01/23/2008 12:00AM

Georgie providing lot of joy


ARCADIA, Calif. - As famous couples go, the names George and Martha rank high on any list. There were the Washingtons, of course, and more recently those lovable, animated hippos - best friends, they say, and never to be confused with the embittered George and Martha of the snarling Edward Albee play. Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf? Everyone.

These days West Coast racing has its own George and Martha, calm and classy, and they are having the time of their lives. George Schwary balked when Martha insisted their homebred Tribal Rule foal of 2005 be christened Georgie Boy. But there were no harsh words, no bottles thrown.

"Martha just looked at the foal and said, 'That's Georgie Boy," Schwary said Wednesday from his home in the western San Fernando Valley. "I did have a filly I tried to name Martha Jean, though, but she wouldn't go for it."

Good to know who's boss at the Schwarys, at least when it comes to branding their Thoroughbreds. Tagging a racehorse with the name of a friend or loved one is always risky (historians will recall the meager career of Hovdey, a foal of 1993), but in the case of Georgie Boy, it was a darn good idea. Especially when he ended up winning the 2007 Del Mar Futurity.

"For me," said Schwary, "that was like winning the Super Bowl, or USC winning the national championship. I couldn't believe it."

That was also the last time Georgie Boy was seen in action. His trainer, Kathy Walsh, pulled the plug after the Sept. 5 Futurity, just five starts and two stakes wins into an exciting career.

"I told George we got a nice horse, and all horses need a rest," Walsh said. "We ran him hard at Del Mar, so he told me to do what I thought was best. There was nothing wrong with him. I just did the old Buster Millerick thing. He never took Native Diver off the racetrack from the time he was a 2-year-old. So I just freshened him and babied him for two months here, doing nothing."

Now Georgie Boy is ready to roll again. He is bigger and stronger and apparently ready to pick up where he left off, if his sizzling works over the Hollywood Park Cushion Track surface are any indication. Whether or not he can keep it going for six more years like Hall of Famer Native Diver - that other dark brown Cal-bred gelding - remains to be seen. The first step comes on Saturday, when Georgie Boy makes his 3-year-old debut in the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Dash at Santa Anita.

"I've been ready for quite a while," Schwary said. "I'm chomping at the bit. I'm just worried about what might happen if it rains."

Join the club. The prospect of rain hitting the temperamental Santa Anita version of Cushion Track before Sunshine Millions Day has horsemen and management scrambling for backup plans. The last time it happened, they lost three days of racing.

Still, with someone like Walsh at the wheel, Schwary, 75, is conditioned to take the long view. Besides, a Grade 1 winner was not exactly what Walsh had in mind when she recommended that Schwary claim the Washington-bred Peterhof mare Ippodamia for $32,000 out of a grass race at Golden Gate Fields in November 2003. The following spring she went to Tribal Rule, at Pam and Marty Wygod's River Edge Farm, in hopes of getting a decent runner.

Now, as the producer of a Grade 1 winner, Ippodamia goes to the front of a lot of lines come breeding time. Currently in Kentucky, she is about ready to drop another Tribal Rule. After that, Schwary figures, if you're going to dream, dream big.

"Georgie Boy has taken good care of mama," Schwary said. "So we're talking about sending her to Street Sense or Street Cry. We're going for the big time."

This is heady stuff for the California native. Born in Whittier, the son of a bar owner, Schwary graduated from USC in 1955 and went directly into business for himself, selling television sets and other goods out of his Appliance Center store in the city of San Fernando.

"It was a tough business, but I had a real good following, with two or three generations of customers supporting me," Schwary said. "I sold the business in 1987, and I'd hate to try and get into it now, competing against the big box stores. It's sad, because years ago if you had a little push, a little ingenuity, you could make something for yourself. Now, I guess you have to work for somebody else."

Obviously, it's the entrepreneurial spirit imbedded in horse racing that gives Schwary a kick. For that $32,000 investment in Ippodamia he finds himself with a horse who has won close to $300,000, with the promise of more fun to come.

"I'm just enjoying this so much, getting into horses in my later years," he said. "In the three or four years I've been in it I've learned a lot, but probably not one-tenth of what I need to know. Compared to most, I'm still just a babe in the woods."