03/12/2009 12:00AM

Brothers wrapping it up after meet


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The end of the 2009 Gulfstream Park meet will also be the end of an era when trainer Frank Brothers calls it quits after nearly 40 years on the racetrack.

Brothers, 62, said he has been considering retirement for the past year before finally making the decision to end his successful career when the current session ends in late April.

"I didn't apply for stalls at Churchill Downs this spring," Brothers said at his barn after training hours here on Thursday morning. "I've got about 16 horses now, and they'll all be dispersed in the coming weeks. My brother Bobby, who has been with me forever, will take some time off, and then I'll find him a nice spot. My longtime assistant Lisa Sloan will be taking a similar position with Steve Klesaris."

Brothers, a native of New Orleans, came on the racetrack in 1970 first as an exercise rider and then an assistant for Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg. Brothers went out on his own in 1980 and has won 2,291 races during a career that included victories in the 1991 Preakness and Belmont Stakes with 3-year-old champion Hansel.

"I've been doing this a long time, and the game's been very good to me," said Brothers. "I trained a lot of wonderful horses for some very good people, the majority of whom put the horse first, which was very important to me. But I never did feel that I would die with my boots on, so to speak, and I'm confident I'm doing the right thing both business-wise and personally."

Brothers's clients over the years included Claiborne Farm, Bruce Lunsford, John Franks, and Lazy Lane Farms. His horses won nearly 300 stakes, 50 of them graded, while banking in excess of $48 million. Along with Hansel, Brothers also guided the careers of such notables as Pulpit and Grade 1 winners Madcap Escapade, First Samurai, Arch, Oath, and Secret Hello.

"Hansel was the most accomplished horse I ever trained, having won two classics and the 3-year-old championship," said Brothers, who is married to former jockey Donna Barton. "Pulpit was the most brilliant horse I ever trained, while Madcap Escapade was the most freakish. Aside from the Claiborne homebreds, most of the better horses I had I picked out as yearlings, and I hope to do something like that to keep me busy after retiring from training. I have a couple of irons in the fire in that regard right now."

Brothers said it's going to be tough walking out of his shed row for the last time sometime next month.

"I'm going to have mixed emotions, that's for sure, although it's not like I'm just going to drop the bucket and walk away," said Brothers. "I've been thinking about this for a while and I really feel it's the right thing for me to do at this point of my career."

Dream Empress returning

Though Dream Empress is listed as a separate betting interest in this weekend's one and only pool of the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager, trainer Ken McPeek advises against betting her.

"She won't be pointed to the Kentucky Oaks in any way, shape, or form," McPeek said this week.

Having shown a fondness for turf and synthetic surfaces, Dream Empress will be kept on those surfaces for the foreseeable future. She is scheduled to make her 3-year-old debut in Sunday's Grade 3, $150,000 Herecomesthebride Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. It will be her first start since finishing fourth in the Golden Rod run over the Churchill Downs dirt course last November.

Before that, Dream Empress finished second to Stardom Bound in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface after winning the Grade 1 Alcibiades over Keeneland's Polytrack.

McPeek said the Herecomesthebride has been his target for Dream Empress all along. Dream Empress, who won a maiden race on turf at Saratoga last summer, has breezed six times since shipping to south Florida.

"It's a perfect first start back for her, and she's doing really well. We want to use it as a prep for the Ashland," McPeek said, referring to the Grade 1 race for 3-year-old fillies at Keeneland on April 4.

After the Ashland, McPeek has a truly ambitious goal: the Epsom Oaks later this year, "which is a little bit against the grain, but I've always been that way," McPeek said.

Among Dream Empress's competition Sunday will be Gozzip Girl, Oilgonewile, and Obsequious, the first three finishers from the Coconut Grove Stakes here on Feb. 15. Also entered were Bluegrass Princess, Fast Tigress, Guarda, and Candle Maker.

Rubber match for Any Limit, Game Face

Game Face and Any Limit, who have split decisions in the First Lady and Hurricane Bertie handicaps already this meet, will square off for a third time in Sunday's Grade 2, $150,000 Inside Information Stakes at seven furlongs.

Any Limit got loose on the lead and turned back a midstretch challenge from Game Face to win the Hurricane Bertie by 1 1/4 lengths. Before that, Game Face was able to run down Any Limit to win the First Lady by 2 3/4 lengths.

Keep the Peace, who won a six-furlong allowance race Feb. 21, came within a neck of Game Face when they met in the Grade 2 La Troienne at Churchill Downs last May. Precious Kiss ships in from Louisiana while Pious Ashley, second to Keep the Peace in that Feb. 21 allowance, was supplemented to this race.

* My Princess Jess, a multiple graded-stakes-winning filly on turf last summer, worked three furlongs in 38.40 seconds Thursday at Gulfstream. It was her first work since she finished fifth as the favorite in the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere at Churchill Downs last fall.

* West Side Bernie, prepping for the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park on March 21, worked four furlongs in 48.80 seconds Thursday morning at Palm Meadows.