- Published: Sunday, 01 January 2017 20:49
Mary Eppler wrapped up 2016 in a familiar place—the winner’s circle—en route to the leading trainer title for the Laurel Park fall meet. In the process she became the first woman to win a training title in the history of Laurel.
Matthew Schera and Jevian Toledo were the leading owner and jockey, respectively, for the meet that began in early September and concluded Dec. 31.
Eppler, based at Pimlico Race Course, had one horse entered on the final program of the meet—Double Whammy, who won a starter allowance test for his third consecutive victory. Eppler co-owns Double Whammy with Adam Staple.
Eppler ended the Laurel fall meet with 24 wins and just missed the 50-mark for the year. She had 49 wins in 2016, and also had 43 seconds and 40 thirds from 282 starts and earnings of $1,747,721.
It was the best year ever in terms of number of wins and earnings for the Baltimore native who has been training Thoroughbreds for more than 35 years.
“We had a good meet because the horses raced very well,” Eppler said. “And I had a lot of horses with conditions (left), which really helped.”
Eppler credited her barn staff for the success and noted she takes “every day and every race one step at a time because anything can happen in horse racing.”
Gary Capuano and Hugh McMahon tied for second in the standings with 16 wins, followed by Hamilton Smith and Kieron Magee tied for third with 15 wins.
Schera, a hedge fund trader who lives in Connecticut but grew up in Pennsylvania, ended the Laurel fall meet with eight wins in 26 starts. His local stable star is John Jones, a Lacey Gaudet trainee he claimed for $25,000 in July at Laurel and proceeded to rattle off four straight wins, three of them during the fall meet.
After a trip to Florida and a third-place finish in the Claiming Crown Jewel at Gulfstream Park, John Jones returned to the winner’s circle at Laurel closing day with a victory in the $75,000 Jennings Stakes for 3-year-olds and up bred or sired in Maryland. The 4-year-old gelding by Smarty Jones now has five wins under Schera’s ownership.
Toledo captured his second consecutive riding title—he was the leader with 29 wins during the summer meet—with 65 victories during the fall meet. It was the third riding title for the 22-year-old Toledo, who was Maryland’s leading rider in 2015 with 141 wins.
“This is my best year ever,” Toledo said. “It is only my fourth year riding and I had a really good year. I had so many opportunities. I rode in the Preakness this year and rode in a few graded stakes. I had really good chances and the horses all ran well; I’m thankful for the owners and trainers that gave me those opportunities.”
Trevor McCarthy was second with 54 wins, followed by Feargal Lynch in third with 36.
The Laurel winter/spring meet began Jan. 1 and runs through May 7 with live racing on a mostly Friday-through-Sunday schedule. Monday racing will be offered Jan. 2, Jan. 16 and Feb. 20; the following Friday will be a dark day those three weeks.