Don't mess with Sunny Sunrise.
Those will be the instructions Tom Schwigen, starter at Suffolk Downs in East Boston, Mass., will give his assistants when the horses are loaded in the gate today for the sixth running of the Suffolk Downs Budweiser Breeders' Cup.
"Tail him or tong him and I'll scratch him," is what the horse's trainer, Bud Delp, told the track's general manager, Lou Raffetto Jr., earlier this week.
On Preakness Day, Sunny Sunrise went off a slight second choice to favored Taking Risks in the William Donald Schaefer Handicap at Pimlico Race Course. The 7-year-old chestnut gelding, one of the state's most accomplished stakes performers, finished a beleaguered fourth after breaking uncustomarily slow and running up on horses' heels trying to get to the front on the first turn.
Delp said the horse had been tailed in the starting gate and "resented it. This is a one-dimensional horse that has to go to the lead. He needs a clear, clean break and because he was tailed at Pimlico, he was eliminated at the start. One other time early in his career, he was tonged at Laurel and did the same thing. He cannot be tailed or tonged. The jockey can't even tap him with a whip in a race or he stops.
"He's made $1.1 million and he's done it running. But he doesn't want to be messed with."
Tailing a horse means an assistant at the gate holds up the horse's tail over his back or pulls down on it over the back of the gate to steady him at the start. Tongs are used to clamp down on a horse's ears for the same purpose.
Pimlico general manager John E. Mooney said that neither Delp nor Pimlico starter Jimmy Havens has mentioned the Preakness Day tailing incident to him.
The $100,000 Suffolk Downs stakes is being simulcast today at all Maryland wagering outlets as the ninth race on the Pimlico card with a 4:50 p.m. projected post time.
The New England Stakes, the richest race run at Suffolk Downs since it re-opened in 1992, drew an 11-horse field, headed by 7-5 favorite Wallenda, a noted closer. Sunny Sunrise is the second choice and another Maryland horse, Frottage, is co-third choice with Stop and Listen.
Two of the prospective starters, old Colony and Polanzier, are entered in other races on the Suffolk card and might be scratched, according to track official John Ramsey.
Two Pimlico regulars are flying to Boston to ride in the race. Rick Wilson, who has the mount on Sunny Sunrise, previously won the Suffolk race in 1988 with Just Class. Larry Reynolds has the mount on Frottage.
The two Maryland horses are owned by brothers Harry and Tom Meyerhoff. Harry Meyerhoff, of Spectacular Bid fame, owns Sunny Sunrise. Robert Meyerhoff, who raced handicap star Broad Brush and is now achieving quite a bit of success with his offspring, is the owner of Frottage, who finished second to Taking Risks in the Schaefer Handicap.
Robert Meyerhoff also is represented on the Pimlico live card today by Tennis Lady, program favorite in the $50,000 Lady Baltimore Handicap, which follows the Suffolk race.
The Lady Baltimore is part of the second National Best Seven wager, which was initiated with mixed success on Memorial Day.
Chris Scherf, executive vice president of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations, which conducts the national wager, said: "We hope the handle grows once we get all the states on line. I don't look for that to happen [today] since the total attendance at the participating tracks will be down from Monday. We haven't signed New York or Kentucky yet as outlets. But I'm looking forward to next Saturday when the Belmont Stakes will be part of the Best Seven."
The initial pool was $371,075.50. There were 919 perfect tickets TTC after six of seven favorites won the series. The winning payoff for a 50-cent bet was $190.75.
Today's lineup in the one-hour format includes: Genuine Risk Stakes (Belmont Park, 5:02 p.m.), Carry Back Stakes (Calder Race Course, 5:08 p.m.), Monmouth Budweiser Breeders' Cup (Monmouth Park, 5:17 p.m.), Lady Baltimore Stakes (Pimlico, 5:23 p.m.), John D. Hertz Stakes (Arlington International Racecourse, 5:29 p.m.), Azalea Stakes (Calder, 5:35 p.m.) and the Good Life Stakes (Ak-Sar-Ben, 5:47 p.m.).
Pimlico jockey Edgar Prado is at Monmouth today, riding Pimlico Distaff winner, Double Sixes, in the Monmouth Budweiser Breeders' Cup.
The Suffolk Downs Budweiser Breeders' Cup is not part of the National Best Seven because Suffolk Downs is not a member of the TRA.