08/20/2009 11:00PM

Bootleg Annie getting better with age


DEL MAR, Calif. - Bootleg Annie has had 10 trainers. She has been claimed five times and has raced at six tracks in Arizona and California.

Those circumstances sound like the career path of an older cheap claimer. Bootleg Annie is not one of those. She is getting older - she's 5 this year - but the story is getting more interesting by the month, and her record is getting better.

Sunday, she will attempt to win her third stakes in the $100,000 Solana Beach Handicap at Del Mar. This year, which ranks as the best of her career, she has won 4 of 7 starts and $201,928, a campaign highlighted by a front-running victory in the Fran's Valentine Stakes at Hollywood Park in April. The $50,000 that Al and Sandee Kirkwood paid to claim her in February 2008 has long since been recovered.

"She's a tough little yard dog," current trainer Kathy Walsh said affectionately after watching Bootleg Annie win in an allowance race at Hollywood Park on July 9. "She's a lovely old mare."

And the nine trainers that had Bootleg Annie before Walsh - Jeff Mullins, John F. Martin, Ron Stevens, Dan Morgan, Jerry Hollendorfer, William E. Morey, O.J Jauregui, Craig Lewis and Roy Lumm - must wonder how all this has occurred.

The $50,000 claim the Kirkwoods paid is the highest transaction price of Bootleg Annie's career. The low was $5,000 when she went from the possession of owner Robert Lazen and Stevens to owner Denny McGuire and Morgan at Turf Paradise in February 2007.

Four races later, she won the Wende Stakes at Turf Paradise during a span in which she reeled off six consecutive wins. By the time the winning streak was over, she was back in California, at Bay Meadows. She has not left the state since, racing in mid-priced claimers for most of 2007 and 2008.

Bootleg Annie was transferred from Lumm to Walsh earlier this year, and has won 4 of 5 starts for Walsh. The only blemish was a sixth-place finish at 17-1 against open company in the Redondo Beach Stakes at Hollywood Park on June 6.

She is a leading contender in the Solana Beach, which is run over a mile on turf for statebred fillies and mares.

The success has been a surprise to breeders Richard and Yvetta Wira, who owned Bootleg Annie when she went into training. The early assessment from trainer Jeff Mullins was not favorable, and Bootleg Annie was sent to Northern California. She made four starts for the Wirases and Martin before being sold privately.

Mullins, who trained Bootleg Annie only before her career began, advised the Wirases to sell and move on.

"Jeff said, 'There is not much we can do. Let's sell her inexpensively and let someone else try and go with her,' " Yvette Wira said on Thursday. "We took his advice, unfortunately."

For the Wirases, there is the consolation of breeder awards. They sold Bootleg Annie's dam, Shu Biz Annie, in foal to Tapit, for $28,000 to Bigheart Thoroughbreds at the 2008 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

Bootleg Annie is one of the most successful horses the Wirases have bred. They bred Summer Wind Dancer, a winner of 5 of 18 starts and $898,762, including four stakes.

Shu Biz Annie, who won 10 of 28 starts and $158,676, has produced four other foals, including two winners, but none has earned more than $38,000.

Bootleg Annie is the family star, and could improve on her career mark of 14 wins in 28 starts and earnings of $373,358.