Affirmed Success: confirmed special

ON HORSE RACING

Horse Racing

February 16, 2003|By TOM KEYSER

Rick Schosberg calls Affirmed Success "Gator," but he does so with a smile and wink because he also calls him "one in a million."

He calls him "Gator" because, he says, "he tries to use you as a play toy sometimes. He's not mean, but he'll grab your arm and toss you around like a rag doll."

Asked whether the 9-year-old gelding who will likely be favored tomorrow in the General George Handicap at Laurel Park is the favorite horse he has trained, Schosberg said: "How could he not be? He's a blessing, this horse."

Affirmed Success has raced 39 times during seven seasons with 16 wins, 10 seconds and five thirds - and earnings of $2.2 million. He raced in four straight Breeders' Cups - twice in the Sprint in 1998 and 1999 and twice in the Mile in 2000 and 2001.

One of Affirmed's most successful offspring, Affirmed Success has won three Grade I stakes - the Vosburgh, Carter and Cigar Mile, all in New York. This will be his fourth race in Maryland and third run in the General George.

He won the General George in 2000 and finished third in 2002. He claimed second in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash in 1998.

What's so refreshing about Affirmed Success compared with many other horses is his longevity and success. He didn't race for a couple of years and then disappear.

He tries his best every time. In 39 races, he has finished worse than third only eight times. Oddly enough, one of those was one of his strongest performances. He finished fourth in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Mile, losing by "about 18 inches," Schosberg says.

A graded-stakes winner on dirt and turf, Affirmed Success should feel at home in the General George with what Schosberg says is his best distance: seven furlongs. The question is, has Affirmed Success lost a step at 9?

Schosberg doesn't think so, after prepping him Jan. 10 in a six-furlong allowance race at Aqueduct. But last summer, Schosberg thought Affirmed Success might have run his last.

After three straight hard races - the third a gut-wrenching second to the then-mighty Left Bank - Affirmed Success was beat. Schosberg sent him to the New York farm of his owner, Albert Fried Jr., for about a month.

When Affirmed Success returned to Schosberg's tranquil barn at Saratoga, "he just didn't have that spark," the trainer says. "He looked complacent just to hang out."

So Schosberg sent him back to the farm for a month and a half. Was he concerned that might be the end of the line?

"You've always got to consider that," Schosberg says. "But if that was it, that was it. How could you complain after the career he's had?"

By the time Affirmed Success returned to the track, it was cooler, which helped his attitude. Schosberg gradually geared him up for the prep and then for the General George.

With "Gator," now that he's 9, it's literally one race at a time. But Schosberg says his limit this year will probably be five races. Then he'll see about next year.

One thing for sure, Schosberg says, when Affirmed Success retires from the track he'll have a second career waiting. His owner's daughter is a top show rider, and she has her eye on "Gator."

"Sure, he can do that," Schosberg says. "I think he can do anything. He's just a joy to be around. Every trainer should be lucky enough to be around this kind of horse just once in their life."

Together again

Three and a half years after parting ways, trainer Richard W. "Dickie" Small and breeder-owner Robert E. Meyerhoff have joined forces again.

Small says he will return to training horses for Meyerhoff as soon as he can get the stalls. Based at Pimlico Race Course, Small is also training horses for Frank Stronach, head of Magna Entertainment Corp., majority owner of the Maryland Jockey Club.

During their 15-year partnership that ended in 1999, Meyerhoff bred and Small trained such standouts as Broad Brush, who won four Grade I stakes and earned $2.6 million, and Concern, who earned $3 million and won the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Meyerhoff termed their breakup at the time "an amicable divorce." Small said he had been "dismissed." Nevertheless, Small says, he and Meyerhoff remained close, and Meyerhoff asked him to train his horses again.

Small says that by fall he might have as many as 20 of Meyerhoff's horses in his barn, about half of them 2-year-olds.

Small says Meyerhoff will keep the horses he has with the trainer Grover G. "Bud" Delp.

Around the tracks

In the aftermath of the amputated-leg incident Feb. 3 at Gulfstream Park, one of Michael Gill's veterinarians, Leonard Patrick, has been barred from Gulfstream Park.

Last week, investigators searched the truck and equipment of Patrick and another of Gill's vets, Philip Aleong, and then they banned Patrick for improper storage of drugs. No action was immediately taken against Aleong.

It was Aleong who amputated the leg of the Gill-owned Casual Conflict after the 9-year-old gelding broke a leg during a race and was euthanized. Aleong said he took the leg for research.

The incident is still under investigation.

After 60 days off to rest his sore ankles, Toccet will return to training today at Laurel, says his trainer, John Scanlan.

Weather permitting, the 3-year-old colt is scheduled to jog today and tomorrow and then gallop Tuesday.

If his ankles hold up, Scanlan says, then the journey to the Kentucky Derby would begin.

The Maryland Racing Media Association has selected Magic Weisner as its 2002 Maryland-based Horse of the Year.

The gelding's owner, breeder and trainer, Nancy Alberts, will be honored Saturday before the running of the Maryland Racing Media Handicap at Laurel.

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