Home Run Maker lives up to name in Fire Plug
by Ted Black
In the moments after watching Home Run Maker rally sharply in the final furlong to capture the $100,000 Fire Plug Stakes at Laurel Park on Saturday afternoon at Laurel Park, Talie Lynch, the exercise rider for the four-year-old Into Mischief colt trained by Jeremiah Englehart, was able to breathe a sigh of relief while waiting to claim her two-year-old son, Joey Lynch, from the arms of her dad, Dennis Lynch, standing nearby in the winner’s circle.
Talie Lynch, a graduate of Walter Johnson High School in Montgomery County who had initially pursued a nursing degree at Towson University and later Shepherd University in West Virginia before being lured back to the track, is now the primary local assistant trainer to Englehart, who she said has 29 horses in his Laurel barn. Lynch also does exercise rider chores, although she leaves the serious workouts to jockey Jorge Vargas, Jr., who steered Home Run Maker to a determined victory over Sheikh of Sheikhs in 1:08.42 for the six panels on the main track.
“This horse worked really well the other morning [four furlongs in 47 4/5 on January 6] and he’s really been getting better since he’s been here,” said Lynch, who has previously galloped horses for trainer Graham Motion at Fair Hill and for Brandon Walsh in Florida. “After his last race here [on Nov. 30] he was so full of energy he went back to the barn and nearly jumped into his feed bucket.”
Lynch’s quest to become a nurse was literally sidetracked by her passion for the horses. She had begun galloping horses in high school and continued to do so while attending Towson, not far from Pimlico Race Course. When she began attending classes at Shepherd, which is close to Charles Town, Lynch still continued to gallop horses at Pimlico and Fair Hill. Her days away from the track to take courses at the West Virginia college were tugging her in a different direction.
“Really, from the first time I started galloping horses I was hooked,” Lynch said. “When I went to college at Towson I was at the barns every morning and then going to classes. But I was always thinking about the horses and I missed being away from the barn. I never rode professionally, but I thought about it. That’s a tougher way to go. I love galloping horses and being on Jeremiah’s horses is always fun for me. He’s got some good ones here.”
Home Run Maker needed six starts to garner his diploma when he prevailed in a maiden special weight race transferred from the turf to the main track. But his form has improved considerably since being relocated to Laurel this fall. He finished third in his local debut in an entry-level allowance event on September 14, then reeled off consecutive victories under Vargas in six-furlong allowance races over the strip on October 25 and November 30.
Then on Saturday afternoon in the Fire Plug, the last local prep for the Grade 3, $250,000 General George on Feb. 16, Home Run Maker bided his time through the early stages of the six-furlong dash, gradually angled out around horses at the head of the lane and finished with a flourish under steady encouragement from Vargas to overhaul Shiekh of Shieks late in 1:08.42. It was the first stakes victory for the Englehart trainee, his third straight tally, and his fourth win in 12 career outings, pushing his lifetime bankroll to nearly $200,000.
“He’s got a really good closing kick,” Lynch said. “He really didn’t have the best of trips early, but once Jorge angled him off the rail late he really kicked in. Before today, I think Jeremiah was looking at putting Tiz He the One in the General George, but after today I think he might put this horse in the General George and then send Tiz He the One to Oaklawn for the Razorback. This horse really likes to finish. the General George is seven furlongs and I think that will be perfect for him, so we’ll see what Jeremiah decides.”