09/17/2002 12:00AM

Affirmed Success takes a break


ELMONT, N.Y. - Affirmed Success has begun to show his age. That is why the career of the 8-year gelding - one of the most durable, versatile, and consistent racehorses of recent times - is in limbo.

Trainer Richard Schosberg said Affirmed Success is in the middle of a 30-day vacation at owner-breeder Al Fried's Buttonwood Farm in Westchester County. He will not make any of New York's important sprint races this fall such as Saturday's Grade 1 Vosburgh Stakes or the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 30.

Schosberg hopes to get Affirmed Success back to his barn by mid-October, and a decision on his racing future will be made after Affirmed Success trains for several weeks.

"I'm optimistic he will make it back to us," Schosberg said Tuesday morning in his Belmont office. "If he comes back and he does not have that fire in his eyes, I'm not going to bring him back at 9. I'm not going to make any mistakes with this horse."

Schosberg said Affirmed Success was knocked out by a stressful second-place performance in the July 4 Tom Fool Handicap when he chased Left Bank home in track-record time. Affirmed Success was given a month at Buttonwood Farm after that race, and returned to Schosberg in Saratoga.

"He wasn't enthusiastic about his training," said Schosberg, who noted that Affirmed Success had six races by early July this year, one more than his entire 7-year-old campaign.

In six starts this year, Affirmed Success won the Grade 1 Carter Handicap and the ungraded Toboggan Handicap, and finished third in the General George and second in the Tom Fool.

Earlier this month, Schosberg sent Affirmed Success to the equine clinic at Cornell University, where he was given a clean bill of health aside from the normal wear and tear.

"He's got the legs of a 5-year-old," Schosberg said.

Should Affirmed Success be retired, he would finish with a record of 15 wins, 10 seconds, and 5 thirds from 38 starts and earnings of $2,171,014. He competed in 31 stakes, winning nine and finishing second or third in 14 others. In addition to the Carter, his Grade 1 wins were the 1998 Vosburgh and the 1999 Cigar Mile. His Grade 2 wins were in the Forego and General George. He twice won the Grade 3 Poker on turf and also won the Grade 3 Jaipur.

Plenty of T.L.C. for Bonapaw

When trainer Norman Miller says Bonapaw is doing well, he knows from what he speaks. Miller is the trainer, exercise rider, and massage therapist for Bonapaw, the 6-year-old gelding who seeks his first Grade 1 victory in Saturday's $300,000 Vosburgh.

Each morning, before taking Bonapaw to the track, Miller performs an hour of massage and stress point therapy on the gelding.

"I work the ends and the belly of the muscles," said Miller, who is assisted in his training of Bonapaw by his fiancee, Colleen Baker. "Horses get so tense over time they get a knot, which is a spasm, and it stops the muscle from working."

Miller noticed the massage work has paid off in the way Bonapaw switches leads during his races.

"When I got him, he was a little rough," Miller said. "Now, he switches leads smooth as silk."

Miller first became acquainted with Bonapaw last fall when the horse returned to trainer Howard Alonzo's barn after two unsuccessful starts at Saratoga for trainer Al Stall. Since the New Orleans-based Alonzo does not like to travel, owners Jimmy and Dennis Richard hired Miller to train Bonapaw. Miller took Bonapaw to Dubai, Iowa, and Chicago, where he won the Hanshin Handicap and Arlington Park Sprint Handicap in his last two starts.

Bonapaw could very well be the horse to beat in Saturday's Vosburgh, as he should be the controlling speed in what is coming up a five-horse field. Also expected to run are Aldebaran, Griffinite, Voodoo, and Wild Summer.

Miller said that he would eventually like to stretch out Bonapaw and perhaps try him on the turf next year.

Hook and Ladder to miss Vosburgh

Hook and Ladder could have been a contender in the Vosburgh, but will miss the race because of a bruised foot, suffered in the Forego earlier this month at Saratoga.

Trainer John Kimmel said he left Hook and Ladder with Robert Reinacher in Saratoga to train because he excels over the Oklahoma training track. However, he has had only two days of galloping since the Forego. Kimmel hopes Hook and Ladder can make the Forest Hills Handicap on Oct. 6, a race Hook and Ladder finished second in last year.

Meanwhile, Kimmel said Outer Reef, who won a one-mile maiden race at Belmont on Saturday, would most likely make his next start in the $500,000, Grade 1 Champagne on Oct. 5. Kimmel believes the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 5 will be a tougher race because horses will be looking for two-turn experience before the Breeders' Cup.

"I think he's a very professional horse, I don't think he has to have a two-turn race," Kimmel said.

Kimmel was very pleased with Outer Reef's performance, in which he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 88. Outer Reef's final time of 1:37.92 wasn't very impressive, but the track had been playing slow most of last week, and Outer Reef did race eight wide down the backstretch.

Distance, course should help Babae

A cutback to one mile and the return to Belmont Park should give Babae a legitimate chance to win Saturday's $100,000, Grade 3 Noble Damsel Stakes.

The last time Babae ran a mile at Belmont, she won the Grade 3 Just a Game Breeders' Cup Handicap, defeating Tates Creek and Stylish. Both of those horses could run back in the Noble Damsel. All three horses are also nominated to Friday's $150,000, Grade 3 Violet Handicap at The Meadowlands at 1 1/16 miles.

Frank Alexander, the trainer of Babae, said he would enter her in both spots, but was leaning toward staying in New York.

"If I had the choice of two races and running against the same horses I'd run here because a one-turn mile is what she really likes," Alexander said.

Following her victory in the Just a Game, Babae won a minor stakes at Philadelphia Park before finishing fourth, beaten one length by Tates Creek, in the Grade 2 Diana Handicap, and fourth, beaten 1 1/2 lengths by Amonita in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Saratoga.