CHESTER - It has been a rather extraordinary year for Michael J. Maker. In April, he set an all-time record for wins by a trainer at a Keeneland meet, registering 25. And, at the Churchill Downs meet that concluded on Sunday, Maker tied for the training lead with Steve Asmussen with 35 wins each.
Tuesday, Maker could have a noteworthy evening at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort. He has entered two horses, Derby Kitten and Sneaky Kitten, in the $75,000 Independence Day Stakes for 3-year-olds and up. He also has Starsilhouette ready to go in the $75,000 Firecracker Stakes for fillies and mares, ages 3-and-up.
Both events are scheduled for one mile on the turf, and will comprise the early daily double. Derby Kitten and Starsilhouette are 3-1 morning line favorites in their respective races. Sneaky Kitten is 12-1 in the line.
"I don't think I'll go with two in the Independence Day Stakes," said Maker. "Derby Kitten will probably come out. Sneaky Kitten and Starsilhouette are based in New York, and will ship to Mountaineer today. Alan Garcia will ride them. One of my assistants, either Joe Sharp or John Lynde, will be there to handle saddling."
Sneaky Kitten, by the Kentucky-based turf champion Kitten's Joy, was foaled in New York. His breeder/owners are Ken and Sarah Ramsey. The 4-year-old colt broke his maiden at Belmont Park and has won in allowance company at Aqueduct. He's made 12 career starts, gaining two wins, seven placings and purse earnings of $140,954.
Starsilhouette, a 6-year-old daughter of the sprint champion Orientate, was bred in Kentucky, auctioned for $85,000 as a yearling and claimed for $20,000 by Maker for the Ramseys at Saratoga in August of 2011. She's won 10 of 16 efforts since then, and has career stats of 34 starts, 14 wins, 10 placings and purse earnings of $339,966.
The 44-year-old Maker is originally from Garden City, Mich. His father, George Maker, trained thoroughbreds at Detroit Race Course and Hazel Park. Young Michael was a stable hand for his dad and also delivered newspapers, and at 13 had enough money saved to buy his own racehorse.
Later on, Maker spent a decade as an assistant to Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas. And with his own stable, Maker has now won nearly 1,100 races - his career win ratio through June 28 was 23 percent.
In 2009, he sent out Furthest Land to win the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. And in 2011, Maker won the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile with Hansen, who was subsequently honored as North America's champion 2-year-old male.
Hansen, of course, also went to the post as the 3-5 favorite in the 2012 edition of the Grade 2 West Virginia Derby. He had the lead with a furlong remaining. But from thereon, the colt shortened stride and came in fourth - a huge disappointment to the syndicate headed by Dr. Kendall Hansen that owned him.
It wasn't entirely a lost day at Mountaineer for Maker, however.
He sent out the Ramseys' color bearer, Major Marvel, to win the final race on the card, the $100,000 West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker's Cup.
Garcia, age 27, is best known for winning the 2008 Belmont Stakes aboard the 38-1 shot, Da' Tara. He has piloted Sneaky Kitten once before, when he registered his allowance victory in November.
Garcia has two prior efforts on Starsilhouette. Both resulted in wins. The first came in a starter allowance (non-black-type) stakes at Gulfstream Park last December; and the most recent occurred in an allowance/optional claiming event at Keeneland in April.
Sneaky Kitten and Starsilhouette are closers. The former tends to stalk the pace. The latter tends to come from mid-pack, and sometimes from way behind.
They'll be seeking a stakes sweep for Maker and the Ramseys at Mountaineer on Tuesday.