07/27/2008 11:00PM

12-year-old doesn't act his age


DEL MAR, Calif. - Let us rejoice, therefore, that a horse like Commentator still roams the land, or at least the Eastern time zone, running them ragged in races like Saturday's Whitney Handicap while admitting to the grand old age of 7.

Commentator is a great ad for geldings, which is why, of course, he is no longer associated with such contemporaries as Smarty Jones, Kitten's Joy, Lion Heart, Birdstone, and Rock Hard Ten, all foals of 2001. While they try to replicate themselves in the gene pool, Commentator is still putting fans in mutuel lines and paying off.

With just 19 starts to his name, 12 of them victories, Commentator is not exactly overworked. Trainer Nick Zito treats him like the Mona Lisa and brings him out only when the time is right. One of those times is usually Saratoga.

As a result, Commentator wins the Whitney every three years or so, just to keep the fan mail coming. In fact, he is the only horse in the 81-year history of the race to win it twice. Two others, named Kelso and Discovery, won three Whitneys each. Nice company.

On the same weekend Commentator struck a blow for seniority, the 12-year-old gelding Adjust ran for the 81st time in a $20,000 claiming event at Monmouth Park on Sunday. This is noteworthy because Adjust won for the 14th time in a career that began in April 1999, because it was his first victory on the main track, and because the Monmouth card was canceled one race later because of the torrential storm front rolling through.

"The race was still on the turf when he started coming over," said New Jersey-based Eddie Broome, who owns and trains Adjust. "If the rain had come 15 minutes earlier, I would have scratched him. But since he was there, I thought what the hell, let's run him. He's something, that old man."

As a son of Affirmed, out of a Storm Cat mare, Adjust came into this life with a chance to be anything. He was foaled at Virginia's historic Morven Stud and sold as a Keeneland September yearling for $90,000. Adjust was 5 before he saw his first claiming race, and 6 when Broome grabbed him for $35,000 out of a winning race at Monmouth.

"There's been a lot of horses since then, so I really don't remember why I took him," Broome said. "He's a beautiful specimen. He's built solid as a brick [out]house, and he's very correct, which means he's pretty easy on himself. Obviously, there's some things about him that tell you he's 12 years old. But I wish all my 2-year-olds had legs like him.

"He loves to go to the track in the morning, and he's a real handful," Broome went on. "There's no such thing as relaxing for him. We'll put him in the round pen after he gets back from training, and he just rolls and comes up bucking. He's a pretty happy boy."

As of last weekend, Broome has run Adjust nearly 50 times in New Jersey and Florida without a claim being dropped. This either speaks very highly of the respect with which Broome is held, or Adjust, or both. Broome saw it another way, based on the amount of opportunities for a horse with his particular abilities.

"A lot of guys don't like to claim the older turf horses," he said. "So you can sort of get away with running where you want most of the time, especially when they get to be his age. I wouldn't think anybody would take him."

Adjust is having one of his best seasons ever at the age of 12. He won a bottom-level starter allowance at Gulfstream Park in February and now back-to-back events for $20,000 tags at Monmouth. Adjust's effort on Sunday in the suddenly sloppy main- track conditions was especially impressive to Broome.

"I told the jock, Eddie Castro, to just give him his head and see what he wants to do - if he doesn't want to do it, definitely don't beat him up," Broome said. "The rain let up a little right then. He was laying fourth the whole trip, then came through on the inside. The rider of the horse in front actually made it a little tight on the rail for him, but he's a determined old bugger. He just pushed his way through." The winning margin was three-quarters of a length.

Adjust is not the only ancient mariner handled by Broome, a four-time champion trainer at the Meadowlands. South Florida racing fans in particular will remember Maybe Jack, a son of Classic Account who won 35 races in a 122-race career. Of those, Broome was owner-trainer for 31 of his last 33 starts and eight of his last nine wins. Maybe Jack had just turned 12 when he collapsed and died from a heart attack following a race at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 22, 2005.

"We turn all our horses out and give them time, and if you do that a lot of times they'll last a lot longer," Broome said. "Of course, the next time Adjust is turned out he'll be retired, and I didn't really think I'd be taking him back with me to Florida after Monmouth and Meadowlands.

"But this sucker keeps showing up," Broome added. "He'll tell me what he wants to do."