first published in the May 2023 Equiery
Ever wonder which stall at Pimlico the Kentucky Derby winner gets to stay in? Or why there is a separate winner’s circle for the Preakness winner? Would you like to get a chance to walk through the paddock before Preakness festivities begin, or get to peek inside the jockey’s room? All of this and more can be experienced during the Sunrise Tours at Pimlico during Preakness week. And… it’s all free!
Tours run 6 am to 9 am Tuesday (May 16) through Friday (May 19). There is no preregistration needed for individuals but if you are looking to bring a group of 10 or more, contact Diana Harbaugh at email@example.com to set up a private group tour.
Parking is in the Rogers Ave. lot at the intersection of Northern Parkway and Woodcrest Ave. Parking is also free and entrance to the track is through the Rogers Ave. gate. Check in for the tours is below the grandstand, track side.
For more information or to pre-register, go to www.preaknenss.com/sunrise-tours. But before you go… read about this year’s Sunrise Tour Guides below!
Fran Burns is the Head Tour Guide for the Sunrise Tours. She can be best described as a Thoroughbred advocate. Fran owns Boxwood Farm, a boarding barn mostly for retired Off-The-Track-Thoroughbreds. The average age of Boxwood’s equine residents is 20!
Fran was one of the cofounders of the Thoroughbred Alliance Show Series and is on the Board of Directors of The Maryland State Fair. She also hosts back stretch tours at Timonium Race Track during the Maryland State Fair.
Growing up on her family farm in Cockeysville, she rode and showed in area horse shows. More recently, she assists with Canter for the Cause at Pimlico and volunteers with MidAtlantic Horse Rescue near Chesapeake City. Fran was the 2022 Winner of the Maryland Million’s Joe Kelly “Unsung Hero” Award given by the Board of Directors of Maryland Million Ltd. “The best part of tours for me is the kids,” Fran said. “To see their faces light up when they get to touch a horse for the very first time is magic.” Fran believes kids are the future of horse racing.
Jenile Tapscott inherited her love of horses from her parents, Carylyne and Radcliff. Both Thoroughbred trainers, they passed their passion for the sport to Jenile when she was still young. Jenile trained horses with her dad until his death in the early 90s, and works with her mom still, as her assistant trainer. Her work with horses is expansive, from grooming and training to owning.
During her school years, Jenile worked weekends and holidays at the track. After graduation, she started rubbing horses for mentor, trainer Charlie Hadry. Her pride shows when she lists the accomplishments of the horses that have thrived under her care.
Jenile’s love of animals is reflected in all areas of her life. She recently retired from her full-time job as an animal caretaker at the USDA after 21 years and is thrilled that she now has more time to spend with the Thoroughbreds in her mom’s stable. Jenile’s expertise and unique experiences enhance every tour she gives, and her passion makes them memorable.
Erika Taylor Crowl
Erika Taylor Crowl grew up riding with Elkridge-Harford Hunt Pony Club. When she was 15 years old, she started hot walking horses at Pimlico on the weekends for one of her Pony Club instructors. A year later, she started galloping for Kevin Boniface at Bonita Farm in the mornings before school. “Kevin was very instrumental in my riding career,” Erika said.
Later, after college, Erika began working for the late Tom Voss, which is when she started riding steeplechase races. Thanks to FEGENTRI (the International Federation of Gentleman and Lady Riders), she has been able to travel the world riding flat races while representing the U.S. Currently, Erika rides for various trainers in the mornings at Pimlico, all while working full-time for the University of Maryland Extension. “On my down time, I enjoy foxhunting and horse showing,” she said.
Erika loves being able to share her passion for horse racing with those who come to the Sunrise Tours. “Especially sharing Maryland’s rich racing history with others who may know little about horses in general and watching their faces light up with excitement when they come to the backside,” she elaborated.
Yomar Ortiz, Jr.
