Gill is giddy over Forest Music

Owner pins Eclipse hopes on 2-year-old filly, calls her `best horse I've ever seen'

Breeders' Cup notebook

Horse Racing

October 25, 2003|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

ARCADIA, Calif. --- Michael Gill is the leading owner in the country by wins (354) and earnings ($7,634,424). Owner of a mortgage company in New Hampshire, he dominates Maryland racing with large strings at Laurel Park and the Bowie Training Center.

Now, the brash Gill hopes his 2-year-old filly, Forest Music, will bring him what he covets - an Eclipse Award. After her sensational debut Oct. 8 at Laurel Park, she will be a long shot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies today at Santa Anita Park.

"Even the guys who hate my guts will be hard-pressed not to give us both Eclipse Awards if she wins," Gill said yesterday, meaning awards for Owner of the Year and 2-year-old Filly of the Year. "I think she's going to run faster than the boys [in the Juvenile]. I'm telling you, she is the best horse I've ever touched, the best horse I've ever seen."

Gill paid $325,000 in February for the daughter of Unbridled's Song. After undergoing surgery to remove a chip from her ankle, she won her debut by 8 1/2 lengths, blazing six furlongs in 1 minute, 8 2/5 seconds. That was the fastest six furlongs ever by a filly or mare of any age at Laurel.

No horse has won a Breeders' Cup race after only one race. Forest Music has not breezed since that lone start. Since arriving Wednesday at Santa Anita, she has not even stepped onto the track. She has merely walked at the barn.

"We feel she's tight," Gill said of the unorthodox methods. "This is a business of second-guessing. If she tires down the stretch, maybe it seems a little foolish. But I'd rather run and get beat and know - than not run and never know if she could have won."

Gill has been embroiled in controversy throughout the year in part because his aggressive claiming tactics have aggravated other trainers, and he has been banned from stabling horses at tracks up and down the East Coast.

Asked whether winning a Breeders' Cup race would be vindication, Gill said: "Every time I win a race, it's vindication. Every time I claim your horse I feel good about it."

Lake eyes respect, too

Trainer Scott Lake is another in search of respect. With a large contingent at Pimlico Race Course as well as at other tracks in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, Lake is known as a claiming trainer, a term he detests.

He will saddle Shake You Down, the likely favorite in the Sprint. The 5-year-old gelding, whom Lake claimed in March for $65,000, will be his second Breeders' Cup starter. Last year, Lake nearly pulled an upset when Thunderello at 48-1 finished second in the Sprint, a half length behind Orientate.

If Shake You Down wins, Lake said, "maybe people will start thinking, `He's not just a second-rate racetrack kind of trainer.' "

Frankel's banner year

Bobby Frankel is tied at 23 with Irishman Aiden O'Brien for most Grade/Group I wins by a trainer in one year. Frankel's 23rd earlier this month broke D. Wayne Lukas' American record set in 1987.

Of the 96 Grade I stakes contested in this country this year, Frankel has won a phenomenal 24 percent. His horses have earned $16,747,401 and threaten Lukas' record of $17,842,358 set in 1988.

A native New Yorker transplanted in Southern California, Frankel married Bonita Boniface on Oct. 12 at her family's Bonita Farm in Maryland. Their honeymoon begins tomorrow.

"We're off to Barbados," Frankel said.

Busy day for Bailey

Jerry Bailey has seven Breeders' Cup mounts, four aboard morning-line favorites. He has won 63 stakes this year, five short of Mike Smith's record set in 1994.

Bailey leads jockeys in Breeders' Cup wins with 13, including four in the Classic - Black Tie Affair (1991), Arcangues (1993), Concern (1994) and Cigar (1995).

Jerkens stays in New York

H. Allen Jerkens, 74, the revered Hall of Fame trainer, did not travel to California to saddle Society Selection in the Juvenile Fillies. He remained in New York for the day's two stakes at Belmont, including the First Flight Handicap, featuring Maryland-bred Shine Again.

This will probably be her last race before retiring to Allaire duPont's Woodstock Farm in Cecil County as a broodmare. Shine Again is 6.

"I hope the old girl wins," Jerkens said.

Et cetera

Sarafan, one of trainer Neil Drysdale's two entrants in the Mile, was withdrawn yesterday because of illness. ... Jockey Alex Solis won his 4,000th career race yesterday aboard King Robyn in the $100,000 Morvich Handicap at Santa Anita. Solis, 39, is the 42nd jockey in North America to reach the milestone.

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