10/12/2006 12:00AM

Moss cuts ties with Contessa


Maggi Moss, the leading owner in New York and in the country in terms of wins, has fired Gary Contessa, the winningest trainer in New York this year, after a nine-year working relationship.

Moss has split the horses she had with Contessa between trainers Robert Klesaris and Bruce Levine. Moss said she gave both trainers five horses each. Contessa said it was four each.

Moss, who ranks first nationally in wins (167) and fifth in earnings ($3,246,875), has won 33 races on this circuit in 2006. Moss said she had some concerns with Contessa's stable getting too large.

"Philosophically, we're not in the same book, we're not in the same chapter," Moss said from her Iowa residence. "It's a question of somebody getting bigger and bigger, more horses and more horses, which I didn't feel comfortable with. I feel, as a lawyer, if I have 100 clients, I certainly am going to be spreading myself thinner."

Contessa, who leads all New York trainers in wins with 108, said that he has only 20 more horses now than he did when he began working for Moss nine years ago. In the last year or so, Contessa has picked up some new clients, including Steve Sigler's Winning Move Stable, which has branched out to a 25-horse operation.

"In any situation where two people who have been together as long as Maggi and I have break up, there is always going to be some degree of anger and some degree of uncertainty," Contessa said from his farm outside Saratoga. "I appreciate the time I had with Maggi, and I am not unhappy about the break-up. Considering the way things were going, it was kind of necessary, but I wish her only the best. I wish her trainers the best."

Moss and Contessa were the leading owner and trainer at the last two Aqueduct meets. Since May, Moss had won just eight races from 55 starters in New York. She also races in the Midwest.

Contessa said he has 72 horses split between Aqueduct and Saratoga and will likely keep 60 to 65 between Aqueduct and Belmont this winter. Contessa said that is the same number he kept last winter.

Pletchers sell half of Scat Daddy

Trainer Todd Pletcher and his father, Jake, have sold their combined half-interest in the stakes-winning 2-year-old Scat Daddy to Michael Tabor, one of Pletcher's clients. Scat Daddy, who won the Grade 2 Sanford and finished second in the Grade 1 Hopeful, is scheduled to run in Saturday's Grade 1, $400,000 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park.

"Being a [son of] Johannesburg, he's followed his progress for a while and he knew I was high on him," Todd Pletcher said, referring to Tabor. "We finally decided it was time to sell our interest in him."

Scat Daddy will continue to run in James Scatuorchio's peacock blue and beige diamond silks. Scatuorchio purchased Scat Daddy for $250,000 at the 2005 Keeneland September yearling sale and gave both Pletchers a 25-percent stake in Scat Daddy.

Star Dabbler injured, retired

Star Dabbler, the 3-year-old at the center of a controversial dead-heat finish in last weekend's $500,000 Indiana Derby, came out of the race with a fractured sesamoid and has been retired, trainer Michael Hushion said.

"He cooled out a little off, and we took him to Rood and Riddle for examination, and they found a small sesamoid fracture, and it's in a bad place," Hushion said. "They said he couldn't return to race at his present level."

Star Dabbler, a son of Saint Ballado purchased by Barry Schwartz for $180,000 at the 2004 Keeneland September yearling sale, finished in a dead heat with Cielo Gold in the Indiana Derby. However, Hushion and Schwartz contend the photo finish shows that Star Dabbler won the race outright and have filed a protest with the Indiana Racing Commission.

Star Dabbler, who finished second to Henny Hughes in the Grade 1 King's Bishop, finishes his career with a record of 3-3-1 from 7 starts and earnings of $319,936.

Ashkal Way headed to Citation

Ashkal Way, the winner of the Kelso and Bernard Baruch handicaps on this circuit, will not run in the Breeders' Cup Mile and instead will be pointed the Grade 1 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park on Nov. 24, assistant trainer Rick Mettee said.

Godolphin Racing, which owns Ashkal Way, is considering other runners for the Breeders Cup Mile, including Librettist, Caradak, and Echo of Light.

Mettee also said that Afrashad, winner of a third-level allowance race here with a 111 Beyer Speed Figure last month, is being pointed to the Grade 3, $150,000 Sport Page Handicap at Aqueduct on Oct. 28. The Sport Page is considered a prep for the Grade 1 Cigar Mile on Nov. 25, but it won't be for Afrashad. That's because Godolphin has Discreet Cat pointed to that race.

Discreet Cat, winner of the Jerome Handicap in his last start, is expected to breeze over the weekend, Mettee said.