If Mike Cohen and Tony D'Ambrosio have their way, Sugar Ray will be in the ring for the 1984 Olympics, winning a gold medal for the United States.
That is Sugar Ray the horse, one of 30 world-class jumpers competing at the Washington International Horse Show at Capital Centre this week. Although the 8-year-old chestnut gelding owned and trained by Cohen and ridden by D'Ambrosio didn't place in yesterday's $5,000 International Open Jumper class, they are confident that the horse is destined to be a winner.
Donald Cheska on Southside, the winners of the Eisenhower trophy Monday night, returned to the winner's circle following a jump-off against 14 horses.
But, for the moment, Cohen, 36, of New Hope, Pa., and D'Ambrosio, 27, of Mount Kisco, N.Y., are content with the progress of Sugar Ray.
"He's a nice horse. We try to improve with each class. We came here to win one class, the President's Cup, " Cohen said. "At this stage, he's too young and too much of a future to try to win every class."
Although Cohen didn't name the horse with the hope of selling him to boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard, he would like to introduce the fighter to the horse. "We are trying to promote the idea of Sugar Ray being a backer or sponsor for this horse," he said.
"We were all sitting around in Mike's camper one night when we decided to change his (the horse's) name," D'Ambrosio said, "It was right about the time that Sugar Ray was going to fight (Roberto) Duran and we were rooting for Sugar Ray. We figured Sugar Ray (the horse) was a welterweight, athletic, handsome and agile and all those great things that the real Sugar Ray is."
D'Ambrosio started to ride Sugar Ray for Cohen last August, and within four horse shows the pair progressed through the ranks of intermediate jumper to winning the $40,000 International Jumping Derby in Newport, R.I., the richest and toughest grand prix on the tour.
D'Ambrosio hopes the horse will carry him to the Olympics. "I feel strongly that he is one of the finest, if not the finest, horse in the U.S.," he said. "He's young, sound and has been brought along slowly."
What D'Ambrosio doesn't talk about is the fact that his mount could be literally sold out from under him, much like his former mount Sympatico was shortly before the 1976 Olympics.
"They have a good future together," said Cohen, who recently worked as agent in the sale of the first $500,000 grand prix jumper. "If I get approached to sell this horse for the right price I have to let him go. And it's not like nobody isn't calling."
In last night's International Jumping Class, Norman Della Joio on Grand Lieu won the Gambler's Choice stake with a score of 1,050 points in 62.85 seconds.