03/30/2016 12:56PM

Amherst Street back – and still perfect

Coady Photography
Amherst Street, winning the Tri-State Futurity at Charles Twon at 2, won his first race since June 2014 last week.

Amherst Street’s Charles Town allowance win last week was significant on several fronts. It was his first race since June 2014, the first since the death of his owner late last year, and it improved his record to a perfect 7 for 7.

Amherst Street was the co-champion West Virginia-bred 2-year-old of 2013 when he won five races, including four stakes. He shared championship honors with Giovanni Boldini, a West Virginia-bred son of War Front who was based in Ireland with Aidan O’Brien and finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Amherst Street won the Coin Collector Stakes at Charles Town in his 3-year-old debut but bled badly despite having been treated with Lasix and was vanned back to the barn of his trainer, Javier Contreras. A month later, Amherst Street worked a bullet five furlongs and was entered in the Leavitt Memorial at Charles Town.

“When I entered him, I thought we had his bleeding under control, but he had a recurrence, and I scratched him,” Contreras said.

Amherst Street was sent to a farm and given a lengthy vacation. He was put back in training last spring, but Contreras backed off him again after one three-furlong work.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, he bled maybe a 1, but I am very patient with my horses and gave him more time,” Contreras said.

Amherst Street had six works prior to his front-running victory March 23. He is now being pointed to the $50,000 Confucius Say Stakes on the April 23 Charles Town Classic card.

“He’s been in training a good while,” Contreras said. “I brought him back slowly. He came back from his race real good.”

Contreras, 57, is from a small town outside of Guadalajara, Mexico. He began working with Quarter Horses there before coming to the United States in 1973.

“My whole life has been horses,” he said. “I rode my first race on a Quarter Horse when I was 12.”

Contreras ended up in New York, where he worked several years for Hall of Fame trainer T.J. Kelly and later for Stanley Hough.

“Mr. Kelly was a great horseman,” Contreras said.

Contreras took out his trainer’s license in 1984 and for many years split his time between the Maryland tracks and Tampa Bay Downs. Contreras, who has won 536 races, relocated to Charles Town eight years ago.

“I was getting tired of the traveling, all of the back and forth,” he said.

Contreras bought Amherst Street as an unstarted 2-year-old from James W. Casey – a Charles Town horseman and the dean of nearby Taylor Mountain Farm – who showed him a group of horses who were for sale.

“The others were jumping and diving around, but none of it bothered him,” Contreras said. “He was smaller than the rest, and after I’d seen them all, I asked, ‘How much for the little one?’ ”

The previous year, Contreras had purchased Hidden Canyon as a 2-year-old from breeder and trainer John McKee. So far, Amherst Street has earned $240,000, and the 6-year-old Hidden Canyon has earned $313,000.

Both Amherst Street and Hidden Canyon were owned by Phyllis Susini, who died at age 88 in December.

“She was up there in age but not in bad health,” Contreras said. “I used to take her to her doctor appointments and around.”

In her will, Susini left all of her horses, including Amherst Street, to Contreras, her friend and longtime trainer.