Cherokee's Boy's last lap

Md. Million Classic favorite will finish stellar racing career today

October 14, 2006|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun reporter

He has earned paychecks in all seven of his 2006 races, has won two stakes this summer and prevailed in his most recent start, in the Owners Day Handicap at Delaware Park.

By no measure does Cherokee's Boy appear to be slowing down at the age of 6, continuing a stellar career in which he has earned money in 46 of 47 outings with the only exception being the 2003 Preakness, when he finished far behind triumphant Funny Cide.

But the owners have decided that their horse's appearance in today's $250,000 Maryland Million Classic at Laurel Park will be his final one and Cherokee's Boy will be retired to stud after a race against six rivals he is expected to handle easily.

If Cherokee's Boy wins, he will climb into the top 10 earners among Maryland-bred horses. His current total is $1,170,446.

"We just decided he has done enough," co-owner Foard Wilgis said. "We don't even want to take a chance of hurting him. He's done so much for us, and we've had so much fun with him."

Mindful of Barbaro's horrific injury at this year's Preakness, ZWP Stable - currently comprising Wilgis and co-owner Dave Picarello - will send Cherokee's Boy to stud at Maryland Stallion Station in Baltimore County, not far from their homes.

His farewell is clearly the dominant story of this year's 12-race Maryland Million, the program which annually celebrates the state's stallions and is limited to their offspring.

"We've been involved in his family since Day 1 in 1992, when we bought his mother [Cherokee Wonder]," said Wilgis, who is in charge of transportation for films and now is working with the cast and crew of The Wire. "If we can get one more win out of him, we'll be happy. And, I'll guarantee you he's going to run. He's a hard hitter."

ZWP Stable was formed that same year. Originally, it was to include 17 partners, but only three came up with investment money. Wilgis later bought out the third member.

Cherokee Wonder, a multiple stakes winner herself, was purchased for $5,500 at Timonium. She died of colic five years ago. The sire of Cherokee's Boy, Citidancer, stood at Country Life Farm in Bel Air until this year, when he was retired.

Wilgis said Cherokee's Boy is extremely popular at Charles Town, where he has frequently run and won, and that he "could have stood [at stud] in West Virginia, but we wanted him in Maryland and it's close for me. Everything about him is Maryland, and I want to be involved." The stud fee will be $2,500.

"We're just concerned about him. The money is nice, but the horse is more important than the money."

Veteran jockey Mario Pino is named on eight mounts today in a quest to dislodge Edgar Prado as the leading rider in Maryland Million history. Pino, 45, trails Prado 16-15, and will be aboard three morning-line favorites in P.J. Steve in the Sprint Starter Handicap, Off The Glass in the Starter Handicap and Akronism in the Lassie.

Since becoming an apprentice in 1979, Pino has won 5,794 races, No. 1 all-time in Maryland and 16th nationally, according to Equibase.

"To be able to pass Edgar would be a feather in my cap even though he hasn't ridden here in a number of years," Pino said. "It always means a great deal to win a race on Million Day."

The current state leader, Anna "Rosie" Napravnik, has a mount in all 12 races and will ride three morning-line choices. "Last year I was excited about riding on Maryland Million Day," she said. "This year I am going to be excited about winning on Maryland Million Day."

Others with numerous mounts are Jeremy Rose, who rode Afleet Alex to victory in the 2005 Preakness, who has 10 starters, Luis Garcia (nine) and Ryan Fogelsonger (eight).

Notes -- Among trainers, Dale Capuano, Gary's older brother, has seven starters entered and a good chance to overtake Bill Boniface, the top Million conditioner. Boniface leads Dale Capuano and King Leatherbury 8-7. ... Quantico Joe will run in the Million Turf instead of the Classic. He has run on the grass in his past three starts. ... Snugger was scratched from the Distaff Starter Handicap, leaving 115 on the 12-race card. Abbicadabra is likely to be scratched from the Lassie after running Thursday. ... Sweetnorthern- saint, second in the Preakness, will return to competition Thursday at Laurel. Winner of the Illinois Derby and the betting favorite at the Kentucky Derby, he has worked four times since running in the Preakness after a two-month respite at trainer Mike Trombetta's farm. He is entered in a $36,000 optional allowance claimer with Ramon Dominguez to ride.

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