Where Turf Meets Surf . . . : Old Truce Maker Meets Challenge of a New Chance

Times Staff Writer

Last year, a journalist agreed to write a 3,000-word story on John Henry.

Part of his deal with the publisher was also submitting the race-by-race record of the two-time horse of the year. "The story was the easy part," the writer said. "Typing up the record took more time, and it ran longer that the story."

That's because John Henry, now attempting a comeback as an 11-year-old, has been in 83 races. The list runs longer than the grocery bill of the little old woman who lived in the shoe.

Horses that hang around will have records like that. But there's a horse at Del Mar, an 8-year-old named Truce Maker, who is just the opposite. Despite his advanced age, Truce Maker has a record that could be written on the back of a matchbook.

Because of problem legs, Truce Maker didn't get to the races until he was a 4-year-old, and he has run only 19 races. But trainer Michael Whittingham has Truce Maker together again, and when he made his first Del Mar appearance since 1984 Monday he won the $40,000 allowance feature by three lengths in a course-record time of 1 minute 41 seconds over 1 1/16 miles.

His next start also will be at Del Mar, in the $150,000 added Eddie Read Handicap is Aug. 10.

Whittingham hopes that Truce Maker stays sound enough to run in the $1-million Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita on Nov. 1.

"I think he'd really be tough going that distance on the grass at that track," Whittingham said.

Because Truce Maker wasn't nominated, it would cost his owners, Buddy Fogelson and his wife, Greer Garson, $120,000 to supplement him into the race. That seems like a large outlay for a horse who has won only $194,000 in his life, but Whittingham can make a strong case for Truce Maker.

"Who's the best grass miler in the country right now?" the trainer asks. "Probably Al Mamoon. And we just missed beating him the last time at Hollywood Park."

In the American Handicap July 12, Al Mamoon beat Truce Maker, a 26-1 longshot, by half a length. And Truce Maker, after losing the lead to Al Mamoon with an eighth of a mile to go in the 1 1/16-mile race, came on again to make things uneasy for the winner at the wire.

Unlike John Henry, who's a gelding, Truce Maker is a stud horse, a rarity in that he's a potential stallion who's still running as an 8-year-old. The Fogelsons like to see their horses run, particularly sons of Ack Ack, the little horse who gave them the horse-of-the-year title and two other divisional championships in 1971.

Ack Ack stands at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky., for a reported $30,000 stud fee. He has sired Youth, who was national grass champion in 1976, plus other major winners such as Ack's Secret, Joanie's Chief, Rascal Lass and Caline.

"Ack Ack was a national treasure," Greer Garson once said of her horse. "We owned him, but we didn't own him. Because of his fame, we really didn't own him any more than you own a river that runs through your ranch. We were just his custodians."

Whittingham estimates that he has had Truce Maker in training for 13 months in the last 6 1/2 years.

"He had sore shins when he was a 2-year-old and that was the start of his problems," Whittingham said. "Later, he had an operation for a fractured leg."

Truce Maker didn't make his debut until April of his 4-year-old season, in 1982. In his second start, he beat Craelius, a maiden that Charlie Whittingham had high hopes for, and that told Michael Whittingham that his horse might amount to something.

But the horse's leg problems never went away. He started four times in 1982 and didn't run at all the next year. In 1984, his busiest year, Truce Maker started seven times, then early in '85 he won the San Francisco Mile Handicap at Golden Gate Fields.

"I walked him up to that race, which shows you how good he is," Whittingham said. "There wasn't any time to do anything else with him."

But after running fourth in the San Simeon Handicap at Santa Anita in April of 1985, Truce Maker didn't return to the races until this May at Hollywood Park. He ran second and third in two stakes before he almost upset Al Mamoon in the American.

When Truce Maker was stabled at Hollywood Park, he had the first stall next to Whittingham's barn office. "I need him close because you've got to check those legs every day," Whittingham said.

In the American, Truce Maker carried eight fewer pounds than Al Mamoon.

"The weights wouldn't be as favorable, I know, in the Breeders' Cup," Whittingham said. "But I think he's good enough to run in the race. He's got a lot of speed and he doesn't quit."

If Truce Maker were a quitter, he would have started a stud career a long time ago.

Horse Racing Notes The Breeders' Cup races for 1987 at Hollywood Park have been rescheduled for Nov. 21, one week later than planned. The new date was selected because of a programming conflict with NBC, which televises the races, and because of the later opening of the fall meeting at Hollywood Park, a statement from Breeders Cup Limited said. . . . As expected, Greinton, winner of $1.9 million, has been retired because of a tendon injury and he will go to stud next year at Brookdale Farm near Versailles, Ky. . . . Silveyville, who reportedly got 60 out of 64 mares in foal this year, is back in training at Del Mar, as is Tasso, last year's 2-year-old champion who missed this year's Triple Crown series because of injuries.

Truce Maker, an 8-year-old with 19 races, sets a Del Mar course record. Story, Page 8.

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