02/17/2006 12:00AM

Cherokee's Boy voted No. 1

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The vote for the 2005 Maryland-bred champions was one of the tightest in years, but there was no doubt who was going to be horse of the year. ZWP Stable's Cherokee's Boy, a five-time stakes winner and the leading statebred money-earner in 2005, was the unanimous choice for champion older male as well as horse of the year.

Cherokee's Boy, a son of retired Country Life Farm sire Citidancer and a stakes winner each of the four years he has raced, had previously earned state-bred championship honors at 2. But his campaign last year at age 5 was by far his most successful yet.

Cherokee's Boy won seven races, at distances from seven furlongs to 1 1/8 miles, from 12 starts, and finished on the board four other times. He pushed his career earnings to within sight of $1 million, the $368,050 earned in 2005 pushing his total to $969,886. He won Monmouth Park's Grade 3 Salvator Mile Handicap over Aggadan and Gygistar.

Trainer Gary Capuano shipped the Bowie-based Cherokee's Boy to Charles Town three times, and the bay won all three races by a combined 16 lengths. Among them was the HBPA Governor's Cup Handicap in which Cherokee's Boy set a track record of 1:49.88 for the 1 1/8 miles. A week later he finished a fast-closing second to Saay Mi Name in the Maryland Million Sprint at six furlongs.

Owned by Foard Wilgis and Dave Picarello (the W and P in ZWP Stable), Cherokee's Boy is a son of the first horse ever owned by the stable, Cherokee Wonder. Purchased as a yearling for $5,500 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic December mixed sale, Cherokee Wonder became a stakes winner and produced the stakes-placed filly Runnin Wonder as her first foal, but died the year after her second foal, Cherokee's Boy, was born.

The selections for the other divisional winners were not as clear-cut, and the champion 2-year-old male vote ended in a tie between El Viento and Vegas Play. El Viento, the El Corredor colt bred by 2004 breeders of the year Charles and Cynthia McGinnes, ran exclusively in Puerto Rico and won three Grade 1 races in that country. Vegas Play, bred by Nancy M. Leonard Living Trust, won the Maryland Juvenile Championship Stakes.

Meanwhile, Celestial Legend received six of the seven first-place votes to be named champion 2-year-old filly. The City Zip filly, bred by William Fitzgibbons Sr. and David Wade, was undefeated in four starts at 2, including two stakes. The filly remains undefeated, having won her two starts this year, both stakes.

Declan's Moon had little opportunity to defend his 2004 Maryland-bred horse of the year title, but his only start of 2005 - a solid win in the Grade 2 Santa Catalina Stakes at Santa Anita - was enough to earn the Brice Ridgely-bred gelding the title of champion 3-year-old male.

Maddalena, a speedy daughter of Good and Tough bred by Alan Hilburg, was named champion 3-year-old filly after winning three races, including the Grade 3 Old Hat Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Older mare honors went to Silmaril, a daughter of former Northview Farm stallion Diamond who stunned the racing world when she defeated Ashado in the Grade 3 Pimlico Distaff Breeders' Cup Stakes in May. A homebred for Stephen Quick and Christopher Feifarek, Silmaril won three stakes in 2005.

Saay Mi Name flew to the top of the sprinters' ranks by winning or placing in 10 of 15 starts last year. Bred by trainer Wayne Bailey in partnership with his father-in-law Urban Deiter, Saay Mi Name was graded stakes placed and recorded his most lucrative score in the Maryland Million Sprint.

The strength of Love Match's victory in the Grade 3 Matchmaker Stakes was enough to earn the daughter of Partner's Hero champion turf honors. She races for her breeders, Anne and Richard Poulson.

Champion steeplechaser Guelph won three hurdle stakes in the fall.