After 78 races of sheer futility, The Boz'n pulled a shocker in his 79th: He won.
The 8-year-old gelding charged to a 1 1/4-length victory Friday night at Charles Town Races in West Virginia, earning his first trip to the winner's circle in six years of racing. The Boz'n paid $46.40 to win as the longest shot in the eight-horse field of maiden claimers.
His trainer, Rhea M. Pennella, was ecstatic.
"You'd think I'd won a stakes race," she said yesterday. "My goal was to break his maiden, because nobody else had done it. I guess last night was his time."
Pennella's husband, Joseph L., bought The Boz'n late last year on a horse-buying expedition to New York. He paid $8,200 for The Boz'n, who at that point had lost 69 races, all but two at New York's major tracks: Aqueduct, Saratoga and Belmont Park. When he returned with the winless gelding, his wife thought he had lost his mind, she said.
"I asked him, 'What in the world do you want with him?' " she said. "I guess it must have been a challenge to him. Maybe he thought I could help. Maybe Charles Town, the bottom of line, was what he needed."
But The Boz'n lost his first 10 races for the Pennellas, who run a self-described mom-and-pop operation at Charles Town.
Rhea Pennella tried various racing equipment, switched distances and experimented with different jockeys.
"The boy jockeys finally gave up on him," she said. "They said he doesn't want to win. One came back and said he was a big chicken."
So Pennella enlisted Kristy Petty, a female apprentice, to ride The Boz'n in Friday night's second race, a 1 1/16-mile test with a purse of $7,700.
The Boz'n broke sharply, settled back into sixth, inched into fifth, then fourth, before finally surging past three horses in the stretch for an easy victory.
"They just seemed to click," Pennella said of The Boz'n and his new jockey.
The victory earned $4,620, increasing The Boz'n's earnings to $125,100. His record now reads: 79 races, one win, 10 seconds, 12 thirds.
The Boz'n's 78 losses without a victory fell short of the record for thoroughbred futility. Zippy Chippy, another 8-year-old gelding, lost for the 86th time last Sunday at the Northampton Fair in Massachusetts.
Pennella said The Boz'n, if all goes well, will race for the 80th time Saturday at Charles Town.
Petty again will be his jockey.
"I know it sounds crazy," Pennella said, "but he's acting different. I think he knows he did something special."