05/15/2008 11:00PM

Klokstad's $17,500 bargain


AUBURN, Wash. - When trainer Bud Klokstad claimed Reba Is Tops for $17,500 here at Emerald Downs last July, he had no inkling that she would become the highweight and probable favorite for Sunday's $50,000 Hastings Park Handicap for fillies and mares at six furlongs.

"I was just hoping she would be worth the money," said Klokstad. "That's all I ever hope for when I claim a horse. Sometimes you get lucky."

Klokstad and owners Gordy Jarnig, Ken Marshall, Eric Schweiger, and Dave Wakefield got very lucky with Reba Is Tops, a 4-year-old daughter of He's Tops. She has since won 6 of 9 starts and nearly $140,000. She won twice on the $32,000 claiming level before shipping to Golden Gate Fields, where she won a pair of allowance races. When Northern California racing shifted to Bay Meadows, she became a stakes winner, capturing the six- furlong Bay Meadows Distaff Sprint in February and the five-furlong Monterey Handicap on turf in April under rider Russell Baze.

"I never did anything special with her," said Klokstad. "She just seemed to get better every time she ran. If I had to point to one thing that really moved her up, though, it would be the racing surface at Golden Gate. She really loved that surface, and as soon as she started training there she seemed to be a better filly. I had the same experience with four or five of my other horses, so I'm a pretty big fan of that Tapeta surface myself."

Reba Is Tops's initial stakes success came over a dirt track at Bay Meadows, but it also coincided with her partnership with Russell Baze.

"Russell really had this filly figured out," said Klokstad. "She has always wanted to go early, but Russell made her wait and he got her to finishing really well."

Klokstad said he was unable to secure Baze's services for Sunday's race, but that he was happy to have Gallyn Mitchell riding.

"Mitchell will fit her very well," said the trainer. "I don't think she is hard to ride. She's really pretty versatile now. She'll do anything the rider wants her to do."

Despite her accomplishments, Klokstad claimed to be shocked when he looked at the list of weights and discovered that Reba Is Tops was weighted above Shampoo, 120 pounds to 119.

"I know she won those stakes at Bay Meadows, but she wasn't beating the best fillies and mares they have down there in those races," he said. "I picked my spots pretty carefully. I don't think she beat anything like Shampoo. Shampoo is a damn nice horse."

Nonetheless, it didn't sound as though Klokstad would be willing to swap chances with anybody in the Hastings Park.

"I'm really pleased with the way our filly is going now," he said. "She is at the top of her game."

New career begins for retired Super Hero

Super Hero, a son of Fusiachi Pegasus who made his last start at Emerald Downs, is headed for New York. No, he isn't going to prepare for the Belmont. He is a 4-year-old, for one thing, and for another, he has never been a stakes-caliber performer. He is, however, a sound horse with a gentle disposition. That makes him perfect for his next assignment.

"He is going to be a saddle horse for an autistic boy named Morgan Mulhall in Monroe, New York," said Robbie Baze, who trained Super Hero for Ron Whited's K J Star Stable.

According to Morgan's mother, Collette Mulhall, her son saw Super Hero race last year in New York, when he was in Todd Pletcher's barn. Attracted by the horse's name, Morgan fell in love with him. Mother and son followed Super Hero's career through the Internet. He was claimed by Doug O'Neill and raced in California last fall, then he was sold to Whited and put under the care of Baze. He won 1 of 4 starts for his new connections last winter at Portland Meadows, but when he was unplaced in his lone start at this meeting Whited and his stable manager, Jerry Miller, decided to retire him.

"Right about that time Collette Mulhall called me and told me about her son, and we eventually decided to give Super Hero to her son," said Baze. "I understand that riding horses can be very therapeutic for autistic children, and our hope is that Super Hero will be good for Morgan."

Jerry Miller said there was just one hitch.

"We had already given Super Hero away to Lisa Baze," he said, referring to Robbie's second cousin. "As soon as we explained the situation to Lisa, she was gracious enough to let us give the horse to Morgan. We're happy with the way it worked out. When our horses are done, it is important to us that we find a good home for them. I can't think of a better use for Super Hero."

The Great Face back in training

The Great Face worked for the first time since winning last year's Grade 3 Longacres Mile on Thursday, going three furlongs in 35.40 seconds.

"He seemed to go very well," said trainer Tom Wenzel. "It's nice to have him back working. We'll just take it one step at a time, but if everything goes smoothly you might be surprised how soon he will be back racing. Once he gets into a regular work pattern, he can come to hand in a hurry."

* Jockey Jose Rivera Jr. was injured in a training accident on Wednesday when the horse he was galloping, Zona de Impacto, spooked and unseated the rider. Rivera sustained two broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder and ligament damage. Rivera said he will be out of action for about two months.