08/02/2007 11:00PM

Hermosilla, a fan favorite at age 15


At the age of 15, the gelding Hermosilla is more than half as old as his 29-year-old owner and trainer, Shaun Story. And together, the two have made quite a bit of noise at Wyoming Downs in Evanston, Wyo., where Hermosilla will run in the seventh race on Sunday.

Story said the $2,500 claiming sprint will probably be one of the final career starts for Hermosilla, who is believed to be the oldest Thoroughbred racing in North America. The horse launched his career in 1994, when he won a maiden race at Hollywood Park under Chris McCarron. The following season, Hermosilla ran fourth in the $100,000 Pomona Derby. His class has been evident ever since.

Hermosilla won four races last year at the age of 14, and has finished second, third, and fourth in his three starts in 2007. The son of Afleet has won 14 races, 7 since the age of 13.

"He's has been running here for at least three years that I can think of," said Trina Fackrell, racing secretary at Wyoming Downs, which is located about 80 miles east of Salt Lake City, Utah.

"The crowd, the fanbase here in Evanston, just absolutely loves this horse. When they see him come out in the post parade, they generally cheer for him. When he comes back, whether he wins the race or not, they cheer."

Hermosilla could land back in the winner's circle Sunday. After racing against claimers and in a $3,200 starter allowance, he gets a condition that suits him to a tee, said Story.

"It will probably be his best race so far this year," he said. "It's a nonwinners of the year."

Hermosilla will ship in for the race from Story's farm in Liberty, Utah, which is about an hour from the track. In part because of his age, Hermosilla has an untraditional training regimen, which Story has followed for the three years since receiving the horse from his father, trainer Kent Story.

"He's got about a half-acre pasture, and I just turn him out in it and he wanders and eats grass all the time," said Shaun Story. "Most people don't train them like that, but he likes it and so that's what I do."

Story said when Hermosilla is preparing for the races off his annual layoff, he gallops on a regular basis for about two or three months. But when he is racing fit, Story will gallop him just a couple of times between starts. The approach has worked. Hermosilla won three races in 2005, including an 11 1/2-length romp in a $1,600 claimer at Wyoming.

Wyoming Downs is mainly a Quarter Horse track, but runs two or three Thoroughbred races every weekend, said Michael Fansler, assistant general manger. Last year, Story was the meet's leading Thoroughbred trainer with three wins, all of them courtesy of Hermosilla. Story said when the meet ends Aug. 19, Hermosilla could race one more time, during the Elko fair meet in Nevada. He will then retire to Story's farm, where he has befriended the trainer's 1-year-old son, Parker.

"He'll probably be a good mountain horse," said Story. "I'll probably go hunting on him and stuff."

But the first order of business, he said, is for Hermosilla to win what will be his 73rd career start Sunday.