A gender-ambiguous horse will race Saturday at Balmoral Park in the 21st Super Night. But unlike international track and field, which has been embroiled in controversy involving the sex of South African runner Caster Semenya, standardbred regulators had a cut-and-dried answer to the ''male or female'' conundrum.
When a routine test for steroids, done after a race last spring at a Chester, Pa., track, found an elevated testosterone level in the multiple-stakes-winning mare Martha Maxine, it was ruled she no longer could compete in female-only races.
Further tests showed that Martha Maxine was a pseudohermaphrodite with hidden testicles, an extremely rare condition.
''Martha looks like a mare and acts like a mare,'' trainer and co-owner Erv Miller said. ''She doesn't approach a mare like a stallion would. Obviously, we were extremely surprised to find out about her condition.''
Martha Maxine was a big story last year on Super Night, winning the filly and mare pace for her 10th consecutive victory. On Saturday, the horse has an golden opportunity to pull off a feat that almost certainly will never be duplicated: winning Super Night finals as a female and male.
The 5-year-old progeny of Park Place looks to be rounding into top form at an opportune time after destroying the field in an elimination of the Tony Maurello pace for males 3-years-old and up in a sizzling lifetime-best of 1:49-1/8Ž/". Drawing Post 9, Martha was made the 4-1 morning-line second choice in the $125,000 Maurello final behind 3-1 favorite Lets Getit Started (Post 5), who captured the other elimination in 1:52 Â´/".
''It's too bad she landed in the [outside] 9-hole, but that was a big effort in the elimination,'' said Miller, who will entrust the reins to his 20-year-old son, Marcus, a DePaul business marketing major and an up-and-coming driver on the Chicago circuit. ''We had to lay her off a while [while the gender question was being settled] and then she had a couple of little soundness issues, but now we've got her good again.
''It would be something if she could win the mare race on Super Night and then beat the colts the next year. The boys had better watch out. She's a faaaaaast horse.''
Super Night '09 could be a milestone-setting event for Miller, one of the top conditioners in North America. Although he has moved most of his operation out of Illinois because of dwindling purses, he has entrants in all six pace finals and one of the two trots, including the morning-line favorites in the big-money races for 2-year-olds: Power Of A Moment (Orange & Blue) and Mystical Victress (Filly Orange & Blue). Miller needs one victory to tie Joe Anderson as the winningest trainer in Super Night history.
Note: The win was the first sub-1:50 victory of Miller’s bright young driving career, and it was also Martha Maxine's first win since moving to open competition earlier this year after testing determined that Martha Maxine - who had been competing with fillies and mares - was a pseudohermaphrodite.