Updated on 09/18/2011 1:39AM

Contessa develops Midas touch


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Gary Contessa held his annual high school reunion a week too early.

On Nov. 26, Contessa entertained a few dozen of his pals from the 1975 graduating class of Calhoun High School in Merrick, N.Y., at Aqueduct. Amazingly, Contessa did not have a runner on the card, nor did he have one the previous day.

Alas, had the reunion been held last weekend, Contessa's classmates could have made numerous trips to the winner's circle. On Saturday, Contessa won both the Garland of Roses Stakes and the Coyote Lakes Stakes, while on Sunday he won two more races, including the East View Stakes with My Kitty.

Those wins capped a fabulous opening week to the inner-track meet for Contessa, who won 9 races from 32 starters. Contessa was the leading inner-track trainer of 2005-06 with 61 winners.

"It's a hell of a start - I usually start meets slow," said Contessa, who was the leading trainer at the main-track meet with 13 wins. "I had my school reunion on and I didn't run a horse. We made it two months ago. It was the only weekend I didn't run a horse.''

Contessa could top last year's 61-win mark if he keeps this up. Contessa has a total of about 70 horses stabled at Aqueduct and Belmont, and despite running nearly half of them last weekend he has two more to run on Wednesday and seven more in on Thursday.

"It's just the way the [condition] book was written; it's good for me," Contessa said. "Let's put it this way: We're willing to sit here when it's real cold and face the elements every day and we get paid for it."

Things are going so well for Contessa that he can win marathon races with a son of the sprinter Successful Appeal. After winning a two-mile allowance race on Nov. 10, Successful Affair won Saturday's Coyote Lakes at 1 1/2 miles and will now be pointed to the Gallant Fox at 1 5/8 miles on Dec. 30.

Contessa claimed Successful Affair for $16,000 on behalf of Steve Sigler's Winning Move Stable on Oct. 19, just one month after the gelding had been vanned off out of a second-level allowance race for New York-breds.

"I give full credit to claiming him to Steve Sigler; he really wanted this horse," Contessa said. "But then when I decided to run him two miles he said, 'Gary, a Successful Appeal two miles? That horse could barely go six furlongs.' But he looks like a two-miler; he's tall, long-legged, skinny long pencil neck; he looks like a guy you see running in a marathon race. He must have got a lot of that trait from his mother," the Private Terms mare Private Pouf.

Magnolia Jackson, another New York-bred, has the potential to be the dominant female sprinter here this winter. She won the Garland of Roses by an easy two lengths and will likely run once a month this winter, hitting spots such as the Interborough on New Year's Day and possibly the Correction and Grade 2 Distaff Breeders' Cup in February and March, respectively.

In addition to enjoying a successful week on the track, Contessa had reason to celebrate off the track as well. At 4 a.m. Monday, Contessa's wife, Jennifer, gave birth to the couple's third child, a son named Raymond, who weighed in at 7opounds, 11 ounces. Contessa has two daughters with Jennifer and two sons from a previous marriage.

Jazil getting closer to return

Belmont Stakes winner Jazil worked four furlongs in 49.22 seconds over Belmont Park's training track Sunday morning as he gets closer to making his long-awaited return to the races.

The move was Jazil's sixth recorded breeze since he resumed training following a minor injury suffered in early July. While McLaughlin said he is training Jazil as if he were going to run in the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream on Feb. 3, McLaughlin added that he wouldn't run Jazil against Invasor in that spot. McLaughlin is planning to use the Donn as Invasor's prep for the $6omillion Dubai World Cup on March 31.

"He's doing great," McLaughlin said of Jazil. "I don't know if we're going to take him to Florida or leave him here for a little while longer."

One of two career victories for Jazil came over the inner track last December in a race that was originally scheduled for the turf. Jazil did not do that well in south Florida last winter, finishing seventh in the Fountain of Youth after a second-place finish in an allowance race.

Sheikh Mohammed buys Blue Sky God

Trainer Barclay Tagg said he and owner Elizabeth Valando have turned down some nice offers for the talented 2-year-old Nobiz Like Shobiz. Tagg and owner Alan Cook did not turn down an offer from Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum for Blue Sky God, a son of Stormy Atlantic who won a maiden race by five lengths in his second start.

The sale was finalized last Friday, which is why Blue Sky God was scratched out of a first-level allowance race here on Saturday. Blue Sky God is currently with McLaughlin at Belmont Park, but McLaughlin said the horse is due to ship to south Florida soon and may end up going to Dubai.

"He looks like a nice horse," McLaughlin said Monday. "We were on the lookout; he passed the vet."

In his first start, Blue Sky God, a $100,000 purchase out of the Timonium sale in May, finished third behind the McLaughlin-trained Day Pass, who came back to win the Nashua and is currently in quarantine at Payson Park before heading to Dubai. Blue Sky God came back to win his maiden by five lengths, running six furlongs in 1:10.20 and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 93.

Ever Shifting debuts Wednesday

Before The Green Monkey sold for a world-record $16 million at Fasig-Tipton's 2-year-olds in training sale in February, the record price paid for a 2-year-old at auction was $5.2 million for a son of Tale of the Cat, purchased by Sheikh Mohammed at the same sale in 2005. That horse, whose name is Ever Shifting, finally makes it to the races on Wednesday, in a six-furlong maiden race over Aqueduct's inner track.

Initially part of the Godolphin team, Ever Shifting was transferred to Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Stable and is now trained by Tom Albertrani. Ever Shifting came into Albertrani's barn in mid-September, and the colt has worked eight times since Oct. 17.

"I'm expecting him to run well, but he'll probably improve with the race," Albertrani said.

Ever Shifting, who shows a very slow gate work, will break from posto2 under Eibar Coa in a field of 11.

* Bryan McNeil, the nephew of former jockey George Martens, will begin riding here Wednesday. McNeil, a seven-pound apprentice, has won 26 races from 275 mounts through Sunday, riding primarily at Remington Park.