Good investment: $2,000 buy pays off for Woolley

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Owner/trainer Tim Woolley calls Airgead his 401k plan. That’s what happens when you turn a $2,000 investment into $75,000 in a little more than two years.

The money, most of it anyway, is in Woolley’s account with Penn National Race Course. The horse is in Woolley’s barn at Fair Hill Training Center, and runs at The Meadowlands Saturday afternoon in the likely lid to a standout season. The 3-year-old gelding broke his maiden in June, won a state-bred allowance by disqualification over the summer and added an open-company allowance at Penn National Sept. 20. Saturday, he faces nine rivals in a tough two-other-than optional claimer going 1 mile and 70 yards on the turf. Post time for the fifth race is 4:22 p.m.

Win or lose, Airgead (Gaelic for money) is a success story.

Like he always does, Woolley went to the 2011 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern Fall Yearling Sale at Timonium. Looking for Pennsylvania-breds, he saw a dark bay son of Badge Of Silver and the Storm Cat mare Air Adair in the Derry Meeting Farm consignment. Bred by George Strawbridge, the yearling looked the part. His pedigree included his stakes-placed dam and his granddam Beyrouth (a Grade 2 winner for Strawbridge). Woolley watched the horse head to the ring, and thought about bidding. He also figured he’d have no chance.

Then nobody bid. Not even Woolley.

“I was looking at him outside the ring and out of curiosity I figured I’d go watch him sell,” the trainer said. “He didn’t even get a bid. I started to, but then I thought I should go take a look and figure out what was wrong with him. There must have been something.”

Woolley went back to the barn, took another look, asked a few questions and made an offer. He didn’t want to sound cheap and offer the sale’s minimum of $1,000, so doubled it. The trainer, who only ever owns “one at a time,” took home a new project. Other than being “an idiot” to ride, Airgead had been a dream purchase – solidly improving on his races, winning three times in seven tries and piling up $75,560 in earnings. Airgead means money all right. The name came somewhat by accident. Woolley wanted to blend the names of the sire and dam, and kept talking about silver and air. A friend suggested the Airgead. Woolley’s still not sure he says it right, but chances are nobody else (other than the truly Irish) does either. Here’s an example.

Airgead is 10-1 Saturday and faces, among others, stakes-placed Bill Mott runner Film Shot and $220,000 earner Cheyenne Nation. Woolley said jockey William Otero will sit back in the pack and make one run. The strategy worked last time and could get some pace up front.

“His last race was his best,” said Woolley “He has tremendous kick. We experimented last time to take him back and come with a big rush and it really worked out. It’s all up to Otero judging when to let him go.”

Woolley rides many of his own horses in the morning, but just watches Airgead, handing the reins to Fernando Molina.

“He’s a bit of an idiot,” said Woolley. “He’s got a couple of quirks. Those kind of horses I’ll try to correct them too much. With this horse you’re better off leaving him alone and letting him do his own thing.”

A native of England, Woolley is on the verge of a career-best season with 14 wins (tying a career high) and more than $367,000 in purse earnings. Besides Airgead, the trainer’s Saturday lineup includes George Cross at The Meadowlands, Zillions at Laurel and Empageni at Penn National.