the casino. maybe if the public boycotted Mountaineer, it would stop covering up its dirty little secret and start a program of rescue or humane euthanasia when these horses were finished racing. Hall of fame? I think not

Michael said...

Nice post, QQ, and I'm glad I finally stumbled onto your card to look up your site. You do a fine job writing on the subject... racing needs more enthusiasts like you.

I'll be reading...


Michael
(member of the notebook mafia from the Belmont bus trips)

QQ said...

Neal - You're absolutely right about handicapping at Mountaineer. Half the crowd always went for the Baird horses, it seems.

QQ said...

John - You ask "who said you were allowed to hibernate for five weeks between posts?" Short answer: as queen, I rule! Long answer involves the phrase "due to events beyond our control..."

QQ said...

Darby - I'd love to hear more about this. (You can e-mail me at qqtobe AT gmail.com.) Folks who should know have called him "a strong and honorable pioneer of racing who left a squeaky clean legacy", but they might be in the dark about this, too. As for the track itself, I've come to expect little of anything from Mountaineer management.

QQ said...

Michael - What a pleasant surprise! Just seeing the words "the notebook mafia" makes me yearn for Belmont Stakes Day!

Rising Rainbow said...

Well, I'm with John, queen or not, five weeks is a long time. But I like the new look.

Anonymous said...

Dale Baird was a great horse trainer and a very nice person . He loved racing, horses, and his friends at the track. At that time killers were valuable. Three five hundred dollar killers turned into one new fifteen hundred dollar claimer. Five three hundred dollar killers turned into one new fifteen hundred dollar claimer. Two seven fifty killers turned into one new fifteen hundred dollar claimer. You get the idea. You needed fresh fifteen hundred dollar claimers to succeed at Waterford park for a high percentage of dales career. There was nothing good or bad about it. It was just life. Dale sold lots of horses as hunter prospects. He wanted to get them homes. They brought more money! Business is business and dale Baird was probably the best businessman to ever train a horse. Hans Swinegruber