12/11/2004 12:00AM

Blum to retire as state steward


MIAMI - Hall of Fame jockey Walter Blum will retire as the state steward in south Florida on Dec. 30.

Blum, 70, who became a racing official following his retirement from the saddle in 1975, has served as a state steward in Florida since 1977. The Florida Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering has not yet named Blum's replacement.

"I've been thinking about it for a while," Blum said Saturday at Calder. "I rode for 25 years and have been working for the state for another 25, so I finally decided it's about time I relaxed, did a little traveling, and played some golf."

Blum, who rode primarily on the New Jersey and Florida circuits, began his career as a racing official at Garden State Park and Atlantic City in 1976. He first came to Florida later that year to work for John Brunetti at Hialeah. He was offered the job as state steward in 1977 by Dan Bradley, then the director of the parimutuel division, and has remained in that capacity ever since.

Blum was one of the top jockeys of his era and retired with 4,382 career victories. At the time of his retirement, only four other riders - Bill Shoemaker, John Longden, Eddie Arcaro, and Steve Brooks - had won more races. Blum, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., was the nation's winningest rider in 1963 and 1964 and won the George Woolf Memorial Award in 1965. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987.

Among Blum's most notable mounts were Affectionately, Pass Catcher, Summer Scandal, Boldnesian, Gun Bow, and Mr. Prospector. One of his most famous wins came in the 1964 Woodward Stakes when he guided Gun Bow to an upset victory over Kelso. He also ended Canonero II's Triple Crown hopes by winning the 1971 Belmont Stakes aboard Pass Catcher.

"Racing has been awfully good to me," said Blum. "Riding was wonderful. I enjoyed every moment of it. I had my injuries and ups and downs, but if I had the choice I'd do it all over again. I also enjoyed my time in the steward's stand. Having to pass judgment on some of my friends or even other jockeys I rode against back when I first started was difficult, but I realized it was my job, and I think people have respected me for my fairness and good judgment.

"One piece of advice I took to heart when I first started as a steward was that you can't please all the people all the time," Blum said, "and I have no regrets over any decisions I've made down through the years."

D'Wildcat Speed comes off stakes score

D'Wildcat Speed, who returned from a 7 1/2-month layoff to dominate the Pocahontas Stakes by 8 1/4 lengths on Thanksgiving Day, wheels right back under similar conditions in Monday's $40,000 Connie's Magic Stakes.

D'Wildcat Speed was perfect in 12 starts as a 3-year-old in Puerto Rico but lost her first two U.S. appearances, including a second in Gulfstream Park's Banshee Breeze Handicap on April 4, after which she was sent to the sidelines. D'Wildcat Speed returned from the long layoff with one of the best performances of her career, overcoming a slow start to overtake the leaders before going a half-mile, then drawing away with authority in the 6 1/2-furlong Pocahontas.

D'Wildcat Speed's chief competition should come from Alix M., a lightly raced but promising filly. She has posted back-to-back triple-digit Beyer Figures while winning a third-level allowance and finishing second in the Elmer Heubeck Distaff on Nov. 13.

Miracle Runner, who returns from Delaware having won five of her last six starts, and the graded-stakes-placed Slews Final Answer also figure prominently in a field that includes Special Report, Silver Lace, Crafty Brat, Sorbet, Honeymooner, Starship Dame, and Really Royal.