Those who attended Sunrise Tours in 2022 may have run into pony jockey Yomar Ortiz, Jr. who was stationed with Bobby Lillis demonstrating how jockeys ride racehorses. At just 14 years old and currently in eighth grade, Yomar is back this year assisting with the jockey demos.
Yomar has an all-around love for horses and ponies. “My dream is to become a jockey like my dad,” he said. Yomar currently horse shows, fox hunts, and competes in pony races.
Donna Sullivan’s love of horses takes her from foaling babies to horse showing and hauling horses for others. Donna and her family own a horse farm in Jarrettsville where she has a few broodmares and enjoys raising babies to train and show. Her horses have competed at many of the major horse shows up and down the east coast.
Donna continues to assist with foaling for some major Thoroughbred breeding farms in Maryland. She loves children, and spends her free time raising Pembroke Welsh Corgis. Donna enjoys the Sunrise Tours as they allow her to meet people and educate them about racing and the history of Old Hilltop.
Julia Oughton is a native of Great Britain and grew up around horses. She was a working student for British Olympic medalists Jane Holderness Roddam and Jennie Lorriston Clarke. Julia took her British Horse Society and National Pony Society exams before taking a position with HRH the Princess Anne and Captain Mark Philips. She spent a year as a working student of classical dressage in Vienna, Austria, before landing in the U.S. and discovering a deep love of racing.
Julia spent 17 years training racehorses at East Coast tracks and then joined the Retired Racehorse Project in 2017 as Development Manager to promote and contribute to the growth of RRP and horses in careers after racing.
Julia believes that children are the future. Each year she loves to see the “rapt little faces” as they watch the horses enjoy a post exercise bath.
Sally Eck is the newest Sunrise Tour guide to join the team. She has taken many Sunrise Tours in the past and said being a tour guide is something she always wanted to do! Sally enjoys Maryland Racing at Pimlico and also works at the annual MHBA Yearling Show prepping horses for Chanceland Farm. She also works at the Fasig-Tipton Yearling and Mixed Sales and helped with Thoroughbred Day at the Maryland State Fair. Sally has had the pleasure to be around such great racehorses as Cordmaker, Aloha West and Cathryn Sophia during her many years at Chanceland.
Frank Douglas grew up in the Panama Thoroughbred horseracing industry. His grandfather and father were owners and many of his family members are still involved in racing. At age 19, he enrolled in Panama’s prestigious jockey school, which is named after Hall of Fame jockey Laffit Pincay Jr.
Frank moved to the U.S. shortly after that to pursue his jockey career. His 20-year career included over 1,223 winning mounts and 32 stake races. He mentions riding a horse named Capbodgit as a career highlight as well as riding in the 1998 Preakness Stakes.
He retired in 2004 and is currently a jockey’s agent representing jockeys Kevin Gomez and Johan Rosado. Frank says, “Thoroughbred racing is a sport for many, and for me it’s always been my passion.” Frank will be at the Sunrise Tour jockey stop.
Katherine Powder has lived and worked with horses, mainly Thoroughbreds, for 40 years. She foxhunted in Carroll County and is an avid trail rider. She and her husband breed Thoroughbreds on a small scale and are fierce advocates for rehoming of Thoroughbreds after racing. She and her husband retrain many of their homebreds after racing to go on to other careers.
Katherine has worked at a large Thoroughbred breeding farm and was an Equine Vet Assistant for 13 years. Katherine says, “Sunrise Tours introduce people from all walks of life to these amazing creatures as well as the history of racing and the history of Pimlico in particular.” She went on to add, “Horses bring people together; it’s wonderful to see the joy in the faces of children and adults.”
Erica Gaertner grew up just outside of Baltimore and spent time going to the races as a child. She rode on the hunter/jumper circuit and was a steeplechase jockey before changing careers and going to medical school. Erica remains involved in racing as an owner and as the Medical Director for the National Steeplechase Association. She enjoys riding and competing her ex-steeplechase horse, All the Way Jose. Her favorite part about Sunrise Tours is introducing new people to the race horse industry.
