When Forest Music made her debut as a 2-year-old at Laurel Park in October 2003, she nearly broke the six-furlong track record in a performance that signaled the arrival of a potential wonder horse. Yesterday, she returned to the scene of that brilliant effort for the first time, the luster long since worn off but her speed still intact.
With a quick move from the gate, Forest Music rushed away from eight other runners, relaxed without pressure, and pulled away to effortlessly win the $50,000 Primonetta Stakes by 8 1/2 lengths.
The stakes victory, her fourth in 14 races, was a reminder of Forest Music's blazing speed and possibly misspent talent. After she won the Primonetta in a sharp 1 minute 10.59 seconds, trainer Mark Shuman lamented the filly's career direction, which saw her thrown in time and again with the top runners in the country.
"She's by far the best horse I've ever been around," said Shuman, who commands a sizeable portion of owner Michael Gill's vast racing empire. "We mismanaged her after her first career start. It's tough.
"To see her come back today was nice. This is her favorite track."
Gill, who could not be reached for comment, thrust Forest Music into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies after that first race. Her lack of seasoning ruined her chances against the top 2-year-old fillies in the country, and she fell far back after briefly running on the lead.
She opened her 3-year-old season with victories in the Ms. Preakness Stakes at Pimlico and in another stakes race at Monmouth Park, and once again Gill put her into Grade I company, in the Prioress at Belmont Park and in the historic Test Stakes at Saratoga. While Forest Music ran well enough to place third in both, she no longer looked like a star.
This past winter, Forest Music finished fifth in a race at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans and then, in her start prior to the Primonetta, gave away a 2 1/2-length lead in the stretch in a small stakes race at Oaklawn Park.
Gill, who had taken the filly from Shuman and given her to one of his other trainers, returned her to his care.
"He didn't want to winter up here and I didn't want to go anywhere else," Shuman said. "If it was my choice, I wouldn't even let someone saddle her out of my sight."
Racing Notes: Dixie Talking, the 2004 Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship winner who upset the Grade III Cicada Stakes in New York last month at odds of 27-1, skipped the Grade II Comely Stakes at Aqueduct yesterday because of a bruised hoof.
"Her foot's real hot, and she felt a little funky to me," said Robin Graham, who trains Dixie Talking at Laurel Park.
The horse who finished second in the Cicada, Acey Deucey, won the Comely.
Dixie Talking still is being targeted toward the prestigious Grade II Black-Eyed Susan Stakes on May 20, the day before the Preakness. . . . Jockey Erick Rodriguez, fourth in the meet standings, will miss up to six weeks after fracturing four vertebrae in his back when his Gill-owned mount, Bud Chaffee, broke down in the fourth race Thursday. The horse was euthanized on the track.