Horse Racing / Bill Christine : Teacher Alters Course--She’s Made the Grade at the Track
In June, Woody Stephens was trying to saddle his fifth straight winner of the Belmont Stakes, and Walter Kelley was one of the trainers trying to stop him.
Kelley’s Johns Treasure ran second, 1 lengths behind Danzig Connection, as Stephens’ streak continued.
Kelley might not be able to beat Stephens, but at least he can have some fun with him.
“Woody’s got the perfect assistant trainer now,” Kelley said. “Besides looking after his horses all night long, she does windows in the daytime. Never thought I’d see the day when Woody got an assistant who cleans his barn windows.”
At Hollywood Park last week, Stephens was reminded of Kelley’s remarks.
“Let me tell you something about Sandy Bruno, because that’s who Kelley was talking about,” Stephens said. “She showed up at Saratoga a couple of years ago, said she had been teaching school in Florida but knew horses.
“Well, you know how it is at Saratoga. You’re usually up all night every night of the week, and you need all the help you can get. So I gave her a job, helping out around the barn.
“The next summer, she showed up at Saratoga again, so I put her to work again. Toward the end of the meet, I asked her how much money she made teaching school. When she told me, I said, ‘Well, how would you like to make that much in salary working for me? And you’ll also get 1% of what all these horses make in a year.’ ”
Bruno stayed with Stephens and Florida was missing one school teacher.
This year, Stephens’ barn has earned $4.2 million, fifth in the country according to recent Daily Racing Form listings. That’s an exceptional total, because Stephens has started horses in fewer than 250 races. The trainers ahead of him--Wayne Lukas, Charlie Whittingham, Jack Van Berg and Mel Stute--have had starters in at least 450 races, and the Lukas outfit, which has broken its own annual record with a purse total of $11.2 million, has run horses more than 1,300 times.
Besides earning her 1%, Sandy Bruno occasionally upstages Stephens. Last week, for example, Stephens traveled from his New York headquarters to run Glow in a division of the Hollywood Derby and finished seventh. Bruno stayed home and saddled Creme Fraiche--one of Stephens’ Belmont winners--for the 4-year-old gelding’s win in the $150,000 Paterson Handicap at the Meadowlands.
Somebody else did the windows.
Gladys is a black goat that calms Spellbound, the 3-year-old colt who won a division of last Sunday’s Hollywood Derby and paid a record $176 win mutuel for the stake.
Gladys and Spellbound have been inseparable for months. When Spellbound was flown from Louisiana to San Francisco this fall, Gladys was aboard the plane. When Spellbound was vanned down from Bay Meadows to Hollywood Park this month, Gladys was along for the ride.
It wasn’t always that way. Before Gladys, Spellbound was ornery around the barn. His trainer, Paul Murphy, an Englishman who has had horses in Louisiana for about five years, thought a companion might help, so he went out and found Gladys.
Now, the only time Spellbound acts up is when Gladys is gone, which isn’t often, since she’s tied to the colt’s stall door.
“It’s a real love affair between those two,” said Ricky Mariano, an assistant trainer for Murphy. “But get them apart and both of them will holler and scream like crazy.”
Spellbound, who cost his owner, Edward Brennan, only $14,000 at a yearling auction, raised his earnings to $259,000 at Hollywood Park and is expected to run in the $100,000 Bay Meadows Derby Nov. 29.
Brennan, who owns just four horses, has been in the sport intermittently for 12 years and picked out the son of Lyphard’s Wish and Marnie’s Majik himself.
“I liked his conformation,” the New Orleans man said. “He was smallish, but I hoped that he’d grow. We sent him to Jack Van Berg’s farm (in Goshen, Ky.) and after a while I called to see how he was doing. I was told that he was now a nice, big colt. ‘Are we talking about the same horse?’ I had to ask.
“But he had filled out.”
Spellbound was winless as a 2-year-old and, although he was in the money 14 times in 19 races before the Hollywood Derby, he had only 4 wins, none in a stake.
