A week from today, when Alysheba is officially named 1988 horse of the year, boosters for Personal Ensign will groan about the undefeated filly's misfortune of coming along in the wrong year.
Personal Ensign, whose 7 for 7 record in 1988 would have been good enough to win horse-of-the-year honors in most any other year, is not the only filly whose career has been ill-timed. Consider Goodbye Halo, who turns up a bridesmaid every year and will try to reverse the trend when she makes her debut as a 4-year-old today at Santa Anita.
In 1987, Goodbye Halo started her career with an 8-length victory at Belmont Park. She then won the Demoiselle at Aqueduct by 10 lengths. Sent to trainer Charlie Whittingham after that, she won the Hollywood Starlet by 3 1/2 lengths.
Goodbye Halo was kept on the sidelines for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Epitome won the race, clinching the Eclipse Award for best 2-year-old filly, with Goodbye Halo finishing second in the voting.
Epitome's overall record hardly compared to Goodbye Halo's--she had only 1 victory against maidens in 6 starts before the Breeders' Cup. In retrospect, there is little question about who would usually win if the 2 fillies raced each other often. Eclipse voters have been unpredictable, but this time they considered the Breeders' Cup as everything and gave the title to Epitome.
Last year, Goodbye Halo added 4 more major stakes wins to her record. But this time she was in a league with Personal Ensign and Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors, and 3 failures on grass--a surface she will never race on again--dimmed her record. In the Breeders' Cup Distaff, with Personal Ensign beating Winning Colors at the wire, Goodbye Halo finished third, only a half-length behind the other 2 fillies, a stellar performance that was quickly forgotten.
Deservedly, Winning Colors was voted champion 3-year-old filly, with Goodbye Halo settling for another second in Eclipse voting. Personal Ensign will lose the vote to Alysheba for horse of the year, but she won the title for best older filly or mare.
Today, Goodbye Halo will be running against only 4 others in the $100,000 El Encino Stakes. Her nemeses from last year are on the sidelines, Personal Ensign having been retired and soon to be bred to Mr. Prospector, and Winning Colors getting a rest until later in the year.
Goodbye Halo hasn't won in almost 7 months, but her 5 starts in that stretch also deserve footnotes: 3 ill-advised races on grass, that narrow defeat in the Breeders' Cup and a fourth-place finish in the Alabama at Saratoga, where she bled from the lungs.
In the El Encino, Goodbye Halo will be reunited with Pat Day, the Midwestern jockey who hasn't been aboard since they won the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, the day before Winning Colors won the Kentucky Derby.
On Sunday, Santa Anita hopes to resume grass racing with the running of the $150,000 San Marcos Handicap at 1 1/4 miles. Track officials closed the turf last Monday, in the wake of complaints from owners, trainers and jockeys about the condition of the divot-scarred grass course. Two horses that broke down in grass races last weekend had to be destroyed.
On Thursday, jockeys approved the condition of the grass course, which was given the chance to dry because of higher temperatures and no rain.
Putting, second to Great Communicator in the Hollywood Turf Cup last week, will carry high weight of 120 pounds in the San Marcos.
Horse Racing Notes
For owner John Valpredo, bad luck came in triplicate the day Feraud broke down on Santa Anita's grass course. Feraud, destroyed a few days later, was going to be insured for $90,000, Valpredo said, but the policy wasn't completed in time. The morning Feraud was injured, a Valpredo filly needed more than 100 stitches to repair an injury suffered in a training accident. Later that day, Valpredo learned that one of his mares had died at the farm.
The trickle of fines continues against Santa Anita trainers after post-race positives for illegal medications. Arthur Hirsch was fined $750 by the stewards after his horse, Tip a Sou, was disqualified following a second-place finish in a race Jan. 5. . . . Pat Valenzuela, who broke a cheekbone in a spill on Dec. 28, resumes riding this weekend.
Neil Drysdale won another race Friday, giving him 9 victories with only 17 starters at the meeting. . . . In a national vote by jockeys, Larry Snyder was picked as the winner of the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award. The 46-year-old Snyder, winner of 5,855 races, has spent most of his career in the Midwest. The award is named after the jockey who died after a spill at Santa Anita in 1946.