Updated on 09/17/2011 10:45AM

Hebert, Bet Me Best together again four years later


When trainer Doris Hebert sold his interest in Bet Me Best when the gelding was 2 in 1998, Hebert thought he would never see him again. But four years later, the two have been reunited, and last Saturday night Hebert was at his side when Bet Me Best, now 7, went over the $500,000 mark in earnings by winning the $50,000 Cypress for statebreds at Delta Downs.

Bet Me Best was returned to the care of Hebert in July in order to take advantage of the statebred program in Louisiana. The move was made at the recommendation of the horse's longtime trainer, Elliott Walden.

"It's really nice to have him back," said Hebert. "He's been so good to me."

Hebert, who is the leading trainer at Delta, guided Bet Me Best through a perfect season at 2. He was a 16 1/2-length winner of his debut at Evangeline Downs, where he is now based, on Aug. 24, 1998.

One start later, Bet Me Best traveled to Retama Park and won a trial for the $95,000 Texas Open Futurity by 14 1/2 lengths, earning a 100 Beyer Speed Figure. He returned to win the final by five lengths despite dropping to one knee at the start of the race.

From there, Bet Me Best won the $30,000 Minstrel at Louisiana Downs by eight lengths and earned a 103 Beyer, before closing out his remarkable season with a 3 3/4-length win in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile, earning a 105 Beyer.

Word of Bet Me Best's talent spread, and it wasn't long before Prestonwood Farm stepped in and bought Hebert's half in the horse. Danny Collins, Hebert's partner and longtime friend who died a year and a half ago, retained his share in Bet Me Best, and the gelding was sent to a bigger stage, where he came under the care of Walden.

In his first start in the major leagues, Bet Me Best was a gritty winner over Texas Glitter in the Grade 2 Hutcheson at Gulfstream Park in 1999. Following that race, he underwent surgery to remove a bone chip in his knee, and the injury forced him to miss most of his 3-year-old season.

Bet Me Best traveled to Dubai at 4, where he ran third to Big Jag in the Golden Shaheen, and from there he competed in a series of allowance and stakes races in Kentucky and New York.

This past summer, however, Bet Me Best was returned to his roots in a move that has paid dividends for owners WinStar Farm, which has bought out Prestonwood Farm, and Troy Collins, the son of Danny.

Bet Me Best has won three of his last five starts for Hebert, with two of those victories coming in statebred stakes - the $40,000 Cajun at Louisiana Downs and the Cypress.

For Hebert, the last few months have felt like old times with Bet Me Best.

"He grew up a little bit. He has a longer body and is a little taller, but he's the same horse mind-wise now as he always was," said Hebert. "He always did everything right."

Bet Me Best could start next in the $75,000 Bayou State for statebreds at Delta on Feb. 1.

Vance could return to Delta

Oaklawn-based trainer David Vance, who shipped to Delta last month and won the $250,000 Delta Princess with My Trusty Cat, could return to the track next month with another filly, Reason to Talk, who captured the $50,000 Distaff last Saturday night at Sam Houston.

Vance said there are a couple races at Delta he is considering for Reason to Talk: the $50,000 Sweetheart over seven furlongs on Feb. 15 and the $75,000 Goddess at a mile March 22.

Reason to Talk is also under consideration for the $50,000 Pippin at Oaklawn on Feb. 15.

Got Koko a Texas champ

Got Koko, who became the first Texas-bred since 1994 to win a Grade 1 race with her victory in the $200,000 La Brea at Santa Anita on Dec. 28, has been named champion 3-year-old filly by the Texas Thoroughbred Association.

She is one of several divisional champions the organization honored during a banquet Saturday.

Others are Leo's Last Hurrahy, horse of the year and 2-year-old; Parting, 2-year-old filly; Fitzroyal, 3-year-old colt; Boots on Sunday, older horse; Coastalota, older filly or mare; and Baby North, broodmare. Baby North is the dam of Got Koko.

* Evangeline was to issue condition books for its April 4 to Sept. 1 meet on Saturday.