Wendy Chapin Albert
Wendy Chapin Albert of Ruxton has been a horse lover throughout her entire life, having grown up where many “backyard horses” were within walking distance from her home. She received her first pony, Tangerine, when she was 12 years old. As a Green Spring Pony Club member, she enjoyed fox hunting, eventing and showing her pony, and later her horse. Wendy was a member of Sweet Briar College’s IHSA team and loved traveling to shows. Her husband’s family has had racehorses for several generations and she now enjoys watching their own foals grow, be trained and start careers at the track.
The part Wendy likes best about Sunrise Tours is introducing people to Pimlico and taking guests to the Stakes Barn and the Winner’s Circle. “Our historic track, cupola and artistic treasures are always special to point out,” Wendy explains.
Justine Howell is a third generation racing professional who owns a boutique breeding operation. Her focus is mainly on commercial sales, but she also retains some Thoroughbreds for her own racing stable.
In addition to racing, she is also very passionate about post racing Thoroughbred retirement. Justine sits on the boards of both Canter PA as well as Canter USA and has competed at the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover every year since 2014.
This is Justine’s first year as a tour guide and she is looking forward to sharing her passion with the public!
Anna Epperly of New Freedom, Pennsylvania is a lifelong fan of horse racing and often helps out on the backstretch at Pimlico during the Preakness meet. “As a lifelong fan of Pimlico and it’s history, I always make it a point to ask the trainers that ship in for Preakness week how they like the track,” she said. “Everyone has always told me the same thing… that Pimlico is the most welcoming track and accommodating of the Triple Crown races.”
Anna currently owns the off-the-track Thoroughbred That’s Epic, who ran in Maryland under trainers Rodney Jenkins and Kieron Magee.
“I’ve been attending the Sunrise Tours for the last 20 years,” Anna said. “Pimlico, their staff, and the horsemen and horsewomen are always warm, welcoming, and make you feel a part of the action. Having the privilege to see these equine athletes work in the morning is a sight to behold. There’s just something special about the track in the morning.”
Anna added, “I’m always amazed at how welcoming all of the trainers are, from D. Wayne Lukas to Doug O’Neil – they go out of their way to talk to those on the tour and explain things and the grooms allow us to watch them work.”
Many know April Smith of Ruxton as the greatest fan of Pimlico and the Preakness! “April knows more history about Pimlico than anyone we know,” said fellow tour guide Fran Burns. April proudly wears and passes out Pimlico stickers to one and all during Preakness week.
For over 25 years, April has been a Baltimore tour guide and works for the Baltimore National Heritage Area. A horse owner and a Thoroughbred racing fan, Sunrise Tours have always been her favorite tours to give. She is also the co-administrator of the Friends of Pimlico Facebook page and is active in animal rescue, ballet, ballroom dancing and historic preservation.
Posey Obrecht has been around horses for as long as she can remember. She grew up foxhunting, competing in hunter/jumpers on the “A” circuit and playing polo. Polo is Posey’s sport of choice these days; she has won two National Championships and was the Women’s College Player of the Year her senior year at the University of Kentucky.
During college, Posey worked at Fasig Tipton and also with Georganne Hale at Pimlico. Posey has been back to the track every year since college because she loves the Preakness and Pimlico so much! Currently, Posey is the Director of the My Lady’s Manor Steeplechase Races.
Denise Carnes’ love for horses stems from her love of all animals. Her parents took her to Pimlico and Timonium racetracks to watch live racing when she was young. “My dad, being an avid horse racing fan told me the stories of the great horses of the past,” Denise said. “We enjoyed all the racing events when I was growing up.”
Her love for horses was passed onto her daughter, who showed in hunter and jumper competitions. “We also attended events such as Preakness, Belmont, the Breeders Cup and the Kentucky Derby,” Denise added. “I love being a Sunrise Tour Guide because it brings back wonderful memories for me. I also love passing on the history of Pimlico and the traditions of Maryland horse racing to new generations of fans who come to the Sunrise Tours.”