10/31/2003 1:00AM

Cohens collect fifth Tri-State Futurity win


Long before the Breeders' Cup, or the Maryland Million, Charles Town's Tri-State Futurity offered tantalizing rewards for breeders with a far-sighted approach to the business.

First run in 1962 (and halted for eight years, from 1994 until returning in 2002), the Tri-State Futurity is restricted to 2-year-olds foaled in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, and is a true futurity, meaning that foals must be nominated before they are born.

It costs very little, currently $25, for the original nomination. But owners must pay additional fees at various intervals to keep prospective runners eligible. And the added-money traditionally has made the Tri-State Futurity one of the richest juvenile events in the region.

This year's 35th running of the Tri-State Futurity, Oct. 25 at Charles Town, more than lived up to its history.

Owners of 414 broodmares stepped up to the plate by Dec. 31, 2000, making their foals eligible for the $50,000-added race, worth a total of $72,400. A field of five, two Maryland-breds and three West-Virginia-breds, broke from the gate.

As if he had been waiting all his life for the opportunity, Red Velvet Cake seized the lead in the seven-furlong race and never looked back, scoring by 9 1/4 lengths as the even-money favorite.

The $47,060 winner's share of the purse quintupled Red Velvet Cake's career earnings to $58,730.

Red Velvet Cake, a Maryland-bred owned by Hickory Plains Farm, became the first stakes winner for freshman sire Diamond, a son of Mr. Prospector standing at Northview Stallion Station in Chesapeake City, Md.

The Tri-State Futurity has no more ardent supporters than Randy and Albert Cohen, the father and son who own and operate Red Velvet Cake's birthplace, Hickory Plains Farm in Monrovia, Md.

Hickory Plains annually nominates the foals from just about all of its 20-member broodmare band, according to Randy Cohen. The Cohens have bred and owned five Tri-State Futurity winners, the first three in partnership with Entremont Farm. Their earlier winners were Softly (1972), who won her maiden in the race and went on to outstanding success as a broodmare; Cojak (1974), who became a Grade 1 winner and sire; Fight for Gold (1977); and Guru Dude (1992).

But Randy Cohen takes more immediate inspiration from last year's Tri-State Futurity winner, Cherokee's Boy. Maryland-bred Cherokee's Boy romped home by 21 3/4 lengths in the Charles Town race, one of his numerous career achievements for owner-breeders Foard Wilgis and David Picarello. Voted champion Maryland-bred 2-year-old male of 2002, Cherokee's Boy went on to run in the Preakness.

"I don't think Red Velvet Cake will turn out to be that good," said Cohen. "But you never know."

Red Velvet Cake won his maiden for a $14,000 claiming tag at Pimlico on Sept. 13, and returned to finish second for $25,000 at Pimlico on Oct. 2, his race before the Tri-State Futurity. A big, powerful chestnut, he is out of the Waquoit mare Made From Scratch, whom the Cohens purchased for $27,000 (in foal to Glitterman) at the 2000 Ocala Breeders' Sales January sale. Made From Scratch was later sold for $1,200 at the 2003 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic February mixed sale.

Cohen praised trainer Hamilton Smith, who handled another Cohen horse, Red Star Rose, the 1998 champion Maryland-bred male, for his role in Red Velvet Cake's success.

"Our trainer, Hamilton Smith, and his family deserve a lot of credit in all this," said Cohen. "Red Velvet Cake received his early education with Ham Smith's brother, Franklin Smith, at the Elloree Training Center in South Carolina. A week or so before the Tri-State Futurity, we sent him to Ham's nephew, trainer Greg Smith, at Charles Town, to get acclimated to the track."

Planning for the future, in order words, has been crucial to their success.