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THOROUGHBRED RACING : Star Of Cozzene to Race for New Owners

September 24, 1993|BILL CHRISTINE | TIME STAFF WRITER

If Star Of Cozzene is going to win North America's horse-of-the-year title and/or the Eclipse Award for best male turf horse, he will do so under new owners from Japan who bought the 5-year-old this week for about $3 million.

The deal was completed only days after Star Of Cozzene made his last start for the 18-member Team Valor syndicate, winning the Man o' War Stakes at Belmont Park by 5 1/2 lengths. The four new owners, who are starting a stable that will race horses in the United States, call the stable Tomaeato Farm.

A requirement of the sale is that Mark Hennig, who has been training Star Of Cozzene for Team Valor, will continue to care for the horse. "The job that Mark has done with the horse, we would have to be crazy to consider anyone else," said Rollin Baugh, the Newport Beach agent who manages Tomaeato's racing interests.

Baugh said Star Of Cozzene's next start will be in the $500,000 Turf Classic at Belmont on Oct. 9.

"After that, we're keeping our options open," Baugh said. "Our goal is the Japan Cup. As for the Breeders' Cup, we're not including it or excluding it at this point."

The Japan Cup, with an estimated purse of $3.8 million, is the world's richest thoroughbred race, surpassing the $3-million Breeders' Cup Classic, which will be run along with six other Breeders' Cup races at Santa Anita on Nov. 6.

The Japan Cup, in Tokyo, will be run Nov. 28. The logical Breeders' Cup race for Star Of Cozzene is the $2-million Turf, but since he wasn't nominated as a young horse, his new owners would have to pay a $240,000 penalty to make him eligible.

Last year's horse of the year, A.P. Indy, was campaigned by Japanese businessman Tomonori Tsumaki and three American partners. The last turf specialist to win horse of the year was John Henry in 1984, when the 9-year-old gelding won six times on turf and was winless in two starts on dirt. Eclipse voters generally favor horses that run on dirt, but this year there is no standout in that division.

In the Thoroughbred Racing Communications' informal poll this week, 36 voters ranked Star Of Cozzene No. 1. Of the other first-place votes, five were for Sky Beauty, the 3-year-old filly, and two for Bertrando. Bertrando has won only three of eight starts this year, but in his last two races--the Pacific Classic at Del Mar and the Woodward at Belmont--he was overpowering, winning by respective margins of three and 13 1/2 lengths.

Since the Breeders' Cup started in 1984, only three horses--John Henry that year, Spend A Buck in 1985 and Criminal Type in 1990--have won the horse-of-the-year title without running in a cup race.

Barry Irwin, president of Team Valor, said that if Star Of Cozzene hadn't been sold, the syndicate probably would have skipped the Breeders' Cup.

"It would have been absurd to put up the $240,000," Irwin said. "The turf at Santa Anita is likely to be hard, and the horse prefers soft ground. And the horse doesn't handle turns well, and at Santa Anita, the Turf, at a mile and a half, will be a three-turn race."

Star Of Cozzene has six victories and four seconds in 10 races this year, increasing his overall purse money to more than $2 million, most of it while racing for Team Valor. Irwin said that he and his partner, Jeff Siegel, spent $175,000 to acquire Team Valor when he was a 3-year-old, then syndicated him for $235,000.

Baugh won't rule out the Breeders' Cup Turf simply because it will be run at Santa Anita. "This horse has run over all kinds of courses," he said. "I think his versatility has been very admirable."

Star Of Cozzene's first two victories this year came at Santa Anita, but over a course that had been drenched by rainfall during the winter season.

Asked why Team Valor sold Star Of Cozzene, Irwin said: "We had a lot of fun with this horse, and we made a lot of money. But he has only an average pedigree (by Cozzene out of Star Gem), and he's a 5-year-old, so he's getting old. It came to the point where he was worth more to the Japanese than he was to us. His new owners will be capable of bringing him to a higher level. And now we won't be faced with the dilemma of what to do about the Breeders' Cup."

Horse Racing Notes

With Storm Tower out of the race because of a throat infection, Press Card is the 8-5 favorite for tonight's $250,000 Pegasus Stakes at the Meadowlands. Press Card lost by a neck to Wallenda in the Pennsylvania Derby earlier this month. Schossberg is next on the morning line at 2-1, followed by the Bill Shoemaker-trained Diazo at 5-2. Laffit Pincay, who rode Diazo for the first time when he ran a 1:34 4/5 grass mile in winning at Del Mar, has the mount again tonight.

Minks Law, fourth behind Diazo in the Del Mar race, is entered in Saturday's $50,000 Derby Trial Stakes at Fairplex Park. . . . Gundaghia, the 6-year-old gelding who is four for five at Fairplex, will try to win the Governor's Cup Handicap for the third consecutive year when he runs in the 6 1/2-furlong stake next Tuesday. . . . Jockey Martin Pedroza, who suffered a lacerated liver at Fairplex Sunday, is expected to be released from the hospital in the next couple of days. . . . Some trainers hoping to compete in the Breeders' Cup Mile have horses running in the Queen Elizabeth II at Ascot in England on Saturday. Included in the group is Bigstone, whose sire, Last Tycoon, won the Mile at 35-1 at Santa Anita in 1986.

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