03/07/2008 12:00AM

Heros Reward collects four titles

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Turf sprint specialist Heros Reward was named Maryland-bred horse of the year for 2007 in the annual poll conducted by the Maryland Horse Breeders Association.

Heros Reward's top honor did not come as a surprise to his delighted breeder, lifelong horsewoman Gretchen Mobberley.

"I thought he would get it," said Mobberley of Heros Reward, a graded stakes winner who finished first or second in 9 of 10 starts last year at age 5, for earnings of $515,826.

The only surprise for Mobberley was Heros Reward's dominance in so many divisions, as the gelding was also awarded the title of champion older male, turf runner, and sprinter. Only one other Maryland-bred has swept as many titles in one year. European-based multiple Group 1 winner Les Arcs earned identical honors in 2006.

Mobberley, who bred Heros Reward out of her Caveat mare Lifes Passage, is set to take home an armful of trophies when the awards are presented at the Maryland Horse Breeders Association's annual dinner on April 18 at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. She remains philosophical about the fact that she no longer owns Heros Reward, a son of former Maryland sire Partner's Hero. She lost Heros Reward for a $20,000 tag in his fifth start in April 2006 to his current trainer, Dale Capuano, and owners Robert Haynes and Jayne Marie Slysz.

"Everything I breed has a price, because I can't keep them all," said Mobberley, who has bred, owned, and trained horses in Maryland for decades at Summer Hill Farm in West Friendship. "Heros Reward brought what I wanted. And not long after he was claimed, he ran for $5,000."

It wasn't until Capuano tried Heros Reward on turf that the gelding blossomed.

Mobberley generally expects about five foals a year. Lifes Passage, who wasn't bred for this year, recently went to Kentucky to the court of Langfuhr. Both Langfuhr and Partner's Hero are sons of Danzig. Mobberley has a 3-year-old gelded half-brother to Heros Reward, named Skidoodle (by Appealing Skier), getting close to his first start, as well as a "lovely yearling colt by Dance With Ravens," she added.

Heros Reward hasn't started since recording his biggest score, the Grade 2, $500,000 Nearctic Stakes at Woodbine on Oct. 21, but is back in training at Laurel. Capuano has penciled in the Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint Handicap on April 26 at Calder as a target for Heros Reward, with the Baltimore City Turf Sprint at Pimlico on Preakness Day - a race he won last year - also a possibility.

Sonny and Ann Via's 2007 Eclipse Award-winning steeplechaser Good Night Shirt finished a close second in the balloting for horse of the year. Bred by Tom and Chris Bowman, Good Night Shirt, a son of former Maryland sire Concern, was the unanimous choice to take his second consecutive Maryland-bred steeplechase title.

The 3-year-old filly Moon Catcher, campaigned by Chuck Zacney's CJZ Racing Stable and trainer Tim Ritchey, also garnered substantial support for horse of the year. Bred by the father and son team of Albert and Randy Cohen in partnership with trainer Ferris Allen, Moon Catcher was the leading Maryland-bred earner in 2007 with $663,450 - the majority coming with her score in the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks. Moon Catcher is from the final Maryland-sired crop by Malibu Moon, who now stands in Kentucky.

Stephen Quick and Christopher Feifarek's homebred Silmaril, the only other 2007 champion to win her division unanimously, also earned a number of votes for horse of the year. Voted champion older female, she won four stakes in 2007, including the Grade 3 Endine. Silmaril, by former Maryland sire Diamond, was also the statebred champion older female of 2005.

Jim Scatuorchio's juvenile Ready's Image, bred by David and JoAnn Hayden's Dark Hollow Farm, was the obvious choice for champion 2-year-old male. A son of More Than Ready, Ready's Image dazzled last summer in New York, with a campaign topped by his four-length score over Tale of Ekati in Saratoga's Grade 2 Sanford Stakes.

Oxbow Racing LLC's graded stakes winner Steve's Double, bred by Jess and Sharon Sweely in the name of their Acorn Hill Farm, was named champion 3-year-old male. Finishing in the top three in 6 of 8 outings, Steve's Double won the Grade 3 Perryville at Keeneland in his stakes debut.

The 2-year-old filly champion, Ask the Moon (by Malibu Moon), owned by Millicent Johnsen, earned her title off her dominance in the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship, her only stakes attempt. She was bred by Charles and Cynthia McGinnes and Country Life Farm.