10/21/2008 12:00AM

Wait a While result of a father's influence


ARCADIA, Calif. - What's the difference between owning a professional sports franchise and a champion racehorse? Just ask Alan Cohen, who is both the principal owner of the Florida Panthers NHL hockey team and the Eclipse Award-winning mare Wait a While.

"The biggest difference is that Wait had three good years in a row and an agent never called," quipped Cohen, 54, who headed the consortium that purchased the Panthers from H. Wayne Huizenga in 2001.

Wait a While, 5, will have an opportunity to add to her already impressive resume as America's top hope in Friday's Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

Win or lose, Wait a While has already established herself among the top fillies and mares of her era, having earned an Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old filly of 2006. And win or lose, she will always be an important part of Cohen's life.

"She's very special to me," said Cohen. "Like part of the family."

Cohen, who made his niche in the business world as the founder of several pharmaceutical firms, became interested in racing as a youth when he accompanied his father, Stanley, to the races in New York. And it is because of his dad that he purchased Wait a While. In fact, his father is also responsible for her name.

"My dad was sick with leukemia several years ago, so I decided to go out and buy a horse to make myself feel better," said Cohen. "I had always loved horses and it just made me feel better to hang around the horses at the racetrack. So much so that a month later I decided to buy a farm."

Following the purchase of the 500-acre Arindel Farm in Ocala, Fla., Cohen expanded his racing concerns, purchasing a dozen broodmares and several 3-year-olds. Cohen's next move was to attend the Ocala Breeders' 2-year-olds in training sale at Calder with trainer Todd Pletcher in February 2005.

"I informed my dad I was going to buy a 2-year-old and name it after him, and he told me to 'wait a while,' which was an expression he always used," Cohen said. "I wound up purchasing three 2-year-olds at that sale, one of whom just sort of stared at me for a while. That startled me and I knew she was the one I had to name Wait a While."

More than $2 million in earnings and an Eclipse Award later, Wait a While continues to honor the memory of Cohen's late father.

"My dad got to see a few of her races but never got to see her become a champion," said Cohen. "At least not down here."

Pletcher has been an integral part of Wait a While's career since advising Cohen to purchase her as a 2-year-old.

"Alan is just a terrific guy to train for," said Pletcher. "He's very laid back and extremely appreciative of how very hard it is to come by a filly or any horse this good. Having her to train has been a lot of fun for me and even more so since Alan made the decision to keep her in training another year instead of retiring her to stud this past season."

Pletcher added that any decision as to Wait a While's future beyond the Breeders' Cup will have to, as Cohen's father would say, wait a while.

"I'm not 100 percent sure if this will be her last race," said Pletcher. "We're leaning that way but it's not set in stone. She's had a light campaign and could come back again this winter or even race again next season. One of the key reasons Alan decided to keep her in training this year was because the Breeders' Cup was being run at Santa Anita and she loves this course so much. Well the Breeders' Cup is being run here again next year, too."

As for Cohen, who lives in south Florida but spends as much time as his business commitments will allow at Arindel with his family, said he's actually looking forward to Wait a While's retirement from racing.

"I can't wait to get her back to the farm and feed her carrots all the time," said Cohen.