02/02/2008 12:00AM

An Naabi, Bischoff successful senior citizens


PORTLAND, Ore. - It's unusual to see a 12-year-old horse who is still racing, and it is rarer still when such an aged campaigner is able to win. An Naabi, a 12-year-old son of Phone Trick, did just that Jan. 27 at Portland Meadows when he drew away to defeat younger $2,500 claimers by 6 3/4 lengths in 1:07.40 for 5 1/2 furlongs.

"I'm pretty proud of him," said owner and trainer Eulia Bischoff. "He's a special horse."

Bischoff, 81, is something of a rarity herself. She didn't begin training until she retired from her longtime job as office manager for a local utilities board in the late 1970s.

"I took an early retirement, but after a couple of months of sitting around at home I was bored to death," Bischoff recalled. "I had a few Quarter Horses in training with Larry Wheeler at the time, so I decided to amuse myself by training them. I didn't know much about training, but I had ridden horses since I was a girl and I wasn't afraid to ask questions. So many people helped me, I really couldn't begin to name them all."

Bischoff soon graduated to Thoroughbreds, notching her first official win with the breed in September 1981 at Salem. It took her six more years to amass 35 wins, but she has been averaging more than 20 wins a year over the last two decades and her win total now stands at 260, with purse earnings just shy of $1 million.

Eighteen of those wins and more than $60,000 of the purse earnings have come courtesy of An Naabi.

"I bought him privately for Dave and Pam Woods, just after he had broken his maiden as a 4-year-old," said Bischoff. "I've had him ever since. He was claimed away twice but I claimed him right back, first for Rick Roddy and then for myself."

The last time An Naabi was claimed away, as a 9-year-old in 2005, the normally mild-mannered Bischoff threw a fit. She threw her bridle in the offending horseman's face and berated him in the paddock. She is now embarrassed by the incident, which she considers unprofessional. Still, she would probably do the same thing if somebody risked her wrath by claiming An Naabi again.

"He's my buddy," she said. "We just click together, and I really enjoy having him around. He is so well-behaved that I could sleep in his stall, but he is still a tiger on the track. Tadd Skaggs gallops him, and Tadd says it is all he can do to hold him down. And on race days he gets as excited as a 2-year-old. He is just a good-feeling horse, and he is probably one of the soundest horses on the grounds."

Despite his continuing zest for racing, Bischoff said An Naabi will probably be retired after this season.

"I'd like for him to get his 20th win, but after he does that I want to find a good home for him," she said. "I think he'd make somebody a really nice dressage horse, and I know he would be a good companion. He's been so good to me, I just want him to be able to enjoy the rest of his life."

Blue Sky Holiday gets to stick around

Blue Sky Holiday and Lady's Purse staged a memorable stretch duel in last Monday's one-mile invitational handicap for 3-year-old fillies, with the upstart Blue Sky Holiday finally edging away late to upset the heavily favored Lady's Purse by three-quarters of a length in 1:43.43. The fillies will probably go at it again in the 1 1/16-mile Oregon Oaks on closing day, March 11.

"We were going to send her home if she didn't win, but now we'll keep her here for the Oaks," said Tom Longstaff, who trains Blue Sky Holiday for owner Dan Sutherland. "I really don't think it was a fluke, because our filly probably has the best route breeding of any horse on the grounds. In all fairness, though, Lady's Purse was coming back in a week and we probably didn't see her best stuff."

Blue Sky Holiday is indeed bred to excel over a route of ground, being by Belmont Stakes winner Victory Gallop and out of a long-winded daughter of Rahy.

Lady's Purse, a three-time stakes winner, didn't run her best race. Whether that was because she was coming back just eight days after winning the OTOBA Stallion Stakes, conceding six pounds to her rival, or because she was forced to race pinned down on the rail is open for debate. What is certain is that the stage is now set for a most intriguing rematch in the Oaks.

Mystic Wood on target for Mile

Mystic Wood snapped back to form with a sharp 2 1/2-length score over several of the best older sprinters on the grounds in a six-furlong invitational handicap on Jan. 27. Mystic Wood, a winner of 6 of 12 starts since being purchased privately by owner and trainer Roger Stevenson early last year, had been eased in his previous outing at a mile and 70 yards on Nov. 26. Stevenson gave him plenty of time to regroup, and the trainer now feels he is back on track for an engagement in the $40,000 Portland Meadows Mile on March 10.

"I was really pleased with the way he came back," said Stevenson. "I was worried that I didn't have him fit enough. He doesn't have a great work ethic. He worked five furlongs in 1:05.20 for this race, and that time was legit. Still, he looked good in the paddock and he ran to his looks. Now I'll sprint him again in the Governor's Speed Handicap on Feb. 18, then it will be on to the Mile. I think a mile is within his range, but it might be right at the end of his range. I can't cheat with him. I'll have to have him at his very best if he is going to win it."