The Maryland-bred Thoroughbred Hall of Fame’s newest inductees are Heavenly Cause and What a Summer, two gray distaffers who excelled in their divisions at the national level. The selections were made by a committee of Maryland racing industry members coordinated by the Maryland Horse Breeders Association (MHBA) and Maryland Racing Media Association (MRMA).
"These two great mares deserve their place of honor among our Hall of Fame horses. They were the product of dedicated Maryland breeders who were rewarded with great champions," said Cricket Goodall, executive director of Maryland Horse Breeders Association.
What a Summer was the Eclipse Award-winning champion sprinter of 1977, winning six of eight sprint starts that season at 4 while also defeating males. Twice in her career she won the Fall Highweight Handicap-G2 under 134 pounds, at the time one of the biggest tests on the calendar for the nation’s top sprinters.
Trained by Bud Delp for her breeder Milton Polinger, then by LeRoy Jolley for Diana Firestone, who purchased her at auction after Polinger’s death in 1976, What a Summer won nine stakes during her career including the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes and back-to-back runnings of Hollywood Park’s Silver Spoon Handicap. Her ventures against males included the aforementioned Fall Highweight victories, as well as a second in the Vosburgh. She was named Maryland-bred Horse of the Year, as well as earned titles as champion 3-year-old filly, and champion older mare twice in a career in which she retired with a record of 31-18-6-3 and $479,161 in earnings.
Heavenly Cause was the top 2-year-old filly in the nation in 1980, winning the Grade 1 Selima and Frizette Stakes. Her seven career stakes wins included five Grade 1s as she added the Fantasy, Kentucky Oaks and Acorn Stakes at 3. Those races were part of a four-race win streak over six weeks that spring. She was named Maryland-bred champion filly at 2 and 3.
"Our latest class of Hall of Famers, both Eclipse champions, speaks to the depth and quality of the Maryland breeding program over many years," said Maryland Racing Media Association president Frank Vespe. "It's remarkable how many deserving horses we've named to the Hall of Fame - and how many we still have to name."
Both horses will be celebrated during a ceremony with a date and location to be determined.
Under the collaboration of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association and Maryland Racing Media Association, the Hall of Fame was initiated in 2013 as a means of celebrating the excellence of state-bred Thoroughbred horses and debuted with an inaugural class of 12. There are now 26 members. Heavenly Cause and What a Summer join MTHOF members Awad, Broad Brush, Caesar’s Wish, Challedon, Cigar, Concern, Dave’s Friend, Deputed Testamony, El Gran Senor, Find, Gallorette, Jameela, Kauai King, Little Bold John, Politely, Safely Kept, Social Outcast, Twixt, Vertex and Youth and steeplechasers Elkridge, Good Night Shirt, Jay Trump and Tuscalee.