12/07/2010 4:47PM

Trip for A. J. shines in defeat


MIAMI – Trip for A. J. has won four stakes and posted Beyer Speed Figures in the mid- to high 90’s on four occasions during her career. But it was a race she didn’t win or Beyer in the 90’s, Saturday’s Grade 3 My Charmer Handicap, that was arguably the best race that Trip for A. J., a homebred daughter of Trippi, has ever run.

Trip for A. J. finished second, beaten less than a length by the red-hot Kentucky invader Askbut I Won’ttell in the 1 1/8-mile My Charmer, a performance for which she received an 89 Beyer Figure. But her effort goes beyond raw numbers or the final placing, considering she was facing the stiffest competition of her career and was hard-used on the front end contesting the pace with the 65-1 Volver, who ultimately finished last for her troubles.

“She ran a super race,” said Milt Wolfson, who trains Trip for A. J. for owner-breeder Peter Fuller. “I was so proud of her. If that darn longshot doesn’t hang on me for so long I think she might have won it. That was easily the toughest company she ever ran against, and I thought it was definitely one of her best races if not her best one yet.”

Trip for A. J. concluded her 3-year-old campaign with six wins in a dozen starts and earnings of more than $233,000. Three of those wins came on turf, all stakes, and three over the main track, including the Nancy’s Glitter when she beat older horses in late July. “It’s really hard to put a period behind whether she’s better on turf or dirt,” said Wolfson. “She’s always had an excuse when she’s been beaten on the main track like the last clunker when she bled on me. I do believe she’s a little more flexible on the grass. She doesn’t have to be on the lead on turf, but the couple of times we tried to take her back on dirt she didn’t seem crazy about it. That’s perhaps the main difference when comparing her over the two surfaces.”

Wolfson said his next major goal for Trip for A. J. is the Sunshine Millions Distaff Turf at Gulfstream on Jan. 29.

“There’s a race for her on Jan. 9 which they just made a Grade 3,” said Wolfson, referring to the Marshua’s River. “But I don’t want to sacrifice $300,000 for $100,000 either. It would be nice to give her a race over the course but it depends on what she tells me whether she gets the prep or goes straight into the Sunshine Millions.”

Bernie the Maestro will pass on Hooper

Wolfson worked his stakes winner Bernie the Maestro five furlongs in 1:02 here Monday but did not nominate the 3-year-old to Saturday’s Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper Handicap. Bernie the Maestro is winless in four starts since capturing the American Dreamer on July 25.

“A mile and one eighth race like the Hooper is just a little beyond him,” said Wolfson. “He hasn’t run in six weeks but there’s a $25,000 starter coming up here on the 17th that he’s eligible for and I hope that one goes. That’s the race I was blowing him out for today.”

The Hooper drew a field of eight topped, as expected, by 120 pound highweight Mambo Meister, who’ll break from post seven under Manoel Cruz. The field, in post position order, also includes Tackleberry (Javier Santiago); Cash Rules (Eibar Coa); King Ghidorah (Jose Alvarez); Dream Maestro (Juan Leyva); Chirac (Paco Lopez); St. Maximus Gato (Eduardo Nunez); and Imperial Council (Rajiv Maragh).

Mambo Meister tuned up for the Hooper by working an easy half-mile in 50.43 seconds on a very chilly morning here Tuesday.

◗ Maragh will begin accepting mounts here Friday and plans to ride out the remainder of the Tropical Park meet, according to his agent, Rich DePass. He’s named on six horses including Imperial Council on Saturday.

◗ The $150,000 W L McKnight Handicap is the lone Grade 2 event on the Tropical at Calder session and closed this weekend with 22 nominations. Presious Passion, already a two time winner of the 12 furlong McKnight, tops the list which also includes Grade 1 winners Prince Will I Am and Telling. The McKnight will be decided over the turf on Dec. 18.

◗ Dream of Atlantis, runner-up in the Unbridled Stakes in just his third career start earlier this season, will return to allowance company when topping a field of eight 3-year-olds and up in Thursday’s $28,000 allowance feature. Dream of Atlantis has not started since finishing fourth and last after contesting the early pace with the odds on D’Funnybone in the Grade 2 Carry Back on July 10.