11/16/2010 3:24PM

Racing Aptitude could be another big one for Tesher

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Jim Lisa Photos
Racing Aptitude,winning the Arthur Appleton Juvenile Turf, will experiment on dirt in the Fountain of Youth.

MIAMI – Howie Tesher was a mainstay on the New York circuit for decades before relocating permanently to Calder this spring. And from the looks and sound of things both on and off the racetrack, life in south Florida is really agreeing with the veteran horseman.

Tesher, who made his mark in the local area when he sent out the 29-1 Bull Inthe Heather to upset Gulfstream Park’s Florida Derby in 1993, looks like he will have another promising 3-year-old prospect this winter at Gulfstream in Racing Aptitude. A homebred son of Aptitude owned by Donald Dizney, Racing Aptitude posted his first stakes victory when he began Saturday’s Florida Million Day program here with a popular 2 1/2-length triumph in the Arthur Appleton Juvenile Turf. The victory was his second consecutive on the grass.

“That’s what horse racing is all about,” Tesher said. “Good horses make trainers look good and bad ones make them look bad.”

Tesher’s stable was down on both quality and quantity when he decided to stay in Florida after completing his regular winter sojourn in Miami for the 2010 Gulfstream season.

“I didn’t have much stock at the time, so I just decided to stay here last spring,” said Tesher. “I’d rather be broke down here and be able to enjoy the sun and swim than be broke in New York. The people at Calder have been great to me and I love the racetrack – horses do well on it. In fact I’m going to remain stabled here this winter rather than go back over to Gulfstream. Allen [Jerkens] even said he’d come over to visit.”

Having a stakes winning 2-year-old like Racing Aptitude in the barn also helps rekindle one’s enthusiasm for the business. Especially for an old pro like Tesher, who has won many Grade 1 races and is just nine victories shy of his 1,300th career win.

“I had 38 Grade 1 winners but if you ask me the names, I probably couldn’t remember five of them,” Tesher said with a laugh.

“Bull Inthe Heather got good for a short period of time but was never sound. This horse is sound. I’m not staying this colt is that good yet but I think he’s pretty nice and he just keeps learning and improving every day. He comes from a good family, and while I think he’s fine on dirt, at the moment he seems to be much better on the grass.”

Tesher was also quick to praise the job jockey Luis Saez did in getting Racing Aptitude out of trouble and into the winner’s circle in the Appleton.

“The kid really rode him well,” said Tesher, noting that “my rider was smart, just took him back, sat and waited, came out and got him to finish strong.”

Tesher said he will target the Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby here on New Year’s Day for Racing Aptitude’s next start.

“The timing is good, and these people are great to train for because they let you take your time and do what you want,” said Tesher. “It’s really exciting to have a horse like this. I haven’t had one in a while.”

New division leaders

Racing Aptitude was one of several juveniles who turned in huge performances on Florida Million day, along with Manicero and Devilish Lady, who moved to the head of their respective divisions with easy wins in the seven-furlong Jack Price Juvenile and Joe O’Farrell Juvenile Fillies.

Devilish Lady, a former $16,000 claimer, actually ran the faster of the two races, completing the distance in 1:25.39 compared with Manicero’s final clocking of 1:25.77 although Manicero posted that time after setting much faster internal splits.

Devilish Lady, who is trained by Antonio Sano, replaces Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Awesome Feather atop the local 2-year-old filly division after tAwesome Feather was bought privately and sent to trainer Chad Brown last week.

Manicero is trained by Leo Azpurua Jr. for his father, Leo Sr. and has now recorded two impressive wins since adding blinkers following an eventful career debut.

◗ Racing resumes Thursday with an eight-race card topped by the finale, a second-level optional claiming dash carded at five furlongs on the turf. The event brought together the usual suspects in the category, led by Don’t Say No, Purely Precious, Dixie Matt and Family Holiday while also marking the return of Hellen’s Choice who is perfect in two starts over the local course but idle since Feb. 28.

◗ The 2010-11 Tropical at Calder meeting will now run through Jan. 4 after originally being scheduled to shut down on its longstanding closing date of Jan. 2. Management had previously announced the addition of Monday, Jan. 3 to the schedule and earlier this week said it would now also conduct a live racing program on Tuesday, Jan. 4, as well. The 2011 Gulfstream meeting opens the following afternoon, Jan. 5.