Now that the unbeaten 3-year-old colt Mister Frisky has established himself as the prerace favorite for the Kentucky Derby--at least among members of the media who are crying for a fresh angle--a few things need to be pointed out about his heritage.
He is not a "Puerto Rican" horse. Nor is he a Son of San Juan, a Caribbean Comet, or any other condescending variation on an already exhausted theme.
Yes, Mister Frisky did win all 13 of his races in Puerto Rico before taking the San Vicente and San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita this winter. And yes, his owners, Jose and Marta Hernandez, are natives of the island territory. But Mister Frisky is American mainland through and through, a son of a blue-blooded Kentucky stallion who was bred, foaled and sold in Florida before going on to become the King of El Commandante.
Still raking in favorable reviews from his victory in the March 3 San Rafael, Mister Frisky is not scheduled to run again until the $500,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 7. In the meantime, a veritable cottage industry has grown up around the chestnut colt, with bloodstock agents from all over the world ferreting out members of his immediate family to buy, sell or otherwise chip off a piece of the rock.
Within the past two months, two of Mister Frisky's sisters have changed hands and several shares of his sire, Marsayas, have been sold for as much as $5,000 apiece. Such is the magnetic power of a potential Derby colt at the top of the family tree, for nothing that came before Mister Frisky could justify such interest in his genetic relatives.
Even Mister Frisky's breeders, Dr. Ronald Chak and family of Ocala, Fla., are more than a little bit amazed at what the colt has been able to accomplish, based on his family ties.
"As an individual, he did not stand out," said Dr. Chak's son, Roger, who manages their Newchance Farm. "And to look at his pedigree, there was really nothing there. . . When he went for $15,000 as a 2-year-old last April he most certainly outsold his pedigree."
The Chaks lost track of Mister Frisky once he went to Puerto Rico to begin his racing career. Word trickled back to Florida of his initial success last summer, but they were not particularly suspicious when a man named Gilberto Umpierre called them from San Juan with an offer to buy Frisky Flyer, Mister Frisky's dam.
Frisky Flyer, who raced in the late 1970s, had some success on the track for Newchance Farm. She won five of 20 starts, mostly on the bush track circuit of the Ohio River Valley.
"We sold her, because that's the business we're in," said Roger Chak. "It would have been nice to have had more reliable information on Mister Frisky at the time, but the racing authorities in Puerto Rico are pretty slow in getting it to our Jockey Club. As a result, Frisky Flyer was gone before we really knew what the colt had turned out to be."
Still, the Chaks could take some consolation. They had control of Mister Frisky's two sisters, didn't they?
"Actually, we'd sold his full sister, Miss Frisky Lady, for $13,000 as a 2-year-old," said Roger Chak. "But we took her back when they didn't like what the X-rays showed on her knees. She ended up winning a couple races for us before we retired her.
"The fellow who bought into Marsayas, Mr. (Romulado) Olazabal, offered to buy her from us earlier this year, before Mister Frisky won the San Vicente," Chak went on. "My father put what he thought was an outrageous price on her--$50,000--which was about 10 times more than she was worth based on her pedigree and her racing record. But the guy paid the price."
Mister Frisky's other sister is named Miss Frisky. She never made it to the races.
"Actually, we'd sold her for $600 last year," said Roger Chak. "With all this happening recently, I thought I'd better get on the phone and hunt her down.
"I found her just south of us in Bartow, owned by some woman who'd bred her to a quarter horse. Hooked up my trailer, drove through the sugar sand and picked her up for $1,000. We told the lady we'd give her back the quarter horse foal.
"The funny thing was, that lady got a call the very next week from somebody in Puerto Rico, wanting to buy Miss Frisky, too," Chak added. "She must have been getting pretty suspicious by then."
Horse Racing Notes
Mister Frisky continued on target for the Santa Anita Derby with a 5-furlong workout Wednesday in one minute flat. . . . Ron Hansen has been granted permission to resume riding on Saturday by the Golden Gate board of stewards.