09/24/2008 3:53PM

HandiGambling 103, Turkoman

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Several of our posters have been reminiscing about Turkoman over the last few days so let's feature him in our Past Champions Retrospective.  Turkoman was voted Best Older Horse or Gelding in 1986 after winning half of his eight starts.  The son of Alydar only raced once as a two-year-old, but he did not disappoint in that six furlong test over a sloppy Hollywood surface.  Piloted by Sandy Hawley, Turkoman rallied from next-to-last to win at 5-2 odds.  Despite being a debut winner, to say he was a late-bloomer would be an understatement.  Turkoman started 13 times as a three-year-old in 1985, and his only added-money score came in his season finale, the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap going one mile at Hollywood on December 14.  He won two allowance races that season, one at Hollywood, and one going seven furlongs by 10 lengths at Belmont, but he was mostly a nibbler that year.  In 1985, Turkoman finished second in the Gold Rush Stakes (by a head) at Golden Gate, the Grade 2 California Derby at Golden Gate, the Grade 1 Swaps at Hollywood (by a nose), and the Grade 1 Travers at Saratoga.  He placed third in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Turkoman put it all together the following season.  Let's relive the words of the legendary Joe Hirsch from his "1986 Racing in Review" column in the 1987 American Racing Manual:

"Where Lady's Secret was the champion handicap racemare, Corbin Robertson's Turkoman (by Alydar) was the champion handicap horse with a record of four wins and three seconds in eight starts and earnings of $1,531,664.
The 4-year-old Turkoman, trained by Gary Jones and ridden in the majority of his races by Chris McCarron, staged one of the most brilliant finishes in recent memory in capturing the six-furlong Tallahassee Handicap on March 7.  Sent East from California to race on a track with some cushion, he got up to score by almost three lengths in the Tallahassee after being fifth and apparently beaten at the furlong pole.  The even-money favorite, he raced the six furlongs in a near-record 1:08 1/5 and had Miamians buzzing. 
He confirmed his ability in the prestigious Widener Handicap on March 29.  The Grade 1 Widener, at 10 furlongs, drew a field of six for its 49th running, with Turkoman favored at 6-5.  Once again he was dead last down the backstretch, rallied on the turn, and was third at the furlong pole.  Turkoman sizzled through the final furlong to score by half a length over Darn That Alarm, to whom he was conceding nine pounds.  His time for the mile and a quarter was a track record 1:58 3/5.  Gate Dancer was third, Creme Fraiche fourth and Proud Truth fifth in a strong field.
Laying closer to the pace at Oaklawn Park on April 18, Turkoman also won the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap, beating Gate Dancer by a length and a half at level weights.  The winner's nine furlongs in 1:47 2/5 approached the Oaklawn track record.  Turkoman also raced well in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Mile at Belmont Park on May 26 but raced extremely wide and finished fourth, beaten a length and a half in a race won by Garthorn, with Love That Mac second and Lady's Secret third.  A nose and a neck separated Turkoman from second money."

"Freshened during the hot weather of midsummer, Turkoman resumed competition at Saratoga in mid-August and was extremely sharp considering the long layoff.   He finished furiously and missed the speedy Groovy by only three-quarters of a length in the Grade II Forego Handicap.  The winner was timed in 1:21 1/5 for the seven panels.
Turkoman ran a corking race in the Grade 1 Marlboro Cup at Belmont Park on September 13, prevailing by a length and a half over the hard-hitting Precisionist, who was conceding four pounds.  Turkoman's mile and a quarter in 2:00 came close to a Belmont track record.  Gary Stevens rode the big horse and did a good job.
The $850,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup on October 4 at Belmont drew a field of six, and it is a tribute to Turkoman that he was a 1-2 favorite.  Danzig Connection, the Belmont Stakes winner, set the pace and ran the first mile in a tepid 1:40.  Turkoman, who would have benefited from the faster pace up front, made his run from behind as usual and just missed by a head to another stretch-runner, 1985 Belmont Stakes winner Creme Fraiche, trained by Woody Stephens.  Turkoman finished almost five lengths ahead of Danzig Connections after a mile and a half in 2:28.
In the final start of his career before going to stud, Turkoman was a narrow favorite over Precisionist in the $3,000,000 Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita on November 1.  Herat set a lively pace and was in front through six furlongs in 1:10 1/5.  Then the 10-1 Skywalker took over, opened a big lead after nine furlongs, and stood a long drive gamely to prevail by a length and a quarter over Turkoman, who came from ninth with a smashing move.  The favorite was six wide into the stretch to best Precisionist by a length and a quarter for second money.  Skywalker was timed in 2:00 2/5 in capturing the world's richest race."

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Amanda asked about King of the Roxy.  The folks at Team Valor announced his retirement today, and he will probably stand his first season at stud in 2009.

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Talk to you tomorrow.

Dan