02/03/2012 3:08PM

Aqueduct: Still Waiting's been there and back

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Still Waiting, shown winning Oct. 7 at Belmont Park, is the subject of battling lawsuits.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Trainer Jimmy Iselin was 26 years old when the New York Jets, then partly-owned by his father, Phil, upset the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Iselin, like all Jets fans, is still waiting for the Jets next Super Bowl appearance.

Sunday, approximately three hours before the New York Giants and New England Patriots tee it up in Super Bowl XLVI, Iselin will be wearing his father’s Super Bowl ring when he saddles the 7-year-old mare Still Waiting in a first-level New York-bred allowance race that serves as Aqueduct’s feature on a nine-race program.

Much like the Giants’ hopes of reaching the Super Bowl seemed somewhat remote after a Week 15 home loss to the Washington Redskins, Still Waiting’s chances of making it back to the races seemed equally slim after an injury and then subsequent neglect, the negligence being part of a legal battle.

Iselin is engaged in a legal dispute with Dana Manker, the proprietor of Freedom Reins, a boarding and rehabilitation facility on Long Island, over the care of Still Waiting in 2010. Manker is seeking a judgment against Iselin for $4,577 in unpaid bills, while Iselin is countersuing Manker for neglect and animal abuse.

“Here’s how I propose to settle any claims,” Iselin said. “I would give any money to the ASPCA or PETA.”

Iselin bred Still Waiting, a New York-bred daughter of Goldminers Gold and Don’t Pinch Me. He sent her to a Kentucky-based trainer, Robin Parks, to teach her to become a racehorse.

In the summer of 2009, when Still Waiting was 4, Parks got her to the races at Ellis Park, where she finished sixth in a maiden turf sprint. Two weeks later, Parks ran Still Waiting in a dirt sprint – she finished third – and a month after that he ran her in a maiden claimer on synthetic at Turfway, where she finished sixth.

Still Waiting came out of the last race with a suspensory injury.

Iselin requested that Parks ship the mare back to him in New York. On the advice of a friend, Iselin sent the horse to Freedom Reins, a farm near the Hamptons operated by Manker.

About eight months into Still Waiting’s stay at Freedom Reins, a fellow horseman was visiting one of his horses at that same facility when he noticed the condition of Still Waiting. Photos taken of the mare indicated she was malnourished, with her ribs prominently showing. Iselin guesses the mare was 250 to 300 pounds underweight.

According to one veterinarian’s written testimony in the case, Still Waiting’s condition was “absolutely unacceptable to anyone.”

Iselin, who claims to have paid Manker more than $7,000 in fees, wanted to get the horse off the farm, but said Manker wouldn’t release her because of unpaid bills.

One day, Iselin’s assistant, Sue Ouellette, drove to the farm unannounced and took Still Waiting unbeknownst to Manker, who was on the other side of the property.

“We wanted to bring her in, and she asked for more time to leg the horse up and we said okay, which was our mistake,” Ouellette said in a December interview. “Then it dragged on where she wanted more money before she’d release the horse. She had the horse out there and I guess she ran out of money, because she was using our money to feed the other horses and obviously this horse was deteriorating. She wasn’t doing anything with the horse.”

Manker, in a December interview, denied mistreating the horse and said, “I healed the horse.” Subsequent attempts to reach Manker have been unsuccessful.

In December, Manker claimed to have won a judgment in the amount of $4,577 against Iselin. New York stewards have sought proof of such a judgment, but have yet to be furnished with documentation.

Iselin and Ouellette moved the horse to Middlebrook Farm in Old Westbury, N.Y. where she spent three months getting rehabilitated.

Still Waiting returned to Iselin in the winter of 2011. The horse worked sporadically from February to early July before getting on a regular work schedule in August.

On Oct. 7, 2011, after more than two years off, Still Waiting won a New York-bred maiden $16,000 claiming race by seven lengths at 11-1.

She was entered back to run on Dec. 11, but scratched because of a sore hip, Iselin said. Entered back in a statebred first-level allowance race on Jan. 2, Still Waiting made all the early pace before being run down by Guayana Princess, losing by two lengths while finishing a clear second.

“It’s amazing how that horse could come back from a two-year layoff and after all she’s been through and be able to compete at that level,” said Iselin, who said he gives Ouellette half of whatever Still Waiting earns. “Most horses would be dead or be at a riding academy. They most certainly would not be a track.”

Sunday, Still Waiting gets a rider switch from Ryan Curatolo to two-time Eclipse Award winner Ramon Dominguez. This field, however looks much more challenging than the Jan. 2 field she met.

Summer Flick, Good Habits, and Gambling Geraldine look like the horses Still Waiting has to beat.