“It’s all a bit of luck in this game, isn’t it?” Brennan said.
Indeed it is. What would have happened, for instance, if Spellbound and Gladys hadn’t been compatible?
Lieutenant’s Lark, who ran ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita, broke from the No. 5 post position.
Kay Shumate, the wife of one of the colt’s owners, went to the windows to make a $50 across-the-board bet on their horse.
She bet on No. 5, but Lieutenant’s Lark, who had been assigned to the parimutuel field because the track handicapper didn’t give him much of a chance, was No. 12 for betting purposes. What Shumate mistakenly had was a $150 bet on Last Tycoon, the 35-1 Irish-bred who won the race.
It was a $2,975 mistake--in Kay Shumate’s favor.
In last Saturday’s Washington D.C. International, Lieutenant’s Lark won by a neck and paid a record $76.60 for the race. A nice payoff, and Kay Shumate probably had the right ticket this time.
Jockey Gary Stevens wouldn’t make any excuses for Palace Music, who ran third in the International after losing by a head to Last Tycoon in the Breeders’ Cup.
“We were in tight between horses in the stretch,” Stevens said of the International. “But if my horse had shown any acceleration, he could have easily gotten through. He just didn’t make the move you needed to win.”
Palace Music has been second in both of his Breeders’ Cup appearances, although he was penalized back to ninth place at Aqueduct in 1985. The future of the 5-year-old chestnut is in doubt because right now his owners, Nelson Bunker Hunt and Allen Paulson, are considering a substantial offer from New Zealand for 50% of the horse.
Racing Notes Groovy, who ran fourth as the 2-5 favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, lost more ground in his bid for the year’s sprint title when he was fourth as the odds-on favorite last Saturday in the Sport Page Handicap at Aqueduct. Groovy and Smile, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, are expected to run in the Vosburgh at Aqueduct Nov. 29. Trainer Jose Martin was unhappy with Jose Santos’ ride on Groovy in the Breeders’ Cup, but the reason that Santos didn’t ride Groovy Saturday was because he had a commitment in the Washington D.C. International.
Top Corsage, one of the horses who’ll be involved in the wide-open Eclipse Awards vote for best 3-year-old filly, is scheduled to run Sunday in the $200,000 Matriarch at Hollywood Park. Top Corsage has won stakes in California, Illinois, Louisiana and Kentucky this year. In the Matriarch, Top Corsage will face Bon Ile, who beat her by half a length in the Yellow Ribbon at Santa Anita. Another Matriarch starter, Auspiciante, will be ridden by Cash Asmussen, the transplanted American who was here from France to ride in the Hollywood Derby last Sunday. . . . Skywalker is now doubtful for Saturday’s $150,000 Citation Handicap at Hollywood.
The Santa Anita Derby, which has usually been run on Sundays in recent years, is scheduled for April 4, a Saturday, with the likelihood that ABC will televise the race nationally. The Santa Anita Derby is the same day as the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. In 1981, the Arlington Million became thoroughbred racing’s first million-dollar race. Now there are 13--the 7 Breeders’ Cup races, the Arlington Park stake, the Hollywood Futurity, the Santa Anita Handicap, the Jersey Derby at Garden State Park, the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park and the Travers at Saratoga. The 1987 Gold Cup and Travers are guaranteed $1 million races for the first time.
Despite business declines at Hollywood Park and its other property, Los Alamitos, Hollywood Park’s stock has been steady and recently it jumped three points. “There have been rumors of a tender offer,” said Neil Papiano, Hollywood Park’s chief counsel. “But I know nothing about it.” . . . Trainer Woody Stephens’ best 2-year-old, Gone West, ran fifth in the Champagne Stakes at Belmont and came out of the race with sore shins. “He’ll be all right,” Stephens said. “He’ll be in Florida with the rest of my horses early next year and they’ll only need three starts apiece to get ready for the Triple Crown races.”