Pebbles Is the People’s Choice : No Breeders’ Cup Entry Has Got More Attention Than Filly From England

Times Staff Writer

Her best friend is a 6-year-old gelding who back home in England has an adjoining stall with a window in between.

Her favorite drink is Guinness stout. She gets a pint every morning.

One of her favorite foods is brown-shelled eggs. She has some mixed into her mash each day.

These are the peculiarities of Pebbles, the 4-year-old filly who will probably go to the post as the favorite against 13 rivals today in the $2-million Breeders’ Cup Turf Stakes at Aqueduct.


The Turf is the next-to-last of the seven races on the second annual Breeders’ Cup program, with the feature, which will help determine horse of the year, being the $3-million Classic Stakes. The other five races are worth $1 million each and bring together 82 of the best horses from the United States, Europe and Canada.

None of the horses has drawn more media attention this week than Pebbles, who, besides being a filly of unusual tastes, has a spectacular racing record. This year, in only four starts, she has won three stakes, the most recent being two of England’s major races--the Dubai Champion at Newmarket and the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown. In becoming the first filly to win the Sandown stake, she finished two lengths ahead of Rainbow Quest, who last month won the Arc de Triomphe, France’s glamour race. At Newmarket, Pebbles didn’t just win the race, she devastated the field, with Slip Anchor, the winner of the English Derby, finishing the closest, three lengths back.

Pebbles’ only nonwinning start this year was a second-place finish in the Prince of Wales Stakes at Ascot in June. Bob Back, a 4-year-old colt who is also running in the Turf, finished 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Pebbles in the Prince of Wales, but later ran third behind her at Sandown.

Lifetime, Pebbles has a record of 7 wins and 4 seconds in 14 starts. The other morning at Aqueduct, as this handsome chestnut was walked around a circular path by one of her handlers, trainer Clive Brittain stood in the center of the ring and calmly said: “She’s the filly of the century. Maybe, if she wins Saturday, she might be the race horse of the century.”

That’s unabashed praise from a not-so-stodgy 51-year-old Englishman who’s been training on his own for 12 years, after having worked for 23 years for Noel Murless, one of Blighty’s premier trainers.

“Maybe Sir Noel wouldn’t agree with me but I think she’s that good,” Brittain said. “That last race, I expected her to win, but nobody could have hoped for the manner in which she won.”


When Pebbles arrived here last Sunday with a planeload of other European horses, she was accompanied by Come On the Blues, the 6-year-old gelding who goes hardly anywhere without her and a keg of Guinness. Today, Come On the Blues will help escort Pebbles from the barn to the Aqueduct paddock. Even when Brittain turns out Pebbles back home, Come On the Blues is there, cavorting in the adjoining paddock.

It’s a love affair that’s in its third year, but Come On the Blues is more than just a baby sitter. “He’s a cracking good horse,” Brittain said. Come On the Blues will be running Sunday in the Shergar Stakes at Aqueduct.

Brittain said he gives Guinness to his other horses, too. “It gives them an extra bite to their appetite,” the trainer said. “The eggs put protein into the filly’s diet.”

Lady Di had better watch out, because Pebbles’ popularity is mushrooming. One day in the mail, Brittain found a five-pound note, with instructions to spend it for sugar for the filly. There have been numerous requests for the filly’s photograph, which are filled by Brittain and his wife. The question Pebbles’ fans ask the most is: “What will happen to Come On the Blues when Pebbles goes to stud?”

It’s certain that Come On the Blues won’t be going with her, because that would cause problems with her stallions that even Dear Abby wouldn’t be able to straighten out.

Brittain, who trained Kings Island before he came to the U.S. and upset Greinton in the Sunset Handicap in July at Hollywood Park, isn’t sure whether today will be Pebbles’ last race. The filly’s owner, Sheik Mohammed, whose family rules oil-rich Dubai, bought her for an undisclosed sum shortly after she won the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket in May of ’84.


The sheik is paying $240,000, a supplementary fee, to run Pebbles in the Breeders’ Cup, because she wasn’t originally nominated.

Pebbles has not run 1 1/2 miles, the distance of the Turf Stakes, but Brittain anticipates no stamina problem. “I have no doubt about her ability to get a mile and a half,” he said. “As long as there is legitimate pace in the race, I am not worried. The post position (No. 13 in a 14-horse field) shouldn’t be a bother, either, because she has the ability to move, if she needs to, to get position, and then will relax again.”

Pebbles will be ridden for the second straight time by Pat Eddery, the Irish-born veteran who replaced Steve Cauthen at Newmarket when Cauthen was committed to ride Slip Anchor.

“This filly is a real machine,” Eddery said after the Newmarket win.