01/04/2002 12:00AM

Itaka, Ameri Valley get year-end lifts


Two young Maryland stallions got a big boost at the end of the year, with their offspring scoring surprise victories in the culminating events for state-bred 2-year-olds - the Maryland Juvenile Championship and Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship (both $100,000 guaranteed and run at Laurel Park).

True Sensation, who beat the seemingly unbeatable Bronze Abe in the Juvenile Filly Championship on Dec. 29, is from the second crop of Itaka, a son of Jade Hunter standing at Hickory Plains Farm in Ijamsville.

In the Juvenile Championship, on Dec. 31, a previously unheralded gelding named Magic Weisner rose up to defeat the tough Tony Dutrow-trained War Native and earn distinction for his sire, Ameri Valay, who is widely remembered as one of Maryland's top handicap performers of the 1990's. Ameri Valay, a son of Carnivalay from the female family of local hero Little Bold John, stands at Shamrock Farms in Woodbine.

Each of those runners is the sire's first stakes winner, and both are homebreds campaigned by Maryland horsepeople.

True Sensation is the latest of many good runners to carry the banner of Randy Cohen and his father, Al. The elder Cohen, who recently turned 80, was cheering from the Laurel stands as the filly pulled away to a 2 1/2-length triumph, in 1:53.61. Those looking for a play on names could have profited handsomely from the $15.20 mutuel payoff, since True Sensation had aboard someone who exactly fits that description - national leading apprentice Jeremy Rose.

The Cohens, who sent out Red Star Rose to win the 1998 Juvenile Championship (and the title of champion Maryland-bred 2-year-old male), can take credit for every aspect of True Sensation, since they also own and operate Hickory Plains Farm and own a half-interest in Itaka.

"We knew she could run; she's a big, powerful filly," said Randy Cohen. "But the question was, did she have enough seasoning to win." True Sensation had only three weeks earlier won her maiden race at Laurel, in her fourth try, and may have benefited from the Juvenile Filly Championship's 1 1/8-mile distance.

"The race certainly didn't seem to take much out of her," observed Cohen. "She came into the winner's circle without a drop of sweat on her."

The Cohens purchased True Sensation's dam, True Norther, for $9,200 at the 1997 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic February Mixed sale.

Magic Weisner, meanwhile, is the horse of a lifetime for his owner/breeder/trainer, Nancy Alberts, who had a dream year in 2001.

Alberts, who has been in the business more than 30 years, celebrated her first stakes win when Clark's Clone won the Taking Risk Stakes at Timonium in September.

Magic Weisner is named for Dr. Allen Wisner, the Glen Rock, Pa., veterinarian who treated the colt for a life-threatening joint infection as a foal. (The added 'e' is the result of a clerical error.) "Dr. Wisner had his doubts that 'Magic' would ever make it to the races," said Alberts. "But to me there's no doubt that Dr. Wisner performed magic."

A two-time allowance winner, Magic Weisner was making his stakes debut in the Juvenile Championship. He is the second foal from his dam, Jazema (by Bold Forbes), a hard-trying racemare ($89,199; lifetime record 68-14-11-5) whom Alberts purchased privately through the mare's trainer and her former longtime employer, J.P. Simpson.

Jazema's first foal - the Ameri Valay gelding Deliver Hope - has also given Albert many exciting moments, with three wins and $73,940 in earnings. Deliver Hope finished third in the 2001 Maryland Million Sweepstakes.