08/18/2009 12:00AM

Hobby hits jackpot with unlikely hero


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Steve Hobby had never even started a horse in the state of New York before Telling, a 33-1 shot, ran in the Sword Dancer Handicap late Saturday afternoon.

"I hate to go back again," Hobby quipped. "I'm undefeated at Saratoga."

Undefeated, and in a somewhat unbelievable fashion. Telling, a 5-year-old A.P. Indy horse culled from the Darley Stable in 2007, had lost his first five starts of 2009, and was winless in more than a year. He had never won a stakes race of any kind, much less a Grade 1 on a major circuit.

But his decisive two-length victory over venerable Better Talk Now might not have been epically fluky. In his previous start, Telling had endured a rotten trip when a close fifth behind Just as Well in the Arlington Handicap, and the Sword Dancer was only his third start at 12 furlongs.

"If you look at his mile-and-a-half races, they were really good," said Hobby.

True enough. There had been just two others, and in them Telling had finished second to Silverfoot in the 2008 Stars and Stripes, and a close third in the Grade 3 Sycamore last fall at Keeneland.

Still, it was mainly at co-owner Alex Lieblong's urging that Hobby put Telling on a van bound for Saratoga and driven by his wife and daughter last Wednesday. Trainer Ralph Nicks exercised Telling on Thursday and Friday, and then Telling went out and gave the 53-year-old Hobby the first Grade 1 win of his career.

Meanwhile, back at Arlington, hopes are high for a Hobby-trained 2-year-old filly named Tiz Miz Sue, who, making her second start on Aug. 8, won a six-furlong Arlington maiden race by almost eight lengths. Tiz Miz Sue, a homebred by Tiznow and out of Sue's Good News, a stakes horse trained by Hobby, will start in the Sept. 5 Arlington-Washington Lassie if all goes well, Hobby said.

Gold Cup on agenda for Shadowbdancing

One of the better dirt-route horses in the Midwest is spending another summer at a racetrack fitted with Polytrack. But even though Shadowbdancing doesn't race at Arlington - he can't stand up on the synthetic surface here when it comes time to really run - the Chicago base has served as useful hub for an increasingly successful 2009 campaign. After a fine second in the Cornhusker Handicap on June 27 at Prairie Meadows, Shadowbdancing won the $125,000 West Virginia Governor's Handicap on Aug. 1 at Mountaineer Racetrack by eight lengths. Now, trainer Terrel Gore has his sights set on a target much closer to home.

"My main focus is the Gold Cup at Hawthorne," said Gore, who trains Shadowbdancing for RNB Racing LLC. "I'm going to try and give him his best shot there."

The $500,000 Gold Cup is scheduled for Oct. 3. Gore said there's a good chance Shadowbdancing will prep for the race with a start in the Prairie Meadows Handicap Sept. 12, but he also will consider training Shadowbdancing into the Gold Cup.

Shadowbdancing, a seven-time winner from 17 starts, does his daily training on Arlington's dirt training track, venturing onto Polytrack only to post timed workouts. His first breeze since the trip to West Virginia came Monday, when Shadowbdancing went an easy half-mile in 50.60 seconds with his regular jockey, 55-year-old Randy Meier, in the irons.

Tizaqueena better suited for a mile

Tizaqueena is 2 for 2 in one-mile turf races, including a victory this past spring in the Grade 2 Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs. So, a turn back in distance from a pair of 1 3/16-mile grass races makes sense, and that is what Tizaqueena is likely to get as she continues her career sometime later this summer or early autumn.

Tizaqueena finished second in the Modesty Handicap, beating out Dynaforce by a neck, but while Dynaforce came back to win the Beverly D., Tizaqueena tired slightly and finished a close fourth after setting the pace. While there are no concrete plans for Tizaqueena, trainer Mike Stidham said the one-mile First Lady Stakes in October at Keeneland will be closely considered.

In the nearer term, Stidham and the Feel the Thunder Stable could have a horse for either the Sept. 5 Washington Park Handicap on Polytrack, or the Sept. 7 Stars and Stripes on turf. Gran Estreno, Stidham said, will be nominated to both spots, and go in whichever one looks easier. Gran Estreno was claimed for $20,000 in May, and has since won a $35,000 claimer on Arlington turf, a $50,000 claimer on Polytrack, and the $99,000 Claiming Crown Emerald over 12 rivals on Canterbury Park's turf.