09/25/2008 11:00PM

Wonder Mon continues small stable's success

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The wondrous success of Maryland breeder/owners Foard Wilgis and David Picarello continued in Laurel Park's Deputed Testamony Stakes last weekend.

Wonder Mon, campaigning as a homebred for Wilgis and Picarello's ZWP Stable, blew away six Maryland-bred 3-year-old rivals, scoring by 6 1/4 lengths.

Who, you might ask, is Wonder Mon? A gelding by Maria's Mon, he's the first foal from ZWP Stable's stakes-placed mare Runnin Wonder, who happens to be a half-sister to its million-dollar earner Cherokee's Boy.

ZWP Stable, while modest in scope, has made a big mark within Maryland.

Wilgis is a Teamster who manages the transportation department for movie and TV crews in Baltimore. Picarello owns a GNC (General Nutrition Center) store in the Canton section of the city.

In the early 1990s, flush with prize money they'd earned for finishing second in a handicapping contest, Wilgis and Picarello decided to organize a racing partnership.

Their first runner was Cherokee Wonder, a daughter of Cherokee Colony whom they purchased as a yearling for $5,500 at the 1992 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic December mixed sale.

"We figured she'd get claimed, and we'd be out," says Foard.

But Cherokee Wonder arrived with an agenda of her own.

Trained by Gary Capuano, who has handled all of the ZWP racehorses, Cherokee Wonder developed into a multiple stakes winner and multiple graded-placed earner of $284,005.

When she retired, Wilgis and Picarello naturally progressed to breeding. And Cherokee Wonder rewarded them handsomely once again, producing as her second foal Cherokee's Boy (by Citidancer), who earned $1,177,946 during a well-traveled career that spanned five seasons and encompassed 14 stakes wins and 14 stakes placings.

Voted Maryland-bred horse of the year in 2005, along with earning two statebred divisional titles, Cherokee's Boy now stands as property of ZWP Stable at Maryland Stallion Station in Glyndon, Md. His first foals were born this year.

Wilgis and Picarello have not been strangers to bad fortune. Cherokee Wonder died of a colic illness in 2001, and despite desperate efforts to save him, her Citidancer foal lived only a few weeks.

But Cherokee Wonder, who was posthumously honored as Maryland's broodmare of the year in 2005, had an exceptional strike rate with her only two foals.

The first, Runnin Wonder (a 1999 daughter of Chimes Band), placed in two stakes and earned $79,100. She is one of two broodmares in production for ZWP.

Boarded year-round at Jerry and Laurie Calhoun's Summer Wind Farm in Libertytown, Md., Runnin Wonder became an instant producer when Wonder Mon won his only start at 2.

In his 3-year-old debut on Jan. 2 at Laurel, Wonder Mon won impressively enough for the ZWP partners and Capuano to consider a Triple Crown bid.

Capuano took Wonder Mon to Florida with that dream in mind, but the colt fell ill after the trip, said Wilgis, and he showed little in his three starts on the Florida circuit.

A disappointing spring campaign in Maryland prompted Wonder Mon's connections to give him a lengthy rest. The Deputed Testamony, his first start since May 3, and also his first performance as a gelding, raised his earnings to $79,510.

Wonder Mon's next start is undecided, but his future appears promising.

So do the prospects of his yearling full sister, whom Wilgis and Picarello look forward to racing.

Runnin Wonder has one other foal, the 2-year-old Harlan's Holiday filly Hogan Beach, whom Wilgis and Picarello sold for $90,000 at the 2007 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale. Resold for $175,000 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. 2-year-olds in training sale last March, Hogan Beach has started twice but has not yet won her maiden.

Runnin Wonder was barren for 2008 to the cover of Broken Vow.

Stakes wins for two state champs

Two Maryland-bred champions of 2007 were in the limelight last weekend.

Champion steeplechaser Good Night Shirt is well on his way to a second consecutive Eclipse Award after winning Belmont Park's $150,000 Lonesome Glory Steeplechase for his third Grade 1 victory in three starts this season.

Steve's Double, last year's champion Maryland-bred 3-year-old male, captured the $200,000 Unbridled Handicap at Louisiana Downs.