Alysheba, who won and then lost the Blue Grass Stakes here a year ago on a stewards' decision, is owned by Dorothy Scharbauer and her daughter, Pamela, and is trained by Jack Van Berg, but there is little doubt who calls the shots.
The man at the controls is 62-year-old Clarence Scharbauer, Dorothy's husband for 40 years.
In the winner's circle at Churchill Downs after Alysheba had won the Kentucky Derby last year, Clarence said to Jim McKay of ABC: "I'm just the chore boy around here."
Clarence is a great kidder. It is because of him that Chris McCarron is still riding Alysheba.
McCarron, coming off surgery with an 8-ounce stainless steel plate in his left leg, had been back riding for only five weeks when he rode Alysheba for the first time in the Blue Grass. Pat Day had given up the mount to ride Demons Begone in the Kentucky Derby, because he felt that Alysheba had developed "a bad case of second-itis."
Despite repeated crowding by Bet Twice through the stretch at Churchill Downs, McCarron somehow kept Alysheba on his feet to win the Derby, then two weeks later they also won the Preakness.
With the Triple Crown on the line, McCarron had a plan for the Belmont Stakes, but Alysheba finished fourth, missing third place by a neck. McCarron blamed himself for a tentative ride.
The Triple Crown would have meant $5 million to the Scharbauers, and third place in the Belmont would have salvaged a $1-million bonus for them for Alysheba's high finishes in the three races. Instead, the $1 million went to Bet Twice, winner of the Belmont and second in both the Derby and the Preakness.
A few days after the Belmont, there was a conference call involving Van Berg and the Scharbauers at their ranch in Midland, Tex. Van Berg and Dorothy Scharbauer were of an opinion that McCarron should be replaced by another rider.
Just when it looked as though that decision was going to be made, Clarence Scharbauer got into the act.
"Now wait a minute," he said. "It seems to me that we're forgetting awful quick about what Chris did for us in the Derby and the Preakness."
So McCarron got another chance, and has gone on to win four stakes with Alysheba. All but $400,000 of Alysheba's more than $4 million in purses has been earned with McCarron in the saddle, and he can thank Clarence Scharbauer for the second chance.
Private Terms, who is 7 for 7 including his Wood Memorial win, will try to become the fifth undefeated horse to win the Kentucky Derby when the race is run for the 114th time on May 7. The unbeaten Derby winners have been the filly Regret in 1915, who was 3 for 3 before the Derby; the crooked-legged Morvich in 1922, 11 for 11; Majestic Prince in 1969, 7 for 7; and Seattle Slew in 1977, 6 for 6.
Besides being in a position to join that group, Private Terms will become one of only a few horses who even started in the Derby with no defeats on their records.
In the last 30 years, besides Majestic Prince and Seattle Slew, only four other horses went into the Derby undefeated.
The last was Air Forbes Won, who was 4 for 4 before the 1982 Derby. Sent off a lukewarm 5-2 favorite, Air Forbes Won finished seventh, almost 10 lengths behind the 21-1 longshot winner, Gato Del Sol. Air Forbes Won didn't have history on his side. He hadn't run until he was a 3-year-old, and there hadn't been a Derby winner that did not race as a 2-year-old since Apollo in 1882.
In 1978, Sensitive Prince, a son of Majestic Prince, took a 6-for-6 record into the Derby. Even so, he was only the third choice at 9-2, because Alydar, at 6-5, and Affirmed, at 9-5, were also in the field.
Sensitive Prince led for three-quarters of a mile, then finished sixth as Affirmed beat Alydar by 1 1/2 lengths in the opener of their furious Triple Crown battles.
In 1963, there were two undefeated starters in the Derby. Candy Spots was 6 for 6 and No Robbery was 5 for 5.
Candy Spots had won the Santa Anita Derby and No Robbery was the winner of the Wood Memorial. They went off 1-2 in the betting, with Candy Spots favored at 3-2. But Chateaugay, at 9-1, won the race. Candy Spots almost clipped No Robbery's heels on the first turn, had a congested trip and ran third. No Robbery finished fifth.
