12/19/2003 1:00AM

Stalwart Member retired at age 10


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Stalwart Member, a constant presence on the New York racing scene since 1995, has been retired.

The popular New York-bred finished second in his last start on Dec. 13 at Aqueduct in a $7,500 claiming race, the bottom of the ladder in New York. In the paddock before the race, Stalwart Member's co-owner, Sanford Goldfarb, said the 10-year-old gelding was physically sound but would be retired after he ran.

"He is such a special horse; you can't measure his heart," Goldfarb said Friday. "He always wanted to win. He saw a hole and he would go for it. He gave his life to the game, and he deserves this retirement."

Stalwart Member, a son of Claramount out of Ms. Stalwart, retires with a record of 18-7-13 in 64 starts and earnings of $783,807.

He made his first 38 starts for his breeder, Edwin Wachtel, and trainer Howie Tesher. Among his 10 wins for Wachtel were the Grade 3 Sport Page, the Grade 3 Gravesend, and the Hollie Hughes, all in 1997, as well as two runnings of the General Douglas MacArthur.

Goldfarb and trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. claimed Stalwart Member for $35,000 in July 2000. They lost him in a claiming race in July 2002, but Goldfarb claimed him back two months later. Stalwart Member's most important wins for Goldfarb came in the Sport Page and Hudson in 2000.

Stalwart Member is the first member of Unbridled, a new Thoroughbred retirement foundation founded by Goldfarb and managed by Susan Kayne. Kayne has placed Stalwart Member at Double B Farm, a show horse barn in Clifton Park, N.Y.

Goldfarb said he felt a strong need to create Unbridled for horses who are no longer able to run, and hopes he set an example by retiring Stalwart Member when he was still sound.

"I'm getting sick and tired of seeing an unbelievable amount of horses breaking down," Goldfarb said. "I claim horses, and there are so many that are in bad shape."

West Virginia to rest up until next year

West Virginia, who won Wednesday's Damon Runyon for his second stakes victory, will get a freshening before returning to the races next year as a 3-year-old.

West Virginia, a New York-bred son of Tomorrows Cat, won the restricted Damon Runyon by a neck over Salty Character. In November, West Virginia won the restricted Park Avenue Stakes and was third in the Grade 2 Remsen.

Seth Benzel, an assistant to West Virginia's trainer, Todd Pletcher, said a decision to give the colt a break was made before he ran in the 1 1/16-mile Damon Runyon, his fifth start of the year.

"He came out of the race 100 percent, but he's had a tough campaign and we thought at this juncture he would benefit from a break," Benzel said. "He's already showed a lot of heart, and obviously going from 2 to 3 there will be some maturing. I think he will be in the top of his generation of New York-breds next year."

The New York-bred division of 2-year-olds this year has been unusually strong. Besides West Virginia, there is Remsen winner Read the Footnotes, who could be among the finalists in the Eclipse Award voting, and Friends Lake, a good-looking winner of the Sleepy Hollow Stakes in October at Belmont.

Boston Park headed to Aqueduct Handicap

The inner track seems to do the trick for Boston Park, who won a 1 1/16-mile allowance race here on Wednesday and paid $61.50. It was the 3-year-old's first win since the Whirlaway Stakes on the inner track on Feb. 8.

After winning the Whirlaway, Boston Park was on the sidelines until October. When he returned to the races, he lost three starts before his 1 1/4-length win in Wednesday's third-level allowance race.

Peter Hutton, an assistant to Boston Park's trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, said he has circled the $100,000 Aqueduct Handicap on Jan. 17 for Boston Party's next start.

"He beat some nice horses [Wednesday]," Hutton said. "The race before that, I don't think he handled the one turn. He went into this race with a lot confidence."

Hutton said he plans to enter Quick Action, a 4 1/4-length winner of his career debut on Nov. 15, in the $60,000 Maria's Mon, an overnight stakes for 2-year-olds on Friday.

Casse begins suspension for drug positive

Trainer Mark Casse was suspended for seven days after one of his runners tested positive for a tranquilizer. A postrace sample on Saree, who finished sixth in the eighth race at Belmont Park on Oct. 26, showed the presence of acepromazine.

Casse, who waived his right to appeal and therefore had his 15-day suspension reduced to seven, also was fined $1,000. His suspension started on Saturday.

* Jockey Ariel Smith began serving a seven-day suspension on Saturday for careless riding in the first race on Dec. 17.

* Jockey agent Vic Gilardi is taking some time off for health reasons. Gilardi had been booking mounts for Aaron Gryder, who will now be represented by Max Hall.