By Dick Jerardi
Marya Montoya was always going to be a race tracker. Her father, trainer Dennis “Goose” Heimer, was in the second Parx Hall of Fame Class. He trained Keystone legend Cheating Arthur back in the day. In 1985, his Clocks Secret beat 1986 Horse of the Year Lady’s Secret and eventual Filly Triple Crown winner Mom’s Command in different stakes.
“I started walking horses when I was like six,” Montoya said. “I was grooming at like 10 or 11. There are pictures of me walking horses to the paddock. You couldn’t do it now. Galloping horses out in the field when I was 13…This is what I always wanted to do. I went and did every aspect of it. I broke horses myself in Florida before I ever started training.”
On July 29, Montoya took Talk to the Judge down to Laurel Park for the $75,000 Miss Disco Stakes. The 3-year-old filly had been good enough to beat Delaware Oaks winner Foggy Night twice, so the talent was there.
Talk to the Judge went right to the front in the Miss Disco under Victor Carrasco. Her speed was never in doubt. The question: Was 7 furlongs too far? The answer? No. Talk to the Judge, sent off at 13-1, held strongly in the stretch to win by a head and get a career best 74 Beyer figure.
The win was for David Wright’s Waldorf Racing Stables LLC. Montoya, who has started 1,903 horses with 226 wins, has trained such good stakes winners as Fielder (won 2018 Marshall Jenny at Parx, fourth in 2019 Turf Monster also at Parx), Ever Rider (2014 Temperence Hill at Belmont Park) and Rustler Hustler (2014 Banjo Picker at Parx). All those stakes winners were also owned by Waldorf Racing Stables.
Talk to the Judge was purchased privately and Montoya knew she was a serious horse before she was ever entered in a race.
Prominent Parx owner Joe Imbesi had some babies in the gate last year and Montoya asked: “would you mind if (Talk to the Judge) hooks up with (your horses)?” He said, “yeah, go ahead.”
One of those horses was Gordian Knot, who would go on to win stakes races at Parx, Penn National and Presque Isle Downs.
“She outworked Gordian Knot,” Montoya said. “He calls me a half hour later and says, ‘that wasn’t a 2-year-old; that rider wasn’t even moving,’ When I went to run her, it was like the whole grandstand knew about her.’’
Talk to the Judge was somehow still 6-1 when she won the first time out, beating Foggy Night by 3 1/4 lengths at Parx. There were a few issues that compromised her chances in the next two races before she was given the winter off. She came back in April and wired the field, beating Foggy Night again, this time by a neck. Had issues again in her next race and then tried the grass which she clearly did not like.
Then, it was on to the Laurel winner’s circle in a race for Maryland bred/Maryland sired horses.
Dennis Heimer was just 42 when he died in 1989. Marya’s mother died a few years later. Their daughter was on the track then and never left.
“I used to ride (Cheating Arthur) around the barn bareback,” she remembered. “He was a really cool horse.”
Trainer Ned Allard told her a memorable story about Cheating Arthur. He had come down from his Suffolk Downs base to claim the horse. Her dad heard why Allard was at old Keystone and asked him innocently why he was there. Allard said he was going to look at some horses to claim and Heimer said: “come on, I’ll come with you. What are we looking at?”
Allard, of course, did not have the heart to claim the horse after all that. Goose knew how to play the game so well he won 1,246 races. Cheating Arthur started 123 times, with 34 wins, 19 seconds and 16 thirds.
Montoya has 13 horses in the barn at the moment. And one stakes winning filly with just seven lifetime starts.
When Talk to the Judge has not had any issues and when she has made a clear lead, she is unbeaten in three starts, twice beating an eventual graded stakes winner and now winning a stakes race herself.
Her future is bright, not unlike her trainer’s who knows the game because she has lived the game.