For the first time since the inaugural year in 2013, more than two horses will be inducted into a class of the Maryland-bred Thoroughbred Hall of Fame. Selected for the class of 2021 are national champions Conniver, Devil’s Bag and J. O. Tobin, voted in by a committee of Maryland racing industry members coordinated by the Maryland Horse Breeders Association and Maryland Racing Media Association.
“With this newest class of Hall of Fame inductees, the Maryland Horse Breeders Association and the Maryland Racing Media Association are proud to recognize Maryland-bred horses that have been successful in the sales ring and racing on the national and international stage,” said Cricket Goodall, executive director of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association.
“These three newest members of the Maryland Thoroughbred Hall of Fame demonstrate the depth of the state’s breeding program over the years,” said Maryland Racing Media Association president Frank Vespe. “All were top-class runners who were not just Maryland champions but also national champions while defeating the best in their divisions.”
Conniver, the champion handicap mare of 1948 while racing against the likes of National Hall of Famers Gallorette and Stymie, was a late-bloomer. A gawky, 17-hand mare, Conniver was undistinguished at 2 and 3 and nearly sold as a polo pony by her owner Harry La Montagne prior to her 4-year-old season in 1948.
Trained by William Post, she quickly rose through the handicap ranks in 1948 and went on to capture the Brooklyn (defeating Gallorette and Stymie), Beldame (Gallorette was third), Comely and Vagrancy Handicaps.
Bred by Alfred G. Vanderbilt, Conniver was a daughter of the great Sagamore Farm stallion Discovery out of a *Challenger II mare bred by William L. Brann named The Schemer. Conniver was sold as a yearling in 1945 to Montagne while Vanderbilt was on active duty in the South Pacific during World War II.
Devil’s Bag, the nation’s champion 2-year-old in 1983, was unbeatable that season, never extended while winning all five starts, including the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes and Laurel Futurity. He earned Maryland-bred Horse of the Year honors over the likes of that year’s Preakness winner Deputed Testamony, Belmont Stakes winner Caveat, Irish Derby winner Shareef Dancer, Eclipse Award-winning 3-year-old filly Heartlight No. One and English and Irish champion 2-year-old El Gran Senor.
The son of Halo was purchased as a yearling for $325,000 by Alice and Jame P. Mills’ Hickory Tree Stable at the Keeneland July sale from the Windfields Farm consignment of his breeder E.P. Taylor. Trained by Woody Stephens, Devil’s Bag was considered by many the next coming of Secretariat. He was the winter book favorite for the Kentucky Derby, but was retired after winning the Derby Trial the week before the classic.
J. O. Tobin, a champion in England and the U.S., was bred and raced by Californian George A. Pope Jr., but was born in Maryland when his dam Hill Shade (by Hillary) was shipped to Windfields Farm to be bred to Northern Dancer in 1974.
A son of Never Bend, J. O. Tobin was undefeated in three starts in England as a juvenile and Group 1-placed in France before returning to the U.S. He made headlines the summer of 1977 when he swept to an eight-length gate-to-wire victory in the Swaps Stakes-G1 while handing Triple Crown champion Seattle Slew his first defeat. An extremely versatile runner, J. O. Tobin was a course record setter at 3, won Grade 1 races up to a mile and a quarter, captured graded sprints on both coasts and earned an Eclipse Award in 1978 as champion sprinter. He was a Maryland-bred divisional champion at 2, 3 and 4, as well as earning turf champion and Horse of the Year honors in 1978.
All three horses will be celebrated during a ceremony between races at Timonium on Sunday, Aug. 29.
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 29 members. Conniver, Devil’s Bag and J. O. Tobin join MTHOF members Awad, Broad Brush, Caesar’s Wish, Challedon, Cigar, Concern, Dave’s Friend, Deputed Testamony, El Gran Senor, Find, Gallorette, Heavenly Cause, Jameela, Kauai King, Little Bold John, Politely, Safely Kept, Social Outcast, Twixt, Vertex, What a Summer and Youth and steeplechasers Elkridge, Good Night Shirt, Jay Trump and Tuscalee.