The owners of seven 2-year-olds are paying $11,500 apiece--$9,600 more than the two other starters--to run in today's Del Mar Futurity, a race that may have jinxed four of the last horses to win it.
A Del Mar Futurity jinx? Well, consider the record:
--Roving Boy won the race in 1982 and was voted the champion 2-year-old colt. But the winter-book Kentucky Derby favorite was injured and didn't run at Churchill Downs. Later, Roving Boy collapsed just past the finish line and died after winning a stake at Santa Anita.
--Saratoga Six won the Del Mar Futurity in 1984 but broke down a couple of months later and never raced again.
--Tasso won the Futurity in 1985 and received the national juvenile title. But he was injured before the Kentucky Derby, has never completely regained his championship form and is now being tried as a grass runner.
--Qualify, last year's Futurity winner, died early this year from a stomach disorder.
If there's no jinx, the race has surely earned the title of the Fickle Futurity. The only exception to the pattern in the last five years was Althea, the filly who won here for trainer Wayne Lukas in 1983 and went on to win the Arkansas Derby as a 3-year-old.
Today's field in the 40th Futurity is headed by Bold Second, who is favored to give Charlie Whittingham his first win in the stake since Groshawk in 1972--the only year the Hall of Fame trainer has won the race.
Bold Second, who broke his maiden in his second start at Hollywood Park and then won the De Anza Stakes here last month, is one of the seven supplementary starters.
Because they hadn't been kept eligible with payments totaling $400, their owners each had to pay a $10,000 supplementary fee in addition to the $1,500 it costs to enter and run.
The only starters who are getting in for the $1,900 minimum are Dr. Brady, a longshot, and Accomplish Ridge, who was edged at the wire by Purdue King, another Futurity contender, in the Balboa Stakes on Sept. 2.
Because of all the supplementary money, the Futurity will be worth $300,550 if all nine horses run, making it the richest race in the track's 48 seasons. The Del Mar Handicap has been a $300,000 race for the last two years. Today's winner earns $174,800.
"We didn't make the early payments on Bold Second for this race because the first couple of crops from his sire, Bold Tropic, weren't that good," Whittingham said.
"But I did have a colt from the first crop--a full brother to this one--who could run. His name was Tropical Hailey (the dam was Little Hailey), but he got hurt after only one race, had to have an operation on his hind leg, and I doubt that he'll ever run again."
Whittingham can't be happy with the No. 8 post position that Bold Second drew. Only Raised in Song, one of two fillies running for Lukas, is farther out. The Futurity is a mile, which means the start is at the finish line, with a short run to the first turn.
"You can get carried wide going into that turn," Whittingham said. "It's happened to a couple of my horses--Temperate Sil and Balzac."
Temperate Sil, who also had the No. 8 post in a nine-horse field, ran fifth as the 9-10 favorite last year.
Temperate Sil, the winner of this year's Santa Anita Derby, was a handful in the gate that day, and with his nervous energy has continued to be a difficult colt for Whittingham to train.
"Nothing bothers this horse (Bold Second)," Whittingham said. "Ferdinand (winner of last year's Kentucky Derby) doesn't give you a bit of trouble, either, and this horse is even easier than he is."
Whittingham is guarded about his chances. "I don't know what was behind him when he won that last race," the trainer said.
The Futurity is a quarter-mile longer than the De Anza. Bold Second should have no trouble running that far, but his sire, Bold Tropic, had limitations beyond 1 1/8 miles.
Bold Tropic was a strong, energetic horse with a long stride and a knack of coming on after other horses passed him. He came out of South Africa--losing a year of competition because of a lengthy quarantine and a difference in common equine birthdays between that country and the United States--and raced two years for Whittingham, winning five stakes, including the American Handicap at Hollywood Park twice. Bold Tropic did win the Burke Handicap, at 1 miles on the Santa Anita grass, in 1980.
Bold Tropic's chestnut son has only to run about a mile today. That roundabout route to the first turn could make his race slightly longer than seven of the others.
Horse Racing Notes
Del Mar's season ends today. The Los Angeles County Fair at Fairplex Park in Pomona starts Thursday, filling the gap until the opening of the Oak Tree season at Santa Anita on Oct. 7. . . . Mi Preferido, sidelined with sore shins since he won the Hollywood Juvenile Championship on July 25, is scheduled to return to training by mid-October, but trainer Laz Barrera says that there's not much chance the colt would be ready to run in the Breeders' Cup at Hollywood Park on Nov. 21. . . . Barrera, who won the Futurity last year with Qualify, is taking a shot with Doctor's Tribute today. Doctor's Tribute, a son of Affirmed, Barrera's 1978 Triple Crown champion, finished far behind Bold Second when they raced as maidens at Hollywood Park, but he's got two wins and a second at Del Mar. . . . Gary Stevens, who has clinched Del Mar's riding title, is on suspension, but a special California rule permits him to ride Doctor's Tribute.