Native Dancer, of course, is the most famous of the undefeated horses who were knocked off in the Derby. Native Dancer, a Maryland horse like Private Terms, was bet down to 7-10 with his entrymate, Social Outcast, in the 1953 Derby.
Clobbered by Money Broker on the clubhouse turn, Native Dancer made up 10 lengths while racing wide until the stretch, then missed catching a staggering Dark Star by a head at the wire.
Native Dancer never lost another race. He was retired with 21 wins in 22 starts. Dark Star broke down in the Preakness and never ran again.
Morvich, by the way, never won another race after the Derby. He ran four more times, finishing second twice and third once.
Churchill Downs officials really don't want to see a capacity field of 20 horses running in the Derby, which is the prospect this year.
"A field of about 14 would make me much happier," said Tom Meeker, president of the track. "With a smaller field, you're more likely to have a truer run race. The ideal is to have the best horse win the Derby every year."
Under another regime, Churchill Downs found itself in the position of having to ask a horseman to run his horse in 1969. There was going to be only a 7-horse field before Rae Jet, a local horse who had a lifetime record of 2 wins in 23 starts, was entered.
Cosmo Cosdon, who trained Rae Jet, is now a jockey agent in Kentucky.
"The track begged us to run, because they wanted to have at least eight horses," Cosdon said the other day.
Rae Jet went off at 70-1 and ran true to form, finishing last, more than 42 lengths behind the victorious Majestic Prince. But even with only eight horses, there was a traffic jam going into the first turn, and Rae Jet almost knocked Majestic Prince and jockey Bill Hartack down.
"I've known Hartack through the years, and we kid about it now," Cosdon said. "But wouldn't it have been something if a horse who had no business in there had kept the favorite and the eventual winner from winning?"
Horse Racing Notes
Hollywood Park is receiving $7,500 a racing day--the same as Santa Anita--from Las Vegas disseminator Frank Scott to send the television signal to Nevada horse parlors, but Chuck Di Rocco, another disseminator, says that his bid for the contract was comparable. Because Hollywood Park preferred Scott and had reasons not to want Di Rocco, Di Rocco lost a struggle with Scott before Nevada simulcasting authorities.
"Technically, there would be no difference between my service and Scott's," Di Rocco said. "I already do business in Northern California, so I'm at a loss to to explain why I was turned down. I have to believe that Hollywood Park has conjured up reasons for not giving me the business."
Don Robbins, general manager of Hollywood Park, said that the track was uncomfortable with an incident involving Di Rocco at Del Mar in 1982. A woman transmitting race results from the grandstand was allegedly linked to Di Rocco, who was then excluded from the track.
The least likely reason for Winning Colors, a filly, to fail in the Derby is that a roan has never won the race. Four grays--Determine, Decidedly, Spectacular Bid and Gato Del Sol--have won it, however. . . . Handicappers may have trouble figuring the Derby, but from a concessions standpoint, the favorites a week from Saturday will be hot dogs, beer and mint juleps. There will be 1,000 kegs of beer and 80,000 mint juleps consumed, and the Churchill Downs concessionaire has ordered enough hot dogs to stretch 7 miles.
Miss Oceana, the mare who was bought for a record $7 million by Peter Brant and Carl Icahn in 1985, died recently because of foaling complications. Miss Oceana, a 7-year-old, produced a Seattle Slew colt in 1986, then died a couple of weeks ago after foaling another Seattle Slew colt, which survived. Miss Oceana, a daughter of Alydar, won 11 of 19 starts and earned $1 million.
Bet Twice probably ran himself out of a confrontation with Alysheba and Lost Code in the Pimlico Special Wednesday when he lost a stretch duel with Homebuilder by a head in the $80,450 Ben Ali Handicap at Keeneland. Bet Twice took the lead at the eighth pole, but Homebuilder, who went into the race with only 5 wins in 34 starts, came on again. Bet Twice, who had won two weeks ago at Keeneland in his 4-year-old debut, carried 126 pounds to Homebuilder's 119. Bet Twice was the 1-5 favorite in a 4-horse field and Homebuilder, the second choice, paid $12 to win. The time for 1 1/8 miles was a slow 1:51 2/5.