At the races - Yetsook honored by Eclipse Award vote

February 04, 2007|by LARRY YANOS

Charles Town-based trainer George Yetsook joined some elite company in January when he received a vote in the National Eclipse Awards' Trainer of the Year category.

The veteran conditioner, believed to be the first Charles Town-based horseman to ever receive such a vote, was delighted with the recognition but said he shares it with many others.

"It's a huge honor for any trainer to be in that company," Yetsook said. "Only nine trainers in the country received votes. I was surprised, very happy, it's a big accomplishment. This award, though, belongs to many people. I have a great group of helpers."

Yetsook, who came to Charles Town from Suffolk Downs in Boston, said he has always been surrounded by some talented horsemen and co-workers.


"I remember two close friends in paricular that I had at Suffolk (Wilbur Trafton and Richard Fruzelli), they were wonderful. I learned so much from those gentlemen," Yetsook said. "They survived with average horses and they got the job done day after day."

Now in his seventh year as trainer for O'Sullivan Farms, Yetsook has turned his attention to his 22-horse stable.

Confucious Say and Julie B are the two leaders of the barn, but Yetsook says it's an impressive group overall.

"I think our horses grossed $655,000 from 62 starts, a little over $10,000 a start and the highest at Charles Town," Yetsook said. "Just about all of the horses ran well."

Here's a look at the two standouts trained by Yetsook:

The 9-year-old Confucius Say won the featured race of the West Virginia Breeders Classics in 2001 and 2002.

An ankle spur forced him off the track for 3 1/2 years, but he enjoyed a spendid 2006 and Yetsook hopes to run him again this year.

"We treat him with kid gloves," Yetsook said. "We never run him unless the track is in good condiotion, never run him on an off-track, he just doesn't like a sloppy surface."

In Confucius Say's second race back in 2006, Yetsook and Charles Town followers watched in amazement.

"He won a 4 1/2 (furlong race) in May and came back five weeks later and hooked a great field, including Outcashem," Yetsook said. "They went like :22, :44, 1:09 and finished in 17. You don't see those kind of numbers at Charles Town. Outcashem beat him in a photo."

Confucious Say made his 2007 debut in January at Charles Town and finished third in a 7-furlong race, beaten by less than three lengths.

Lifetime, he has 14 wins, eight seconds and four thirds in 31 races for career earnings of $632,000.

"If he stays healthy, we plan a nice 2007 schedule with him - including the Breeders Classic," Yetsook said.

Julie B is a very talented 4-year-old thoroughbred and Yetsook and owner Randy Funkhouser expect another great year.

"She's had 11 starts with seven wins, made over $330,000 and missed the board just once," Yetsook said. "She was sprinting (earlier in her career) but she likes longer. She's an extremely talented filly."

Yetsook said she just needs to mature.

"She likes to play, never got serious about racing," the trainer said. "When she gets the lead, she thinks the race is over. She looks around.

"We are giving her some time off now," Yetsook said. "We are looking at a race at Aqueduct sometime later this month or in March."

Jockey Larry Reynolds is the regular rider for both Confucius Say and Julie B.

Napravnik recovering

Jockey Rosie Napravnik, Maryland's top rider last year, suffered three compression fractures in the thoracic region of her back as a result of a spill at Laurel Park on Jan. 26 and will be sidelined another 6-to-10 weeks.

The incident occurred a furlong past the finish line when Napravnik's mount - Look Out Lorie - tumbled to the ground after finishing second in the sixth race, spilling the 18-year-old rider.

It is the second major injury for Napravnik, who won 300 races in 2006 and was runner-up for the Eclipse Award for outstanding apprentice.

In November 2005, she fractured her left collarbone in a spill and missed nearly six weeks. She returned to dominate the Maryland jockey colony, capturing the riding titles at all four meets at the major Maryland tracks a year ago: Laurel Park winter (99 wins), Pimlico spring (56 wins), Laurel summer (12 wins) and Laurel fall (92 wins).

She currently has 387 career victories with $8 million in earnings.

Pony tales

It will be business as usual today at Charles Town.

"The Super Bowl won't affect our live racing schedule," racing secretary Doug Lamp said. "We'll have our usual 1 p.m. post time."

Lamp said there is currently $4.5 million in the horsemen's account, and purses should remain the same for awhile.

Stanley Bavlish defeated more than 250 horse-racing handicappers to win the 8th annual NTRA National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas.

The life-long handicapper stormed from mid-pack on day two to capture Handicapper of the Year honors, winning more than $400,000 in prize money.

Larry Yanos is sports editor of The Daily Mail. He covers horse racing for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311, or by e-mail at

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