11/23/2005 1:00AM

The Niner Account: Good horse, bad leg


The Niner Account has gone from $350,000 sales topper, to $10,000 claimer, to multiple stakes winner, and in a five-furlong turf allowance at Remington Park in Oklahoma City on Friday night he will try for his 18th career victory.

was meant to be a top athlete but a tendon injury to his right foreleg as a young horse compromised his career. Not long after winning a maiden special weight at Churchill Downs and finishing third in a Belmont Park allowance, he descended into the claiming ranks.

Time, however, has allowed the tendon injury to stabilize, and The Niner Account, 7, has climbed back up the class ladder to be a force in the allowance and stakes ranks in Oklahoma and Texas.

"I had a guy in Kentucky tell me one time that he thought that he would be a Kentucky Derby contender when he was a baby," said Gary Owens, who claimed The Niner Account for $20,000 in February 2004. "He said he was that good a horse and then he got hurt."

The Niner Account topped Fasig-Tipton's sale of 2-year-olds in training in Maryland in May 2000, when purchased by the late trainer Jeff Jacobs, who was acting as agent. He had the right look and pedigree.

Bred by Will Farish, The Niner Account is a son of Unaccounted For, winner of the Grade 1 Whitney. His third dam is Moccasin, who was the 2-year-old filly champion in 1965 and also voted horse of the year in 1965 by the Thoroughbred Racing Associations.

The Niner Account tends to knock out his competition on the front end. He won a maiden race wire to wire in June 2001, and when he put five straight wins together from July 2003 to September 2003 for trainer Steve Asmussen, he led at almost every call in the claiming and starter races he competed in at Louisiana Downs and Lone Star Park.

"He's so awesome," said Asmussen, who remembers The Niner Account as a young horse at auction, then claimed him for himself when he showed up for a price of $10,000 at Fair Grounds in December 2002.

Asmussen did not start The Niner Account until July 2003, won all five starts he made with him, and lost him for $20,000. Two races later, The Niner Account was in for $20,000 again, at Oaklawn, and was taken by Owens and trainer Martin Lozano.

"When I dropped the claim, someone was standing there and asked me, 'Who did you put the claim on?' " said Lozano. "I said the number one horse, The Niner Account, and he said, 'Man, that horse, the tendon is gone. And I said, 'Too late, I already dropped it.'

"We could see that he had always tried in his races. [Owens] knew he had a problem, and took a chance to see what he could do with him."

It turned out to be one the best moves the owner has made.

"He's by far the best horse I've had," said Owens, a 46-year-old businessman based in Mustang, Okla., who has 50 horses in training. "Last year, I think he was the number one horse the first six months of the year in the United States for wins."

The Niner Account won 6 of his first 9 starts in 2004. In all, he has won 17 of 30 starts and $297,030. The Niner Account has stepped up his game since returning to the allowance ranks in April 2004. He won his first stakes, the $40,000 Brother Brown on turf, in October 2004, and his second, the $40,000 Taliaferro Memorial on dirt, this September.

Part of his success comes from the attention to detail he receives from Lozano, a leading trainer in Texas and Oklahoma.

"When we got him he had a bow," said Lozano, 42. "The right tendon was much thicker than the other one. For the groom to have this horse, he has to really like him, because it's a lot of work. He has less horses than the other grooms to work on him."

The Niner Account's routine care includes the use of Ball Solution, an iodine-based leg paint.

"When the tendon is really tight, we change to poultice and ice," said Lozano. "He's never given us any problem with the tendon. It looks pretty normal now."

Lozano personally gallops The Niner Account. His regular rider is Cliff Berry.

"He's a very intense racehorse and he knows what he's there for," said Berry. "He was probably cut out to be any kind of horse. It's been my privilege to ride him."