Almost lost, but never beaten

Maryland-bred horse Hookedonthefeelin makes another comeback today

Breeders' Cup notebook

November 05, 1999|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

HALLANDALE, Fla. -- The three-day Breeders' Cup meet -- the richest three days in thoroughbred history -- begins today at Gulfstream Park with eight stakes, peaks tomorrow with 10 stakes (eight of them Breeders' Cup races) and concludes Sunday with eight more stakes. Purses for the three days total $15,425,000.

For Maryland racing fans, especially those associated with Country Life Farm, the eighth race today merits close attention. It is the $100,000 Love's Exchange Stakes for 3-year-old fillies racing six furlongs, and it features one of the most exciting Maryland-breds in years: Hookedonthefeelin.

She has never been beaten, never even been headed once a few steps out of the gate, in her brief, three-race career. After winning her first two starts last year for owner Mike Pegram and trainer Bob Baffert (one a smashing 8 1/2-length romp over Excellent Meeting), she was mentioned in the same breath as Silverbulletday.

But then, Hookedonthefeelin caught pneumonia and nearly died. She didn't compete for 10 months. In her comeback race as a 3-year-old, the Miss Preakness Stakes in May at Pimlico, she cruised by 4 1/2 lengths. But then, she lost time because of a splint-bone injury in the area of her knee.

Watching her sizzle Sunday during a workout for yet another comeback, Baffert said: "Man, she's fast. I forget how fast she is."

That's music to everyone's ears at Country Life Farm near Bel Air, because the Pons family at Country Life co-bred Hookedonthefeelin, own a third of her dam (Prospective Joy), stand her sire (Citidancer) and stand her dam's sire (Allen's Prospect).

"She's the best filly we've ever bred," said Josh Pons, farm manager.

Look of a playboy

Hugh Hefner of Playboy fame will watch his namesake Hugh Hefner compete in the Juvenile, according to Ed Nahem, owner and breeder of the California-based 2-year-old colt (couldn't be a gelding, you know).

A longtime friend of Hefner's, Nahem said he asked the Playboy founder whether he could name the brown colt after him. (Celebrities must give permission before thoroughbreds are named after them and Nahem said Hefner had refused others' requests.) Hefner agreed after Nahem convinced him what a good-looking son of Bertrando Hugh Hefner was, Nahem said.

Bertrando, whom Nahem co-owned, finished second in the 1991 Juvenile and 1993 Classic. This will be Hugh Hefner's fourth race -- he has won two of three -- and the first attended by Hefner.

How fast is track?

Although some trainers say they believe the turf course will be soft and wet tomorrow despite a sunny forecast, Frankie Dettori, the Italian jockey, offered a different assessment. After warming up Zomaradah, his mount in the Filly and Mare Turf, he said: "I was surprised how quick the track was after all the rain I'd heard about. If we get no more rain, it will be very fast."

Dettori said his best chance for victory is probably Daylami in the Turf. Simon Crisford, racing manager for Godolphin Racing, the horse's owner, said Daylami "is showing all the right signs. If he can reproduce the kind of form he showed this summer he will be hard to beat."

Crisford also said that Godolphin's Almutawakel has been pointed to the Breeders' Cup Classic ever since winning the Dubai World Cup in March. Based in Dubai in the Middle East, Godolphin sent Almutawakel in September to the United States, where he finished second in the Woodward and third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

"We resisted the temptation to run at Royal Ascot and other champion races simply to have the horse here at 100 percent," Crisford said.

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