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HORSE RACING

Tailor Fit Wears World Champion Crown

January 17, 2002|BILL CHRISTINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Polling 62 of the 87 votes, Tailor Fit has been named world champion quarter horse for 2001, becoming the eighth multiple winner of the award and only the third horse to win the title in non-consecutive years.

Tailor Fit was voted world champion in 1999, then won only two of five starts in 2000 as the undefeated A Ransom won the title. A Ransom finished second in the 2001 polling with 21 votes. Four horses--Hawkinson, Pivotal Decision, Stoli and Tres Seis--received one vote apiece.

Before Tailor Fit, the only horses to repeat as world champion in non-consecutive years were Maddon's Bright Eyes in 1949 and 1951 and Kaweah Bar in 1968 and 1970. The last horse to be voted world champion twice was SLM Big Daddy in 1997-98.

Tailor Fit was trained by Steve VanBebber when he won the world championship in 1999. Charged by Texas racing authorities with running two illegally drugged horses, VanBebber feared a lengthy, career-ending suspension and committed suicide in December 2000. Janet VanBebber, his wife, took over the stable and trained Tailor Fit last year as the 6-year-old California-bred gelding won four of six starts, climaxed by a victory in the Champion of Champions race at Los Alamitos. A Ransom, winner of the Champion of Champions in 2000, was third this time, beaten by more than a half-length.

"The word that best illustrates Tailor Fit is class," Janet VanBebber said. "I'm proud as a horseman of what this horse has accomplished."

Alvin "Bubba" Brossette, replacing Jacky Martin, rode Tailor Fit in his last three races last year. Picked out by Janet VanBebber at a yearling auction, Tailor Fit was bought by Tom Ward for $24,000 and sold two years later for $130,000 to Betty Jane Burlin, owner of a real estate firm in College Station, Texas.

In voting for champion trainer, Janet VanBebber was edged by John Bassett, who had 41 wins, including victories by Ausual Suspect in the All American Futurity and Achievement in the Los Alamitos Million Juvenile. Bassett will begin the year serving a 45-day suspension after he recently dropped an appeal stemming from one of his horses testing positive for cocaine at Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico last June. Bassett said this week that he was innocent, suggesting that one of the horse's handlers, who also tested positive for cocaine, probably accidentally contaminated the horse.

Tailor Fit also was voted best aged champion and champion aged gelding. Other winners were: Your First Moon, 2-year-old filly; Tres Seis, 2-year-old colt; Shining Sky, 2-year-old gelding; Tiny First Effort, 3-year-old filly; Stoli, 3-year-old colt; Whosleavingwho, 3-year-old gelding; Hawkinson, aged stallion; Corona Cool, aged mare; Sign Of Lanty, distance champion; Sizzling Lil, champion broodmare; and Royal Quick Wind, Canadian champion. Hawkinson, named on 88 of the ballots for aged stallion, was the top vote-getter.

In separate voting, Your First Moon beat out Tres Seis as best overall 2-year-old by four votes, and Stoli was voted best 3-year-old.

Ed Allred, owner of Los Alamitos Race Course, was voted champion breeder for a record eighth time. Joe Badilla Jr. was voted top jockey for a fourth time. The owner award went to Dutch Masters III, a partnership consisting of James Streelman of Anaheim and Denny Boer and Doug Benson of Jerome, Idaho. Dutch Masters won 58 races with horses that earned $969,565.

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