Dan Borislow knows how to enliven a slow period in horse racing. He bought a full-page ad in yesterday's Daily Racing Form challenging the California-based Vindication to a showdown with his Toccet for the 2-year-old Eclipse Award.
Borislow offered to bet the connections of Vindication $200,000 against their $100,000 that the Laurel-based Toccet would beat Vindication in the Hollywood Futurity on Dec. 21 at Hollywood Park. Anne and Satish Sanan's Padua Stables owns Vindication, and Bob Baffert trains him.
Trouble is, Vindication has been out of serious training since winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Oct. 26 at Arlington Park and isn't slated to race again until February or March. For the highly regarded son of Seattle Slew, the Breeders' Cup was his fourth win in four starts. Because the Breeders' Cup wields so much influence on Eclipse-award voting, that 2 3/4 -length victory probably clinched the 2-year-old championship for Vindication.
John Scanlan trains Borislow's horses, including Toccet, at Laurel.
"The man's trying to promote his horse as 2-year-old champion," Scanlan said of Borislow, who lives in Florida. "I'd just as soon let the horse do his own talking."
Toccet has talked plenty, winning five of seven races, including the Grade III Laurel Futurity, Grade II Remsen Stakes and Grade I Champagne Stakes. In the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, a race Scanlan said Toccet could have won, the colt drew post No. 14 and, after one horse scratched, broke from post 13. He had little chance with such a short run to the turn and finished ninth, 16 lengths behind Vindication.
Borislow's ad featured the headline: "HISTORY IN THE MAKING?"
Baffert, who has trained eight winners of Triple Crown races, saw it when he opened his Daily Racing Form at Santa Anita Park. He said in a telephone interview that he got a kick out of it.
"He's very excited," Baffert said of Borislow. "He deserves bragging rights on his horse.
"There's nothing going on right now in the business, so this is kind of fun. It's good for racing. I'm glad he's bringing his horse to the Hollywood Futurity. Everybody will be watching it now."
They won't see Toccet vs. Vindication. Baffert said he wasn't even slightly tempted to run his big horse in the race. He plans on starting two others from his barn: Kafwain, who finished second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and Domestic Dispute, who finished ninth in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes.
By the way, Baffert said Vindication has been jogging at Santa Anita and "looks great. Our main goal is the Kentucky Derby."
Scanlan said his main goal for Toccet is also the Kentucky Derby. He said the Awesome Again colt will get a vacation after the Hollywood Futurity. If he has his way, Scanlan said, Toccet will remain at Laurel for the winter and then race twice before the Derby - in the Gotham Stakes and Wood Memorial Stakes, both at Aqueduct.
Tony Agnello, a top jockey in the 1970s, died one week ago and was buried yesterday at St. Paul's Lutheran Cemetery in Aberdeen. He was 54. His longtime companion, Sharon Fox, said he probably died of an aneurysm or heart attack after a several-years struggle with cancer.
Agnello rode in Maryland and throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. His initial victory in 1966 was merely the beginning of an eventful career.
He was an aggressive rider. Bill Passmore, the former jockey and current steward, said Agnello served so many suspensions for careless riding as an apprentice "he was probably out more days than he rode. But he was a good rider, a real good rider."
In the 1970s, the plane carrying Agnello to the races at Waterford Park, now Mountaineer Park, clipped a wire on approach to the infield landing strip and crashed, causing a track blackout. Agnello also was trampled in a spill at Bowie and lost his spleen. He was suspended for drug use and banned for nearly eight years. When he returned in 1992, he promptly won the jockeys' title at Delaware Park, once winning seven consecutive races.
Agnello rode for such top trainers as Dickie Dutrow and Sonny Hine. He rode the Hine-trained Cojak to a fourth-place finish in the 1976 Preakness. Agnello rode 2,414 winners, and his mounts earned $10.8 million. Another drug suspension ended his career in 1993.
"He was a character," said trainer J.B. Secor, Agnello's close friend. "But I'll tell you what: He was a race-ridin' little SOB."
Services for Passmore
A memorial service for former jockey and trainer William L. Passmore will be held at 2 p.m. today at the Cranston Funeral Home in Seaford, Del. Passmore, 92, died Nov. 7 after suffering for years with emphysema and then breaking his hip in July.
"He was a good horseman and a super rider," said his son, Bill Passmore. "He probably forgot more than I ever knew."
The elder Passmore rode from the late 1920s until about 1946, riding steeplechase horses and on the flat, his son said. He also trained horses for Bayard Sharp from about 1940 to about 1954. Passmore, the son, rode his first race for his father - and won, with Minneapolis in 1948 at the old Jamaica Racetrack in New York.
The Fasig-Tipton Midlantic December mixed sale of thoroughbreds takes place today and tomorrow at the Timonium fairgrounds. The catalog features 625 horses, from weanlings to broodmares. The auction starts at 10 a.m. both days.
The University of Arizona Symposium on Racing had to cancel its session on betting security when the three totalizator companies scheduled to send representatives to the panel - AmTote, Autotote and United Tote - withdrew on the advice of lawyers in the wake of the Pick Six betting scandal. The symposium takes place Tuesday through Friday.