07/17/2006 12:00AM

Confident as ever, Handy back in the game at 83


OCEANPORT, N.J. - George Handy proved it is never too late to start over. A training legend in New England, Handy got back into the game on July 14, one day after his 83rd birthday.

"It was quite a happy day," Handy said. "It was good to start back in the business."

Handy won his first race in over a year when Vow got up to win for a $10,000 claiming tag at Monmouth Park. Handy claimed Vow for $7,500 with his own money June 30 after promises of horses to train all fell through.

Handy lost his entire stable when owner Francis McDonnell pulled his 25-head string at the end of the 2005 Gulfstream Park meet. For Handy, retirement was never a consideration.

"Trainers don't retire," Handy said. "They just die."

Handy said he would like to build the one-horse stable up to eight to 10. He is looking to claim one or two more for himself, and the remaining horses would be for outside clients.

Handy said he is raring to go, and age, in his view, is not a hindrance. He points to Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, Charlie Whittingham, Woody Stephens, and Ben Jones as trainers who enjoyed success in their golden years.

"As long as you can get to the barn, get under horses, and repair problems, I think you're capable of training," Handy said. "It would be different driving a truck or operating a crane. If you have a sound mind and like the business, you can turn out winners. I still have a lot of confidence in myself."

Before he got into training, Handy served in the Navy during World War II aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Kidd, which saw action in virtually every major battle in the Pacific. The ship and Handy survived a kamikaze attack near Okinawa.

"It killed 37 of my buddies and wounded 57 of us," Handy said. "We were fortunate to stay afloat. It was quite an experience. I wouldn't want to do it again."

Handy started training horses when he got out of the service in 1946, and he won his first Suffolk Downs title in 1956. He was among the leaders in New England for decades before he branched out to Florida and New Jersey.

Jersey Kid gives turf another try

Jersey Kid heads back to the turf Wednesday in a $40,000 second-level allowance at 1 1/8 miles at Monmouth.

Jersey Kid has won his last two starts, both dominant scores over New Jersey-breds on the main track. He will face two challenges Wednesday, as he tackles open company in addition to shifting back to grass.

A 4-year-old gelding, Jersey Kid had two turf races against maidens in the spring, finishing a tiring seventh after pressing the pace at Gulfstream Park and rallying to finish third at Atlantic City Race Course.

Trainer John Forbes said he believes Jersey Kid was very comfortable in those turf efforts.

"We really thought that he liked the grass a lot," Forbes said. "We wanted to use the Jersey-bred conditions first, which allowed him to save up a little money so he could do what he wanted to do. It remains to be seen if he's good enough to win at this level, but we're going to find out."

Forbes said he would love to see Jersey Kid open up the turf option for the future.

"If he can run well with these, we can pretty much assume he will have a much expanded repertoire," Forbes said. "He will have to run at this level if he's going to have a grass career."