11/14/2008 1:00AM

Injury forces Zaftig to retire

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Barbara D. Livingston
Zaftig, who was pointing to the Cigar Mile, tore a suspensory ligament during a workout Thursday, ending her career.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The Grade 1-winning 3-year-old filly Zaftig has been retired from racing after tearing the suspensory ligament in her left hind leg, her connections said Friday.

Zaftig, who beat Indian Blessing in the Grade 1 Acorn at Belmont Park in June, was pointing to a start against males in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 29. On Thursday, Zaftig worked five furlongs in 1:01.49 over Belmont Park's training track. An ultrasound done later that morning revealed the tear.

Zaftig has been shipped to the Hogan Equine Clinic - run by Dr. Patty Hogan - in Cream Ridge, N.J., where she will spend the next month or so before being shipped to Kentucky.

"[Hogan] said it's too great a probability that she's going to re-tear it," said Susan Moore, who owns Zaftig along with her husband, John. "The best thing to do is retire her and turn her into a broodmare, unfortunately. She'll stay with Patty for about four weeks, then we'll ship her down to Kentucky and either we'll breed her or sell her as a broodmare prospect."

Moore added that the injury made her feel like "somebody kicked you in the stomach."

Zaftig, a daughter of Gone West trained by Jimmy Jerkens, won 3 of 6 starts, including the Grade 2 Nassau County and the Acorn, and earned $408,700. She suffered a stress fracture in a foot shortly after the Acorn, which forced her to miss the summer races. Zaftig returned with a creditable third-place finish behind Ventura and Indian Blessing in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint on Oct. 24.

Levine will have Florida division

Though he will still be a major player during the inner-track meet, trainer Bruce Levine will look to expand his horizons this winter by opening a division at Gulfstream Park. Levine said he would have approximately 15 horses stabled at Gulfstream, led by turf horses Buddy's Humor and Beau Dare as well as some young horses and some claimers.

"People don't give you better horses staying here," Levine said Friday in his Belmont Park office. "A guy buys a yearling and if it's a New York-bred I'm in the equation, if it's not a New York-bred I fall out of the equation."

Levine, 53, is enjoying a career year with 176 wins (eighth nationally) and purse earnings of $6,149,814 (16th nationally) through Friday. He was the leading trainer at Monmouth Park and ranks second on the New York Racing Association circuit this year with 94 wins.

Levine had hoped to run Buddy's Humor in an overnight stakes here on Sunday, but the race was not used. Buddy's Humor won the 2007 Jersey Derby and this year's Elkwood. Buddy's Humor has not run since getting beat two lengths in the Grade 1 United Nations at Monmouth in July.

Levine will still keep about 75 horses in New York for the winter, including his newly acquired sprinter Idiot Proof. Runner-up in the 2007 Breeders' Cup Sprint and a Grade 1 winner, Idiot Proof was sent to Levine by owners Marty and Pam Wygod following the colt's 13th-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita on Oct. 25. Apparently, the Wygods wanted to get Idiot Proof off the synthetic surfaces of Southern California and back on dirt.

Levine said Idiot Proof will be pointed to the $100,000 Fall Highweight Handicap here on Thanksgiving Day. Levine breezed Idiot Proof over Belmont's training track in 48.44 seconds on Tuesday and said the horse was "full of run." He plans another breeze once the track dries out. Idiot Proof could help fill the void created by the retirement of Levine's undefeated sprinter Bustin Stones.

Levine said that Elope, an extremely talented filly, has been retired from racing after winning the Dream Supreme Handicap at Churchill Downs on Oct. 31.

Better Talk Now to race at 10

Barring anything unforeseen, the $4.2 million-earner Better Talk Now will be brought back to race as a 10-year-old, trainer Graham Motion confirmed Friday.

Motion said Better Talk Now, who finished eighth in the Breeders' Cup Turf, gets turned out every day for a couple of hours at the Fair Hill Training Center. He will resume training just after Christmas with a return to the races pegged for the spring.

"He looks terrific. I see no reason not to bring him back," Motion said. "I'd love to win a Grade 1 with him next year; that would be our goal."

Motion said that one race he would definitely try to make next year is the Grade 1 Manhattan at Belmont, a race Better Talk Now won in 2007. Better Talk Now has gone 0 for 9 since then, including a trip to Dubai, where he finished ninth in the $5 million Sheema Classic. Motion said Dubai will not be on Better Talk Now's 2009 schedule.

* Casey's Tribe, trained by Levine, broke her left foreleg during the early stages of Friday's fourth race and had to be euthanized on track. According to Dr. Anthony Verderosa, the New York Racing Association's chief examining veterinarian, Casey's Tribe became the 20th ontrack fatality at a NYRA track this year.

* With a confirmed case of the equine herpesvirus at Laurel Park, NYRA will not allow horses from that track or Bowie to race at Aqueduct until further notice.