She is fat, friendly, and fast, and she keeps surprising Hirsch Jacobs—but not the bettors. She is Affectionately, the queen of Queens, the borough in which her favorite track is located.
When Affectionately breezed to a five-length victory over the best male sprinters in the East in the Toboggan Handicap, carrying 124 pounds in the fastest time of the meeting, 1:09 2/5, she recorded her third Aqueduct stakes victory in three starts this season. It was her eighth consecutive win at the Big A, where her lifetime record is 18 wins in 26 starts, and it was her 15th stakes victory.
"She is the best mare I ever had," said Jacobs, her breeder and trainer. "The best one before her? I guess that would have to be her dam, Searching."
By her smashing win in the Toboggan, the first by a filly or mare since Mary Davis in 1910, Affectionately set herself up for the $50,000-added Carter Handicap. Only two of her sex, Beldame in 1905 and Gallorette in 1948, have won that race. Jacobs didn't even wait for racing secretary Tom Trotter to assign the weights before saying that his mare would pass up the Bed o' Roses, for fillies and mares, for the chance to meet the boys again on May 1, carrying 127.
"She's been surprising me all along this spring," he said. "I didn't know, the day she carried 128 pounds (in the Distaff), if she could carry that kind of weight. Of course she had earned it, but I didn't know if she could.
To Worry If Weight Reduced
"I hope they keep putting the weight on her, then I'll know she's running good. The time I'll worry is when they take it off. Then I'll know she's running bad."
One of Jacobs' frequent remarks is: "I'd rather be surprised than disappointed." If he is surprised when Affectionately gallops to victory in New York, he is almost alone. She was 3-4 in the Correction, 7-10 in the Distaff, and a handsome 1.45-1 favorite over Chieftain, Chicot, Amastar, Cupid, and Sledge in the Toboggan.
Affectionately at 5 is at the best of her career right now, Jacobs agrees.
"She just got filled out, just got good," he said when asked if he could explain it. "She's fatter now than she's ever been. To look at her in her stall, you'd think she was in foal."
Affectionately is 15 hands, 3 inches, and Jacobs guesses she weighs around 1,000 pounds now. The daughter of Swaps—Searching, by War Admiral has now won $421,120. She has won stakes in each of her four years under colors, but as a 3-year-old won only the Interborough and there was some feeling at the time that she was possibly an early-blooming wonder and would never repeat her fine juvenile form which netted six stakes victories. Then she came back stronger than ever.
"She kept hitting herself," Jacobs explained. "It started right after she got sore in her shins after six races. In her first six races, she never kicked herself. Then when she got the shins, she began hitting—right on the point of the sesamoid.
"When she got over her shins, she just stopped hitting," he added, making it as simple as that.
Affectionately has always been something of a pet around the barn. Coming from Searching and thus from Jacobs' favorite broodmare family, that of La Troienne, she attracted special attention from the start and everyone was aware she was likely to be a good one.
Since she is so good right now, Jacobs said, he has no idea when she will be retired—probably not for another season, at least. "She'll run as long as she stays good."
Finest Race Mares Named
Jacobs then began to think back on the racing careers of some of his other fillies and mares.
"Moon Maiden, she ran at 6," he recalled. "Mahmoudess ran as a 6-year-old. Searching ran at 6, and so did Nothirdchance. They were four of the best mares I ever raced, all raced at 6, and all were good producers."
Moon Maiden produced Joe Jones, Mahmoudess dropped Promised Land, Nothirdchance was the dam of Hail to Reason, and Searching, in addition to Affectionately, has had stakes-winning Admiring, by Hail to Reason, and her full sister, Priceless Gem, an unraced 2-year-old which has clockers taking a second look at their watches these days.
"There's no such thing as wearing them out racing them," Jacobs concluded after going over this roster of broodmares. "Of course, when you put them in stud later, they have less time to produce foals. I certainly wouldn't want to race a mare that wasn't running good, but as long as they're going well, I'll race them."
If any more evidence were needed of Jacobs' fondness for the mare which runs in the colors of his wife, Ethel, it would be that he changed his mind about going to Kentucky and decided to let son John saddle Flag Raiser for the Derby while he remained at Aqueduct to saddle Affectionately for the Carter.
He tried to make it sound as if he had no choice. "Somebody has to take care of things here," he said. When asked if his decision was not dictated by more than that, he added: "I hate to leave her. So darn many things can happen to a horse, and I want to be here. The other horse I can see on television."
Affectionately's win in the Toboggan over Chieftain, to which she gave three pounds on the scale, with Exclusive Nashua third, provided the sixth victory for Jacobs in Aqueduct's first 12 stakes. On Saturday, he let the others have a chance in the 13th and did not send out anything for the $75,000-added Grey Lag. His weakness this year is in the handicap division.
Addendum: Affectionately, assigned 127 pounds for the Carter—making her the highweight, was scratched the morning of the race when Jacobs discovered blood on one of her nostrils. While Jacobs wasn't sure if the blood was from bleeding during her morning gallop or hitting something, he opted to scratch her from the race.