Ageless `Affirmed' tries luck in General George

8-year-old gelding faces 7 in $200,000 Laurel race

February 18, 2002|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

At an age when many thoroughbreds are already out to pasture or at least showing signs that they're ready for retirement from racing, Affirmed Success just keeps going and going and going.

The 8-year-old gelding continues to compete at the highest echelon of his sport and will certainly be conspicuous by his presence today in the Grade II, $200,000 General George Handicap, the feature of Laurel Park's winter meeting.

"He's a big old horse and they ought to call him George Washington," joked trainer Richard Schosberg from his New York-based barn. "We've planned out each year carefully for him and he's always been sound.

"A lot of his durability has to do with not overracing him, but it's still fantastic the way he's maintained this level of competition."

The son of Affirmed, the last Triple Crown winner in 1978, out of Towering Success, he will take on seven rivals in the George, probably as the slight favorite.

Winner of this race two years ago, Affirmed Success is now spotted judiciously. He raced only five times last year and, in his one outing this year, finished a game second in a mile and 70 yards allowance test Jan. 5 at Aqueduct.

He has a bankroll of nearly $1.8 million, with 13 wins in 33 career starts, nine seconds and four thirds and has performed well enough lately to enter the Breeders' Cup Mile Turf against the world's best horses.

Two years ago in the Breeders' Cup, he finished fourth, beaten by a neck and two noses.

"At this point, it certainly seems like seven-eighths [the length of the George] is his best distance," said Schosberg, who trains for owner Albert Fried Jr.

Affirmed Success will carry top weight of 121 pounds and the banner for a strong out-of-town force descending on the George.

The competition will include Richard Dutrow-trained Here's Zealous, who captured the Grade III Gravesend Handicap at Aqueduct recently with Edgar Prado aboard; two oncoming New York sprinters, Wrangler and Voodoo, both trained by James Jerkens, and Canadian invader Exciting Story.

Local hopes will be riding on the Jerry Robb-trained pair of the fleet Rusty Spur and the dependable Lightning Paces, and long shot The Deputy Is Home.

"It's a very wide-open race," assessed Schosberg. "There's not going to be any odds-on favorite."

But the big name is Affirmed Success, by far the leading money winner in the field after overcoming some rowdy behavior early in his life.

"He was gelded long before he was a 2-year-old because he was very difficult to get along with," said Schosberg. "He had some ideas of his own about how to behave. But as he got older, he started relaxing."

Relaxing and perpetuating the name of his famed father, whose nose-to-nose duels with Alydar are etched in the sport's lore.

"As a sire, Affirmed was in a bit of a slump at the time," said Schosberg. "This horse brought him back into the spotlight."

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