One of the first things trainer Laz Barrera noticed about his new--and maybe best--2-year-old colt, Sabulose, was a close resemblance to his father.
"He looks just like him," Barrera said.
Once the sixth race at Del Mar got under way Wednesday, Barrera noticed another resemblance.
"Runs just like him, too," Barrera said.
Bold Forbes, a small, gritty horse, used to love to run on the lead and dare other horses to catch him. Not many could.
In the sixth race Wednesday, a 5 1/2-furlong test for maiden 2-year-old colts, Sabulose exhibited the ability to use the same tactic. He blew out to an early lead from the inside post position and went wire-to-wire under jockey Gary Stevens. On Del Mar's 49th opening day, Sabulose was the most impressive winner.
Though Stevens said he took it easy as Sabulose ran down the stretch comfortably ahead of D. Wayne Lukas' Texian, the young colt finished in a time of 1 minute 2 4/5 seconds, only 3/5 off the track record set by Ack Ack in 1970.
Ack Ack was 4 when he set the record 18 years ago. Although no such records are kept, it's possible Sabulose's time Wednesday was the fastest by any 2-year-old.
"Once they opened that gate, and he got off to a good start, I knew the race was his," Barrera said. "I'm excited about this one. He could be an awfully good one."
Barrera usually knows a good one when he sees one. After Bold Forbes in 1976, he trained Triple Crown winner Affirmed in 1978.
Every summer, Del Mar provides a training ground for some of the West Coast's top 2-year-olds. Barrera may have found his Kentucky Derby candidate for 1989.
"I'm not going to think ahead to that yet," Barrera said. "This horse still has to prove himself here. But I like his chances to be able to do that."
Stevens does, too. After the race, he ran over to Barrera to express his delight.
"I'll go anywhere to ride this son of a gun," he told Barrera.
It's amazing how things can change. Earlier this year, Sabulose's owner, Aaron Jones, tried to sell him at Hollywood Park.
When nobody would bid higher than $60,000, Jones kept Sabulose. The problem, other buyers were saying, was that the colt was too small.
Jones thought the same. But after he kept him, he came to realize that Sabulose was gritty, too. Just like his father.
The word sabulous means gritty.
"So far, he's done everything right," Barrera said. "He reminds me so much of Bold Forbes, I have to feel good about him."
Barrera said he'll next run Sabulose in a 2-year-old stakes race, possibly the Balboa on Aug. 31. Then, Barrera said, he's hoping to enter him in the Del Mar Futurity on closing day, Sept. 14.
After that, Barrera can only hope that Sabulose keeps bringing back good memories.