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Estrapade’s Final Race Is a Winning One

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

It may be no way to treat a lady, but it’s the horse business.

Seven hours after Estrapade won Sunday’s $400,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes at Santa Anita, the 5-year-old mare was put on a cargo plane to Kentucky, where she’ll be sold at a Keeneland breeding-stock auction on Tuesday.

Her price in Kentucky might be as much as $5 million. On Sunday, the broodmare Miss Oceana sold for a record $7 million in Kentucky, partly because she’s in foal to the super stallion, Northern Dancer.

It’s not the same as selling your kids, of course, but late Sunday the imminent auction of Estrapade was beginning to sink in on Bruce McNall. McNall manages the syndicate that owns Estrapade.

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“It’ll be tough to lose her,” McNall said. “It’s so seldom you see a horse with this ability. The thrill of racing a horse is so much more than the thrill of seeing what a horse will do in the breeding shed. If she doesn’t go for at least $4 million, I might buy her myself.”

Estrapade, who was bred in Kentucky by syndicate member Nelson Bunker Hunt, is a son of the Arc de Triomphe winner Vaguely Noble, out of the No Robbery mare Klepto. Making her 20th start in the Yellow Ribbon, she finished her career with nine wins, three seconds, three thirds and earnings of $724,756.

The Yellow Ribbon win, worth $240,000, came by three-quarters of a length over the charging Alydar’s Best, with La Koumia, an 85-1 shot, another half length back in third place. With Fact Finder fourth, it meant that the first four finishers in the field of 11 represented two trainers--Charlie Whittingham having Estrapade and Fact Finder and John Gosden saddling Alydar’s Best and La Koumia.

Estrapade, running 1 miles on grass in 2:00 2/5, paid $3.60, $3 and $2.40 as the heavy favorite. Alydar’s Best paid $7.20 and $5.80 and La Koumia returned $12.20. Capo Di Monte, at 5-1 the second choice in the betting among a crowd of 39,076, finished fifth.

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The win was the 100th for the Whittingham-Bill Shoemaker team at Santa Anita. Shoemaker, who was ill and cancelled his late mounts Saturday, came back Sunday to add his 8,498th win, his 935th stake and his 215th victory in a $100,000 race. All are records.

Estrapade now has three major wins this year and Shoemaker said after the Yellow Ribbon that she’s the best grass mare in the country. Voters for the Eclipse Awards may disagree, however, because of a spectacular win by Pebbles, against males, in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Stakes at Aqueduct nine days ago.

“We deserve the divisional championship,” McNall said. “My horses beat Pebbles twice in Europe, and it wouldn’t be fair that Pebbles gets the title off just one race in the United States.”

Ironically, it was another of McNall’s horses, Strawberry Road, who came off the rail in the Breeders’ Cup race, giving a trapped Pebbles the room to make her thrilling stretch run.

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Estrapade, who is named after a street in Paris, had no traffic problems in the Yellow Ribbon. Shoemaker had her in third place in the early going, outside and not far back of Love Smitten and Johnica.

By the top of the stretch, Estrapade was passing the fading leaders and then was concerned with the flying Alydar’s Best in the run to the wire.

“I never felt she was in any trouble all the way around,” Shoemaker said. “She really wanted to run. She was tugging at the bit and would have run off if I had let her.”

Gosden, who trains Alydar’s Best for Parisian Alan Clore, said his instructions for jockey Rafael Meza came from the owner.

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“He wanted her off the pace,” Gosden said. “She might have won if she had been a little closer.”

Alydar’s Best, the early pace-setter who finished fourth against males in the Oak Tree Invitational in her first American start three weeks ago, was ahead of only one horse for about half the race. She closed on the outside.

“I wish she would have showed more speed the first part,” Meza said. “I had to wait with her and really got into her the last part. She acts like she wants to go longer.”

Whittingham, who has won more than 430 stakes races in a career that started in 1934, said even before the Yellow Ribbon that Estrapade is as good as any horse he’s ever trained. Pat Eddery, who rode Pebbles to victory at Aqueduct, said that that filly is as good as any he’s ever seen. Eddery finished eighth Sunday aboard Zaizafon.

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“I don’t know why Pebbles couldn’t be named Horse of the Year over here off her one race,” Eddery said. “She was obviously brilliant in New York.”

For the female turf championship, the voters will have to decide. Meantime, in Kentucky on Tuesday, the moneybags bidders will also have to decide--on how much Estrapade is worth.

Horse Racing Notes

Tsunami Slew’s career is not over. Expected to be retired after the Breeders’ Cup Miles Stakes, the 4-year-old colt is being trained by Eddie Gregson to run in the Hollywood Turf Cup on Dec. 8. “The owners were frustrated by the troubles he had in the Breeders’ Cup and want to give him another chance,” Gregson said. Tsunami Slew finished sixth in the Breeders’ after being forced into the rail on the first turn and getting bumped in the stretch. Gregson feels that the male turf championship is still undecided. Win and Yashgan, both scheduled to run in the Washington D.C. International at Laurel next Saturday, have shots at the title. . . . In a secondary stake on Sunday’s Santa Anita card, Eddie Delahoussaye rode Wee Lavaliere to victory in the Sporting Lass for 2-year-old fillies. . . . The Oak Tree season closes today with Silveyville carrying top weight of 124 pounds in the Henry P. Russell Handicap. . . . Hollywood Park’s season opens Wednesday with the Hollywood Turf Sprint Championship. . . . Another likely starter in the Hollywood Turf Cup is Gate Dancer, second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Gate Dancer will continue to race as a 5-year-old and is being pointed for the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap in March.

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