Before closing day Wednesday at Del Mar, Laffit Pincay had won more races than anybody else, but none of the stakes.
The 38-year-old jockey, who had not been shut out for a season in stakes since he won his first added-money race here in 1976, made his only stakes win of the 1985 meeting an important one, whipping Tasso to a come-from-behind win in the $249,510 Del Mar Futurity before 22,630 fans.
Tasso, a Florida-bred son of Fappiano that nobody wanted earlier in his career, seemed beaten at the sixteenth pole, trailing the filly Arewehavingfunyet by more than a length. Arewehavingfunyet, who had won the Sorrento and the Debutante running against other fillies in earlier stakes here, didn't quit in the run to the wire, but got nailed because Tasso surged under Pincay's repeated whipping from the left side.
The winning margin was a neck, with Arewehavingfunyet taking second by 2 lengths over Snow Chief. The other finishers in order were Badger Land, Bright Tom and Bolger Magic, who had led Arewehavingfunyet by a slight margin before tiring on the turn for home.
Tasso, earning $155,760, was timed in 1:36 for the mile and as the favorite paid $4, $2.80 and $2.40. Arewehavingfunyet paid $3.20 and $2.60 and Snow Chief returned $3.40.
This was Tasso's first stakes race, and his owners, Gerald Robins and Waldemar Farms, paid $10,000 to supplement him into the Futurity. The 2-year-old had run off in the post parade and finished third in his first start, at Hollywood Park May 31, but he had won at Hollywood six weeks later and in his only other start had won impressively over a mile at Del Mar three weeks ago.
Last year, at Hialeah, Bertram Firestone had bought Tasso for $100,000, but reportedly was dissatisfied with the colt and returned him. Later there was an attempt to sell Tasso at Saratoga, but his owners bought him back for $50,000.
More recently, Tasso's owners were shopping the colt with a $150,000 price tag, but at least one potential buyer said he didn't like the way the horse looked in the hocks.
On Wednesday, he looked wonderful, lurking behind Bolger Magic and Arewehavingfunyet in the run down the backside, then overtaking the filly just when it looked as if she had the race wrapped up.
But that was only after Pincay had survived a scare on the first turn.
"I went wide and nearly clipped heels," the country's leading jockey said.
"After that, I went to the filly early, because I knew she would be tough. When she opened up, I thought she was going to be tough, but all of a sudden my horse switched leads and accelerated."
For a while, it looked as if Neil Drysdale, who trains Tasso, would finish second for a sixth straight time in a stake.
"When Laffit hit him, he got down to business," Drysdale said. "In the last few strides, he was really reaching. When he got close to the filly, he became competitive."
Jockey Pat Valenzuela couldn't fault Arewehavingfunyet's race. "The other horse just came up and got us at the wire," Valenzuela said. "She ran her heart out."
Drysdale plans to send Tasso East, to run either in Kentucky or New York. Pincay may go along, just for the ride.
Horse Racing Notes
Laffit Pincay won the Del Mar riding title with 52 wins, nine more than Gary Stevens. . . . Wesley Ward, the country's top apprentice last year when he won 335 races and his mounts earned $5.2 million, saw his business go sour in New York after he lost his apprentice allowance and came West to try to shake the slump. Instead the slump got worse at Del Mar, where the 17-year-old Ward was winless in 73 mounts. He had two seconds and four thirds. . . . John Gosden won the Del Mar training title with 15 wins, one more than Ron McAnally. Mike Mitchell, who had either won or shared the championship for four straight years, finished tied for fourth this year with 11 wins. . . . Del Mar closed with a record average daily handle of $3.5 million for the 42-day season. Average attendance was also a record, 19,776, which represented an increase of 6.9% over last year. The average handle was up 7.6%.