Fappaburst's legs may be crooked, but her bloodlines are straight, swift


LAUREL -- Except for the same bay coat, Fappaburst doesn't look much like a daughter of the swift Fappiano.

"No," trainer P.G. Johnson said. "She's small, and a little crooked."

That is to say the 4-year-old filly's front legs aren't exactly symmetrical. But sometimes she runs somewhat like her sire anyway, so Johnson may load her on a van early Saturday morning and ship her to Laurel for the $200,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap.

That is, unless the Laurel track is wet, or even damp, in which case Johnson will leave Fappaburst in her stall at Belmont Park and wait for a nicer day.

"Tried her on an off track once," he said. "It was a disaster." In the Sport Page Handicap at Aqueduct Fappaburst abhorred the mud and beat one horse.

Fappaburst has won five of 11 races (one stake) and only $175,088 of the $600,000 she cost owner Howard Kaskel, who also owns the Doral Country Club in Miami. Kaskel isn't worried because he's sure Fappaburst is going to make a wonderful mother.

"We bought her mother [College Bold] because she was in foal to Fappiano," Johnson said, "and he was just beginning to explode as a sire."

The year was 1986 and Fappiano's preliminary explosions in his first two crops had been Tasso, winner of the 1985 Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and Tappiano, who was beaten only in the Juvenile Fillies in five starts at 2.

Phil Johnson has these notions about horses. His first was to spend all his worldly goods -- $75 -- on an animal named Song Master in his native Chicago in 1942, when he was 17. After two long years Song Master won a sprint for a $900 purse at Hawthorne.

It was onward and upward, slowly, from there, and Johnson has been a leading trainer in New York for a generation. He has had a score of Grade-I victories, but the New York Racing Association's biographical sketch lists Johnson's finest hour as "buying the dam of Nasty and Bold for $600."

"Actually I paid $3,000," Johnson said. "I should have got her for $600, I guess. She ran six times and was last six times."

But Phil had a notion. Naskra, the good winner he had trained, had just been retired to stud. If Johnson bought the mare, College Bold, and bred her to Naskra, the foal would be inbred to Nasrullah, the great sire of the great sire Bold Ruler.

"But with only one out-cross to Bold Ruler," he recalled enthusiastically. "The mare was by Boldnesian [Bold Ruler's son]."

The combination of strains is called a "nick," and apparently it worked. "He still holds the record for the Brooklyn Handicap," Johnson said. "The only horses that could beat him were Affirmed and Alydar."

With allowances for racetrack hyperbole those things are largely true. Nasty and Bold's 2:26 was a record for the years the 104-year-old Brooklyn was run at 1 1/2 miles, which it wasn't until 1977. And as a 3-year-old Nasty and Bold had six victories for $296,096 in races Affirmed and Alydar weren't in.

So the notion worked pretty well, even though College Bold wasn't "a picture," as breeders say, either. "She was small and she had a big wart," Johnson recalled.

So maybe Fappaburst's future is now. In two starts this year she has won an allowance and been second in a stake. Feel The Beat defeated Fappaburst by two lengths in the Interboro Handicap and they'll meet again, weather permitting, Saturday.

The race Fappaburst ran 11 months ago would be good enough to win the Barbara Fritchie. In the seven-furlong Comely Stakes at Aqueduct she had a :21 4/5 first quarter thrown at her and came on to win by 6 1/2 lengths in 1:21 3/5. The Fritchie distance is seven furlongs.

Fappaburst is full of surprises, Johnson points out. They didn't do much with her as a 2-year-old, he said, because she didn't seem to want to do much.

"She trained OK but we didn't have the feeling she was much," Johnson said. "Finally in November we started her. Jacinto [Vasquez, a stakes jockey for a quarter-century] had worked her in the morning, but I think he rode her only because he didn't have anything else to do.

"She shot out of the gate and was gone," Johnson said. "She won off by 12 or 13 lengths. And she paid $41.

"And none of us bet on her."

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