LAUREL -- Barclay Tagg is known for a sharp wit and a sharp tongue. The trainer has a sharp horse, too, but you won't see Miss Josh in the Chrysanthemum Handicap today at Laurel Race Course.
"The mare's been through it," Tagg said yesterday. "She's doing great, but there's no sense running her when it won't do her any good."
The absence marks the second time in a month that the 5-year-old mare has skipped a Laurel race that Tagg had circled on his calendar; she scratched from the All Along Stakes on Oct. 20 because of a soft turf. Tagg failed to enter her in the Chrysanthemum because "the owner [George Rowand] had too many people tell him we had nothing to gain by running, as far as Eclipse votes were concerned."
In her stead, Tagg will saddle Grab the Green and Splendid Try, two of 14 entered in today's $100,000, 1 1/16-mile turf race.
Miss Josh, along with California-based Kostroma and Fire the Groom, is a top contender for an Eclipse Award as the nation's top filly-mare turf runner. To run or not to run once more in California -- that is the choice Tagg faces. But if Tagg wants to win the Eclipse, he may have no choice but to race Miss Josh in the Matriarch Stakes at Hollywood Park on Dec. 1.
"Up until now, Miss Josh has done more than any of the other horses," he said. "She's won in the East, West, North and South. She's beaten the boys. She's set track records. But maybe I'm not seeing it the way the people who vote see it.
"I've got to see what the feelings are [in California] about Kostroma going in the Matriarch. I'm not going to make a decision about going out there until I have to. . . . If she doesn't run, we may not have to run. If we can win the Eclipse by backing into it, that's fine. I just want to win, any way we can."
Although Maryland racing has long been noted for producing Eclipse-winning apprentice riders, the circuit has not produced an Eclipse horse since 1980, when Spectacular Bid was named Horse of the Year and top older horse.
Meanwhile, Tagg has Grab the Green as a solid threat in the Chrysanthemum, which has drawn a competitive and interesting group.
"An article yesterday quoted me as saying Grab the Green would gallop [win easily], and I just don't do that," he said. "You don't want to do that to yourself."
Grab the Green is one in a long line of successful turf runners for Tagg, 51, a Penn State graduate who has enjoyed his best year in a long training career. The 3-year-old filly, 6-for-12 lifetime, will receive the bleeder medication Lasix for the first time after a fourth-place finish at Keeneland in her last outing.