Gary Tanaka's Golden Apples, who won last year's Eclipse Award as the country's top female turf horse, returned to trainer Ben Cecil's Santa Anita barn on Friday morning to begin preparations for her 2003 campaign.
The 5-year-old Irish-bred daughter of Pivotal underwent surgery to remove chips in both front ankles last December, shortly after wrapping up her championship season with second-place finish in the Matriarch Handicap (gr. I) at Hollywood Park.
Golden Apples has been recuperating at Michelle Dollase's farm in nearby Bradbury, as well as freshening up for what could be two more seasons of racing.
"She looks well. It's great to have her back," Cecil said. "It'll be nice if we have things go the way they did last year. She's never really had a very long break, maybe a month or so. And (Tanaka) is talking about another year after this one for her, but we'll just have to wait and see about that."
Golden Apples won three of her seven starts in 2002 to earn the Eclipse, including the Beverly D Stakes (gr. IT) at Arlington Park over 2001's female turf champion Astra, and the Yellow Ribbon Invitational Handicap (gr. IT) at Santa Anita. She also earned top honors in the Santa Ana Handicap (gr. IIT) and finished second in the John C. Mabee Handicap (gr. IT) and Santa Barbara Handicap (gr. IIT). Her only off-the-board finish last year was a fourth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT).
Overall, Golden Apples owns a career line of 15-6-5-2 with earnings of $1,621,787.
Cecil said that Golden Apples will walk for about 10 days and then jog for about three to four weeks before returning to regular training. After a month to six weeks of galloping, Cecil hopes the mare will be ready to breeze. Currently, Cecil is pointing Golden Apples toward the John C. Mabee Handicap (gr. IT) at Del Mar in late July.
"The thing about her is that she tries every time, whether she's 100 percent or not. She probably had those chips in her last three or four races, but you'd never know because she was never sore on them and she always tried hard. It's definitely great to have her back."