OLDSMAR — Barbara McBride is ready for one stirring Saturday.
Since making Tampa Bay Downs her winter home 18 years ago, McBride has never won a stakes race at the Oldsmar oval. Yeardley, her four-time stakes-winning mare, can change that this afternoon in the $50,000 Wayward Lass.
The 1 1/16-mile feature in Race 9 (4:19 p.m.) drew 12 females. Yeardley will break from Post 2 in her seasonal debut with jockey Willie Martinez.
Yeardley represents a link to the past for McBride, 64, who began training thoroughbreds in 1994 after previously working with standardbreds. On April 10, McBride lost life partner Walter Abner, who died of a heart attack in Anderson, Ind. Abner won two stakes as Yeardley's trainer, and two of McBride's 10 career stakes victories have come with the Indiana-bred, including the $156,100 Frances Slocum in her last start on Oct. 19 at Indiana Downs in Shelbyville.
"If I win (the Wayward Lass), I'd probably shed a few tears," McBride said. "(Abner) was in the (thoroughbred) business years before me, and it was through him where I met all the horses and all the people.
"The last year has been a little stressful. You're trying to pass time, so I think a lot of times people work a little harder when they're under stress."
McBride comes off a wonderful year at Indiana Downs. The native of Redford Township, Mich., was third in purse earnings at $790,765 and tied for fifth in wins with 29 from 203 starts.
Yeardley, a 5-year-old daughter by two-time graded stakes winner Don't Get Mad and out of the Lost Soldier mare Whereabouts, was a major contributor with two wins, two seconds and $140,558 in purse earnings from eight races. That led to her being chosen the best state-bred mare for 2013 by the Indiana Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. Overall, Yeardley has six wins from 20 starts with $458,900 in earnings. This will be her 10th stakes appearance, and first start in 150 days.
"Her best distance is 1 1/16 miles, and we're going to try and win," said McBride, who has 1,374 career victories.
Owner-breeder James Elliott of Brookston, Ind., purchased Yeardley for $6,000 in September 2010 at the Keeneland yearling sale in Lexington, Ky. Elliott has twice put her into auctions: in 2011 at Hoosier Park in Anderson before her first race, and in January at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company. Each time, the reserve wasn't met. She has been at Derby Dreams Farm in Ocala since November under farm manager-trainer Michelle Elliott, James' daughter. Yeardley has been working out at adjoining Oak Ridge Equine Center.
"She's very easy to train and likes to stalk," McBride said. "But she is a horse that doesn't like for you to mess with her."