06/14/2011 3:12PM

Calder: Pinhooker performs good deed for equine hitchhiker


MIAMI – W.D. North could have done what most of his colleagues in Ocala, Fla., usually do when preparing a 2-year-old to race at Calder: work them exclusively on one of the training centers or farms in town and not ship to the track until the day of the race.

Instead, North opted to load his promising 2-year-old U.S. Citizen on his trailer last Friday and made the long drive down to Calder, where he worked the speedy youngster three furlongs from the gate in 35 seconds the next morning with jockey Juan Leyva aboard.

The benefits of North’s decision to bring U.S. Citizen all the way down from Ocala just to work three-eighths of a mile here last weekend even went beyond giving his horse the opportunity to get a feel for both the starting gate and local surface prior to his career debut. It may also have saved a life in the process.

“When I was getting ready to load my horse to take him back home, a woman I didn’t even know came up to me and said she had a horse she wanted to retire and send to someone in Ocala but that if she couldn’t get him there, he’d probably wind up going to the killers,” North said by phone on Monday. “So we put him in the van and hauled him up with us. Gave him a free ride to Ocala. He was a nice-looking horse but you could see he was lame when getting on the trailer. When we got home, somebody else I didn’t know either was waiting there to pick him up at the barn.”

Being a good samaritan is not North’s major line of work. North is a pinhooker by trade who has bought and sold millions of dollars worth of young horses at sales over the years, including top-level sprinters such as Delaware Township and Diabolical.

“I sell 2-year-olds at auction so preparing a horse to race like this Proud Citizen colt is something new for me,” said North. “I decided to bring him down to the track to break from the gate instead of getting him ready exclusively in Ocala both for the experience and to assess his fitness level. And he got his gate card the first time. I bought this horse for $70,000 as a yearling and he didn’t meet his reserve in the March Select OBS Sale. We’re not racers, but he’s for sale and now we’re going to the next step with him.”

North said he chose Leyva to work U.S. Citizen after doing some homework.

“I did some research and saw that Levya has a good percentage with 2-year-olds,” said North. “I tried to pay him $100 for working the horse but he wouldn’t take it. He just asked me to make sure I named him to ride him when we bring him back down to run.”

Leyva has had a pretty good percentage with older horses here this spring as well, most notably Musical Romance, whom he guided to a second straight stakes victory in last Saturday’s $75,000 U Can Do It Handicap. Leyva allowed Musical Romance to save ground the entire trip, slipping her through along the rail to outfinish Indulgence by three parts of a length.

“Juan is definitely the most improved rider here this year,” said Bill Kaplan, who trains Musical Romance. “He’s learned to show a lot more patience when he’s riding and it’s made a big difference. I think he’s got a big future and will be going places from here.”

Leyva is tied for fourth in the jockey standings along with Luis Jurado with 16 victories apiece heading into Thursday’s program.

The absent Nick Canani, who pulled out and headed for Monmouth Park last week, still sits atop the trainer standings with a dozen victories, one more than Henry Collazo and Antonio Sano.

Indiano extends Wolfson’s dominance

Indiano’s impressive victory in last Saturday’s Unbridled Stakes not only earned him a spot in the Grade 2 Carry Back on July 9 but gave trainer Marty Wolfson his fourth straight victory in the race. Wolfson captured the previous three editions with Golden Spikes (2008), You Luckie Mann (2009), and Coffee Boy (2010). He also won the event with Mister Fotis in 2004 when the Unbridled was decided at 1 1/16 miles.

Both Golden Spikes and Coffee Boy used the Unbridled as springboard to victories in the Carry Back while You Luckie Mann was second best behind Not for Silver two years ago.