03/16/2006 1:00AM

Golden Jive stopped biting and started to run


PORTLAND, Ore. - It isn't enough that Thoroughbreds are subject to myriad physical ailments. Some are also afflicted with mental problems, which can be quite bizarre.

Golden Jive, who will take on the best older sprinters based at Portland Meadows in Saturday's Governor's Speed Handicap, is a case in point.

When trainer and current owner Scott Freeman first encountered Golden Jive, Freeman was working for the horse's owners at the time, Al and Sandee Kirkwood, at the Kirkwood farm in Lewis County, Wash. Golden Jive had made just one start for the Kirkwoods as a 3-year-old in January of last year, showing next to nothing against $40,000 maidens at Santa Anita. He was returned to the Kirkwoods' farm, and it was Freeman's task to assess Golden Jive's condition and determine whether it would be worthwhile to return him to training.

Freeman noticed that Golden Jive was thin and physically immature. He also noticed that parts of the horse's body were covered with scars.

"I wondered how in the heck he got all of those marks on his body, so I started watching him," Freeman said. "What I found was that he was biting himself. I've been around horses who would nip at their coats, but this guy was tearing out chunks of flesh. I had never seen anything like it."

Freeman consulted veterinarians, who informed him that Golden Jive was a "self-mutilator." Now he had a name for Golden Jive's condition, but he was no closer to a cure. Lacking a better alternative, he turned Golden Jive out in a pasture with two pony horses, hoping that the placid ponies would help to soothe his nerves.

"It seemed to work for a while, but then one day when I was watching him he started spinning around in a tight circle and biting himself," Freeman said. "I thought, 'Oh, no, what do I do now?' But then I noticed that one of the ponies, a very passive paint, was watching him too, and she had her ears pinned. I knew something was about to happen, and sure enough the paint started running full speed at Golden Jive. Just before she got to him she turned her head and lowered her shoulder, and she hit him broadside and knocked him flat."

Freeman noted that horses normally scramble to their feet after they are knocked down, but he said Golden Jive lay stock still, apparently contemplating the lesson in tough love he had received.

"When he finally got up, he went right to the paint and he wouldn't leave her side," Freeman continued. "That very day he started eating normally, and he hasn't bitten himself since."

The Kirkwoods gave Golden Jive to Freeman, who still works for the couple, and Freeman returned him to training late last year. He made his return to racing in a maiden special weight race on Feb. 25 and defeated Wegotaslewtoo by 6 1/4 lengths. Wegotaslewtoo flattered Golden Jive's effort on Monday, when he returned to graduate at the maiden special weight level by 6 3/4 lengths. That same day, Golden Jive blew out three furlongs in a bullet 35.60 seconds.

"I don't know if Golden Jive fits with the stakes horses here, but I do think he is a lot better than he showed in his maiden win," Freeman said. "I didn't have him very tight for that race, but he is ready now. I'm anxious to see how good he really is."

Rematch for 'Chancy,' Our Girl Pearl

Our Girl Pearl and Chancy Chancy, who staged a memorable stretch duel in last Saturday's one-mile Sea Champagne Invitational Handicap for older fillies and mares, will both return in the open Donna Jensen Handicap at 1 1/16 miles.

Our Girl Pearl had fallen short of catching the front-running Chancy Chancy in two previous matchups, but she engaged her rival much earlier on Saturday, when she was ridden for the first time by Juan Gutierrez. The two volleyed for the lead from the quarter pole to the shadow of the wire, where Our Girl Pearl made a final surge that carried her to a neck win in 1:41.27.

"It feels good to finally beat Chancy Chancy, but it sure wasn't easy," said Laurie Ansell, who owns and trains Our Girl Pearl. "I think Juan made a big difference, but I also think our filly is finally growing up. She is not as nervous as she used to be."

Our Girl Pearl, a 4-year-old daughter of The Deputy, didn't get started until November, when she won her debut by 13 1/4 lengths. She needed five more starts to notch her second win on Saturday.

"She had a lot to learn, and I had a lot to learn about her," Ansell said. "She doesn't like days off, so I trained the heck out of her for this race and she really responded to that. I'll try to bring her up to the Donna Jensen the same way."