There has long been somewhat of a tug-of-war between trainer Manny Tortora and owners Irv and Marjorie Cowan regarding the preferences of the Cowans' homebred Fappie's Notebook. While the 5-year-old certainly has the size of a horse that can handle distance and he has a stakes win at nine furlongs during last year's Hialeah meet to prove it, Tortora has always felt
the horse was his best as a late-running sprinter. Still, as the seven runners contesting the Feb. 10 Deputy Minister Handicap (gr. III) rounded the turn in the 61/2-furlong race, the trainer had his doubts. "I think he's trying to give me a heart attack," laughed Tortora, celebrating his 66th birthday, of Fappie's Notebook's belated victory rally. "At the wire I thought he got up, but I didn't think he was going to down the backstretch." With the speedy Hook and Ladder keeping his perfect Gulfstream Park record intact by scratching due to a significant amount of moisture on the track that was labeled "good," Kipperscope and Explicit blistered through a half-mile in :44.34 in the Deputy Minister. The battle proved costly, though, as both yielded readily when Twilight Road flew past and assumed control turning for home. With Fappie's Notebook having just a single runner beaten at the three-sixteenths pole, the race appeared in the books for Twilight Road. And it would have been, had he been able to maintain a straight course. But while Fappie's Notebook was putting in his usual late charge and Twilight Road was drifting far outside, jockey Jorge Chavez yanked the Cowans' runner toward the rail in the final sixteenth and got up by a desperate head, in 1:16.19.
"On the turn my horse was flying and I figured 'I got it now,' " grinned Chavez. "And then I saw that other horse drifting, but even as he was drifting, he was flying. It was a good thing that he was drifting--a good thing for me." It was a rare break for Fappie's Notebook who has not caught many during his 18-race career interrupted twice by injuries. In last year's renewal, he was beaten to an opening on the turn by Istintaj and had to wait for running room, ultimately missing by a half-length to that more tractable sprinter. He has also regularly been hung wide on occasions in which his locomotive-like charge placed him squarely on the heels of horses ahead. "Once you crank him up, you can't stop him; you've just got to let him do his thing," said Cowan, perhaps seeing another two-turn try in the offing when he mentioned the horse's dosage that "says he's a mile-and-an-eighth horse." The win, his ninth overall but first in a graded stakes, lifts Fappie's Notebook's career earnings over the half-million-dollar mark.