The secret is rest for `Success'

After three-month layoff, favorite wins Gen. George

February 22, 2000|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The bettors were not deterred by a three-month layoff, a ship-in from New York, the biggest weight assignment or the extreme outside post yesterday, making Affirmed Success a rousing 1-to-2 favorite for the 25th edition of the Grade II $200,000 General George Handicap at Laurel Park.

And the 6-year-old son of Triple Crown winner Affirmed didn't disappoint the chalk players, staving off determined rallies by Young At Heart and Badge to score a half-length victory in his first race of the year.

It was the first race for one of the nation's top sprinters since he routed the field by five lengths in the Grade I Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 27. Trainer Richard Schosberg labeled it a good tuneup for the Carter Handicap at Aqueduct in May.

"Coming off a layoff is always a question," Schosberg said. "But we had him as tight as we wanted him, and it was good to see him have to duel it out."

California invader Young At Heart and Badge, also a New York-based runner, came storming at the leader in the final eighth of a mile of the seven-furlong dash, but couldn't quite overtake Affirmed Success, whose career winnings climbed above $1 million with the $120,000 top share of the purse.

"I thought he'd win a little bit easier than he did. I had to get after him that last 50 yards," said victorious jockey Jorge Chavez. "He was starting to get a little tired, but he's a really good horse."

Chavez said his mount noticed photographers in the infield as they neared the wire and "picked up his head. But it didn't cost us anything."

The leading local rider, Mario Pino, made his bid aboard Young At Heart as they entered the stretch, and he believed he was on a winner at that point.

"When we hit the top of the lane, I thought I had him," Pino said. "But at the sixteenth pole, I could tell I couldn't get him. That other horse just wasn't backing up. That's what happens when you're chasing a horse that good. But my horse ran big. The trainer [Michael Whittingham] told me he would run well, and he was right."

Badge had some slight traffic trouble and had to swing between the two leaders before finishing a nose behind Young At Heart. Jockey Mike Luzzi blamed the distance, not the close quarters.

"It was a little tight through the lane, but that didn't make a difference," Luzzi said. "My horse ran his race. He's just not a seven-furlong horse. It's tough to catch Affirmed Success at that distance. There's a race for my horse on the outer main track at Aqueduct going a mile that should suit him better."

Affirmed Success completed the distance over a fast track in a crisp 1 minute, 22.02 seconds, three-fifths of a second off Tappaino's track record. That happened despite relatively slow early fractions (23.01) and (46).

Winning owner Alfred Fried said "on all the stat sheets, we looked like we could beat this field, but the weight [121 pounds] and the post position [9] were a little against us. Rich had this horse ready. We bred this horse."

Affirmed Success has thrown in only one clunker (a 12th in the Breeders' Cup Sprint) in more than a year, and Schosberg said "we shouldn't have put him in there."

NOTE: Funeral services for Hayes Brown, former stall superintendent for the Maryland Jockey Club, will be conducted today at the Spirit of Faith Christian Center in Temple Hills. Brown, 75, died last week after a brief illness. He is the father of J. D. Brown, boxing manager and owner of the stakes-winning Testafly. He was an owner and trainer of the Maryland circuit for many years.

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