Over the years, the University of Maryland’s equine studies program has provided its students with the knowledge and hands-on experience to move on to successful careers in and around the Thoroughbred industry.

Yet the program’s success isn’t limited to its human graduates. Maryland’s Best, a 2-year-old gelding owned and trained by Javier Contreras, became the latest horse bred by the university to earn his racing diploma.

Favored at 2-1 in a field of 10, the juvenile son of Rock Slide out of the Salem Drive mare The Best Sister cruised to a 1 ¾-length victory Sept. 10 in a 5 ½-furlong maiden claiming event on Turf Festival Day over Laurel Park’s main track.

Maryland’s Best was foaled in the middle of a snowstorm on Feb. 12, 2014 at the university’s 4-acre farm a short distance from the XFinity Center, in College Park, Maryland, home to the men’s and women’s Division I basketball teams.

“I thought he ran a huge race,” Contreras said. “When we bought him at the sale I didn’t really know too much about the history behind him or anything. It’s amazing. All the hard work they put in to get him there and then to see him win, it’s a pretty neat story.”

Maryland’s Best won despite missing his left eye, an injury that occurred when he scratched the eye as a weanling. It was an injury Contreras disregarded when the trainer paid $5,000 for him at Fasig-Tipton’s Midlantic Eastern Fall Yearling Sale last October in Timonium. The horse was originally sold for $1,000 as a weanling at the company’s December 2014 mixed sa