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Horse Racing: Another story in the making

Sunday, August 17, 2003

By Pohla Smith, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

While "Seabiscuit" is warming the hearts of movie goers, another inspirational horse story is being written at the nation's harness tracks by a 3-year-old filly pacer named Gordon's Jin Ms.

Last weekend, she recorded another chapter in her tale at The Meadows with a victory in a division of the Adioo Volo.

The story began a number of years ago, when Gordon Mann, a teller at old Seminole Park in Florida, went to the Breeders Crown Ball at Pompano Park, according to Mann's longtime friend and horse partner Craig McEvoy. There Mann met a man who owned so many horses that he sometimes gave them away. He gave Mann a mare in foal named Jin-N-Bitters. In return, Mann was to give him the foal after its birth.

"[Mann] tried his darnedest but he couldn't reach the guy. He called and sent certified letters, but he never called back," McEvoy said.

The foal, named Cocktail Talk, went on to win $339,000 and the prestigious Berry Creek final. Then Jin-N-Bitters foaled Prime Directive, who earned $446,000.

McEvoy went partners with Mann on the next foal, Slug of Gin, whom they sold for $65,000. That baby went on to earn $336,000.

The two had very high hopes when Jin-N-Bitters foaled a filly they named Jin Blossom.

She never made the races, though. While training as a 2-year-old she got spooked on the track, dumped her trainer, and ran off with the jog cart attached into a drainage ditch, where she almost drowned. She broke her pelvis and a hip, and a veterinarian suggested Jin Blossom be put down.

McEvoy and Mann refused, and eventually they were able to breed her by artificial insemination to first-year sire Real Artist. The vet said the odds were 50-50 that she'd produce a foal, but she did, a beautiful red filly eventually named Gordon's Jin Ms.

Gordon's Jin Ms was only six weeks old when her dam was struck and killed by lightning. Somehow the foal was unscathed even though she was standing next to her dam, and she was raised by her granddam Jin-N-Bitters.

The next year, Mann died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 51. McEvoy, a mailman from Casselberry, Fla., vowed he would never sell Gordon's Jin Ms.

And since she started racing, he has had plenty of opportunities. Through the Adioo Volo, Gordon's Jin Ms has 12 victories and eight seconds in 20 career starts. She has earned $431,579 and set two world records. She is off this weekend after running a temperature during the week.

"I will not sell," McEvoy said. "I've had some big offers -- big, big offers, but I intend to breed her."

First, however, he intends to race her through this season and again next year as a 4.

McEvoy and Mann had had horses together for nearly 30 years. "Gordon and I used to have fun. When our horses would win, we'd hop over the teller's cage, go down for pictures in the winner's circle and then go back and cash other people's tickets."

His trainers, Ray and Sue Van Dreason, tell McEvoy Mann "has to be in heaven and enjoying this."

Frankel going for mark

Bobby Frankel, Eclipse Award trainer of the year for each of the past three years, is closing in on a thoroughbred record many thought would never be broken: D. Wayne Lukas' mark of 22 Grade I stakes victories in one year. Through Thursday, Frankel had won 17 Grade I races this season.

Streaking Azeri

Azeri, the 2002 Horse of the Year, just keeps winning. She tallied her 11th consecutive victory -- all of them graded stakes -- in the Grade II Clement L. Hirsch Handicap at Del Mar last Sunday.

Horse bits

The New York State Racing and Wagering Board has passed an emergency rule allowing trifecta wagering with five betting interests on NYRA graded stakes races through Oct. 29, 2003. ... New York Yankees Manager Joe Torre has bought into a 3-year-old thoroughbred filly imported from France. Cellamare is based in Southern California.

Pohla Smith can be reached at or 412-263-1228.

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