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Vice Admiral is used to being second best

The perennial runner-up will try to break through with a victory today in the fourth race at Del Mar, a one-mile event.

July 30, 2007|Eric Sondheimer | Times Staff Writer

If there are any therapists who know how to speak to a horse, please contact trainer Clifford Sise Jr. He has a patient in need of help.

Vice Admiral, a 3-year-old gelding, keeps finishing second. In 10 starts at three Southern California racetracks, he has placed second eight times, including his last seven races.

"It doesn't matter who rides him -- he'll finish second," Sise said.

Six jockeys have ridden Vice Admiral and tried almost everything, from whipping him to not whipping him, from racing him on the inside to placing him on the outside, from taking him to the lead to having him come from behind.

Vice Admiral has run on turf, dirt and synthetic surface, sprinted and gone a distance. It's always the same.

"Any place we run him, he'll run second," co-owner Ted Aroney said. "A horse psychologist, we need one. We're exhausted."

Vice Admiral has been idle since a second-place finish at Hollywood Park on June 20 when he lost by a head at one mile on the turf, but he's scheduled to run today in the fourth race at Del Mar, a one-mile event for maidens on the Polytrack.

Five times in 10 starts, the bettors have made Vice Admiral the favorite, and the fans are getting antsy.

"They make fun of me," Aroney said. "They go, 'Well, are you going to run second today?' "

Vice Admiral, a gelded son of Bertrando, was purchased for $55,000 as a yearling by Aroney and co-owner Alan Magerman. He has earned nearly $98,000 without a victory and obviously without any sense of what finishing second means. Perhaps his name fits him too well, since vice admiral is one rank below admiral.

"Some of my good horses, when they got beat, they'd be mad," Sise said. "With Vice Admiral, nothing. I don't know what his reaction would be if he won."

In 2005 and 2006, King Palm, a horse owned by the Maloof brothers from Sacramento, finished second in nine consecutive races. King Palm, a 6-year-old, finally won for the first time in March at Santa Anita after 11 second-place finishes in 16 starts.

Sise hopes giving Vice Admiral more than a month between races will result in a winning performance today under jockey Joe Talamo. Then again, maybe a call to Dr. Phil could be in order if he finishes second.

"I can't complain, but everybody likes to win," Aroney said. "One more second and I'm going to check him into a clinic."

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