The Boz'n finds pace he prefers, on turf

On Horse Racing

October 31, 1999|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Rhea and Joe Pennella hoped that the Sept. 10 victory at Charles Town by The Boz'n -- his first after 78 races -- would wake up their 8-year-old gelding and spur him to even greater success, like, say, winning a second race in 80 tries.

But in his next two starts at the West Virginia track, The Boz'n embraced old habits. On Sept. 18, he finished last. Then on Oct. 13, he slowed to a gallop before reaching the finish line, and finally just stopped.

Rhea Pennella, his trainer, figured he was hurt. But he displayed no lameness. A veterinarian's examination turned up nothing.

"Maybe he was telling us he just doesn't want to race anymore," Rhea said.

So she brought The Boz'n home to her and her husband Joe's farm in Boonsboro. They turned him out in a lush field with another horse.

Rhea, who conditions 15 horses at Charles Town, hasn't trained The Boz'n in 2 1/2 weeks. But she hasn't ruled out returning him to the races if she rebuilds his enthusiasm.

"He's only 8, and he's healthy, so there's no reason he couldn't race some more," Rhea said. "But he seems perfectly happy in the big field with all that green grass."

Special bouncing back

The Pimlico Special, the state's premier race for older horses, has suffered in recent years because of the Dubai World Cup. After traveling halfway around the world to run in late March, horses have not bounced back in time to run in the Special in early May.

And last year, in the inaugural "NTRA Champions on Fox" series, the Special did not even make the lineup, because ABC held the contract to broadcast it. But now, finally, respect is being paid again to the Special, traditionally one of the country's finest races.

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association and the Fox television network have created a five-race "Super Series" for older horses in 2000, and the Pimlico Special stands proudly as the middle leg. A horse sweeping the five races earns a $5 million bonus. A horse winning three earns $1 million.

Here's the "Super Series" lineup: Donn Handicap Feb. 5 at Gulfstream Park, Santa Anita Handicap March 4 at Santa Anita Park, Pimlico Special May 13 at Pimlico, Hollywood Gold Cup July 9 at Hollywood Park, Whitney Handicap Aug. 6 at Saratoga.

Also, Fox will continue televising other races for older horses as part of its "NTRA Champions on Fox" series.

New job for Saumell

Larry Saumell, who retired in February as a jockey, is the area's new regional representative of the Jockeys' Guild. He replaces Jimmy Edwards, who left the post this summer.

Saumell, 41, rode for 26 years. After missing five years because of a severe ligament injury sustained in a spill -- and undergoing nine operations -- he returned to riding last year and won 129 races in southern Florida. When he retired Feb. 15 and began working for the jockeys union, he ranked among the top 10 jockeys at Gulfstream Park.

As a guild employee, he has been busy, representing tracks throughout the Midwest, as well as Philadelphia Park and tracks in Maryland, West Virginia and Delaware. Saumell, who lives in Columbia, has ties to Maryland. His brother Frankie runs the jockey's room kitchen at Laurel Park, his mother Janet works in admissions for the Maryland Jockey Club, and his uncle Ron Benshoff trains horses in the state.

Around the tracks

Maryland's thoroughbred factions and the harness segment associated with Rosecroft Raceway are nearing completion of their elusive revenue-sharing agreement. The deal would divide wagering revenues 80-20 (80 percent to thoroughbreds, 20 percent to harness at Rosecroft) and allow Rosecroft to run its track during the day and the Maryland Jockey Club to run its tracks at night.

Racetrack managers, breeders, owners and their lawyers have negotiated for well over a year trying to reach a deal. They agreed last week after John Franzone, Maryland Racing Commission chairman, called them together, read them the riot act and said if they didn't agree soon they'd look like idiots in January, when they parade into Annapolis seeking legislative support.

A ribbon-cutting has been set Nov. 12 to mark the beginning of construction of two dorms for 72 backstretch workers at Laurel Park. The brainchild of Jim Ryan, the humanitarian horseman, the dorms have been six years in planning. Their construction is being financed by the state, the track and Anne Arundel County.

The Maryland Jockey Club's beefing up of security at Bowie, Pimlico and Laurel Park has raised eyebrows among horsemen, who must show their license ID every time they enter the stables, no matter who they are. Security had become so lax that this seems severe, but it is merely an effort to return security to an acceptable level.

Officials at TVG continue their negotiations with Maryland cable TV distributors, seeking to get their 24-hour horse-racing channel on TVs throughout the state. That's unlikely to happen before the end of the year.

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