For the first five furlongs of the seven-furlong A Gleam Handicap Saturday at Hollywood Park, Winning Colors looked every bit the champion she was last year when she won the Kentucky Derby.
Striding easily, she was clearly toying with the opposition. Then, without warning, her head dropped and her legs began to wobble. A runner at the end of her rope, she was lucky to hang on for fourth place when the finish mercifully arrived. She was 6 1/2 lengths behind the French mare Daloma.
“I knew I was in trouble at the quarter pole,” said Gary Stevens, who rode Winning Colors to victory in the 1988 Kentucky Derby. “I asked her and she responded, but she was all out. I’m very, very disappointed.”
To that point, Winning Colors had been racing on the lead with the speedy Tomorrow’s Child. Chris McCarron had kept Daloma just off the fast pace in third.
Daloma drew alongside Winning Colors around the far turn, and, for the first time, McCarron thought about an upset.
“I was feeling pretty confident, but I know what kind of filly Winning Colors is,” McCarron said. “I was just hoping I could keep my mare going.”
He did, and as Winning Colors wilted, Daloma went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths in 1:21 3/5. Longshot Survive was second with Behind the Scenes another 2 3/4 lengths back.
Daloma paid $14.80, $6.20 and $3.80. Survive returned $11 and $6.80, and Behind the Scenes paid $3.80.
However, not everyone was surprised.
“If Winning Colors was going to get beat, it made sense that this might be the spot,” said Rodney Rash, who was running the horse for trainer Charlie Whittingham.
Whittingham has been in Kentucky for the last 10 days preparing Sunday Silence for the Kentucky Derby. In his absence, the stable has knocked off a pair of giants, defeating Great Communicator in the San Juan Capistrano with Nasr el Arab last Sunday, and now Winning Colors.
Rash pointed out that Winning Colors was making her first start in six months and that she was sprinting for the first time in more than a year.
“We also figured that they had bigger plans for Winning Colors farther down the line, and that maybe she wouldn’t be cranked up all the way for this race,” Rash added.
Jeff Lukas, who trains Winning Colors, offered no excuses.
“She just got tired,” said Lukas after making sure the big roan filly returned in one piece. “I saw her head start to drop at the three-eighths pole and knew she was in trouble.
“I was surprised, though, and more than a little disappointed,” Lukas said. “I truly thought we had her tight enough. With all due respect to the horses that beat her, I know she’s a better filly than them.
“Obviously, she fooled us in her training,” Lukas said. “Maybe we were so wrapped up in getting her bigger and stronger for this year’s campaign that we misjudged how fit she really was. It’s some consolation that this race will do her a lot of good.”
Small consolation, though, to the fans who made Winning Colors 2-5 in the win pool and bet $182,060 in win, place and show money. She did manage to add $5,625 to her bankroll of more than $1.3 million.
Daloma, a gray daughter of the outstanding French miler Bellypha, earned $47,900 for the victory. The A Gleam was her second stakes win for the Whittingham stable.
“You couldn’t ask for a more consistent mare,” said Rash, a native of Maryland who has been Whittingham’s assistant since 1982. “I guess you could say seven furlongs on the main track is her best distance--especially after she beats Winning Colors.”
Horse Racing Notes
Richard Eamer, the owner of Daloma, calls his racing operation Enemy Stables after the initials of his company, National Medical Enterprises, of which he is chairman and CEO. Unfortunately, the Hollywood Park program read “Enemy Stales.” With his company’s common stock on the rise and his mare in the winner’s circle, Eamer is anything but stale. . . . Although they’ve won the A Gleam twice before, the Wayne Lukas stable now has suffered two high-profile flops in the relatively insignificant event. In 1984, their champion filly Althea finished sixth in the race at even-money in what turned out to be the last start of her career. . . . Attendance at the track Saturday was 24,399.