Ann Stern’s Paradise’s Boss made his debut back from an injury at the Aiken Steeplechase, March 24 in Aiken, S.C., looking every bit the stakes winner in the $40,000 feature.
A 7-year-old son of Thats Our Buck, Paradise’s Boss first started earning his keep in the summer of 2005 when he made $139,568 for his new owner, Mrs. Henry F. Stern, by winning the Meadowbrook Hurdle (N.Y.), the Zeke Ferguson Hurdle Stakes (Va.) and the A.P. Smithwick (N.Y.).
But later that year he was sidelined with a suspensory injury after the Turf Writers $150,000 stakes (N.Y.).
Paradise’s Boss reentered the hurdle season with his usual jockey Xavier Aizpuru up. The pair let frontrunner and stablemate Mark The Shark (William Dowling) take the early lead for almost 2 miles. As Mark The Shark tired, Paradise’s Boss went to the outside, gaining the advantage at the last fence, and won by 3 lengths over a driving Niello (Bernard Dalton). Move Up Stable’s River Bed (Jody Petty) was third, and Mark The Shark took fourth place money.
Trained by Jack Fisher of Monkton, Md., Paradise’s Boss was set to make his comeback last fall, but Fisher thought the ground might be questionable at Far Hills (N.J.), and distances there and at the Colonial Cup (S.C.) might be too much to ask, so he decided to give him the entire year off. Aizpuru said the big dark bay is one in a million.
“If we had more horses like him out there we would have a ton more jockeys riding over fences,” Aizpuru said. “You can place him anywhere. I have won from the front end, the middle and come from behind. What’s great is the opposition really doesn’t know what he will do, and I like it that way. He’s pure pleasure and such a good jumper.”
Still, Aizpuru was surprised that he would win so easily after so much time off. “He was so content just following along behind Mark The Shark, and when I asked he just went,” he said.
Aizpuru and Fisher had a second win of the day in the $25,000 allowance hurdle with another of Stern’s horses, the Peruvian-bred Latino, by a head over Kinross Farm’s Noblest (Matt McCarron).
Latino sat just off the pace behind Swimming River (Robert Walsh) and battled all the way in the stretch with Noblest for the win. This was also a horse that shined brightly in 2005, winning $31,650 his first year sanctioned, and then in 2006 he seemed to hit a wall and barely took home $1,000.
“We could not figure out what his problem was last year,” Aizpuru said. “He never really had any real physical ailments, he just did not run well. Jack has really been working hard with him this year.”
Fisher decided to try him over timber during the winter and then switched back to hurdles, and Latino seems to be on course again to a good season.
“This was his last chance over hurdles,” Fisher said. “If he didn’t do something, he was going to be a timber horse.”
Fisher does a lot of hunting and timber jumping on the off-season with his hurdle horses. “This change seems to have worked very well with Latino,” Fisher said. “Now he’s jumping very fast over hurdles.”
McCarron had better luck in the second race of the day, the $15,000 maiden hurdle with Brigadoon Stable’s Diego Cao. The 5-year-old New Zealand-bred shadowed pacesetter Desert Vigil (Danielle Hodsdon), then moved to the lead after about a mile.
He was challenged only by Dyn In Texas (Rylee Zimmerman), who briefly picked up the lead before Diego Cao shut him out at the wire.
Despite the win, the race did not really go as planned for McCarron. “He totally ran off with me,” McCarron said. “We were supposed to sit about third or fourth, and we did that for a few fences, then he moved up to the lead. After that I was basically his passenger.”
McCarron added, “He’s a brilliant jumper. If we can get him to settle he is going to be great.”
Sarah L. Greenhalgh