12/14/2006 12:00AM

Ask Queenie again in race for top honor


The New England Turf Writers will present 17 awards next summer to the region's top horses and horsemen of 2006, and will recognize two of the circuit's adopted favorite sons. The turf writers has announced the winners in each category, except for horse of the year.

Trainer Bill Perry, who announced this fall that he would retire after a long career spent largely in New England and New Jersey, will receive the Sam McCracken Memorial Award for lifetime achievement. Track announcer Larry Collmus, who has been the lead caller at Suffolk Downs since the track reopened in 1992, will get the Lou Smith Memorial Award for yearly achievement. Collmus was named the Gulfstream Park announcer last month.

Ask Queenie is the reigning James Moseley New England Horse of the Year, and she is a top contender again for that title - to be announced at the turf writers' annual dinner - after another season of dominating the stakes races for Massachusetts-bred horses. Because of budget constraints, Suffolk was able to card stakes races only for Massachusetts-breds in 2006. Ask Queenie will get the Cliff Sundberg Memorial Award as top New England-bred.

Challengers to Ask Queenie for the top honor include By Grace Alone, who won four times at Suffolk during the season en route to the champion older mare award, and champion older male Bodgiteer, who was undefeated in three Boston-area starts.

Bedazzler's 2-for-3 campaign earned her the 2-year-old filly title, while Disco Fox parlayed a win in the Norman Hall Stakes into the 2-year-old colt award. Return Trick emerged with 3-year-old colt honors, while Tropodaro outpointed statebred stars Flirt for Fame and Sprinkle of Gold in the competitive 3-year-old filly division.

Campaign won seven times at Suffolk last season to earn the sprinting title, while the filly British Event's solitary grass win in August was enough to get the Joseph Carney Memorial Award as outstanding turf horse in a division without any standout.

The voters departed from the tradition of awarding the top trainer and jockey titles to meet leaders. The Gerry Sullivan Memorial Award goes to Paul Thornton, who trained Bodgiteer and held a 33-percent win rate, despite John Riggatieri's dominance in the standings. That same spirit applied to the jockeys, as Dyn Panell gets the Eli Chiat Award over meet leader Winston Thompson.

Jockey Tammi Piermarini, who missed most of the season to have her second child, then returned with a flurry of wins, will join Flirt for Fame and seven-time winner J B of the Sea as special achievement award winners.

Northampton asks for dates

Northampton Fair applied for seven racing days in 2007, but officials at the western Massachusetts track have yet to commit to resuming races at the 189-year-old facility after not racing in 2006.

"We're looking at the economics of it, and we've been in talks with parties about possibly leasing the track if we had a license," said the fair's general manager, Bruce Shallcross.

Shallcross would not say who was interested in leasing the track.

Legislation being hammered out

State legislators have to hammer out a new racing and simulcasting bill during informal sessions scheduled to end Dec. 22.

The state's four tracks were forced to close last January when existing laws expired. A temporary bill was pushed through for this year, but a permanent law has been hard to negotiate because of dates disputes and simulcast restrictions.

Legislation passed during informal sessions requires unanimous consent of the the state's tracks, and each track could block passage if it dislikes any portion of the bill.