HOLLYWOOD PARK : Some Horses More Than a Number
Far from the bright lights and big money of the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup, the majority of thoroughbreds labor as blue-collar claimers, moving from barn to barn as cogs in the parimutuel machine.
Sometimes, however, these tough old campaigners rise above anonymity to become known for their individual personalities, not simply as numbers in an exacta box.
Paisano Pete is such a horse. So is Bright and Right. And the dean of all the local hard-knockers is Amanotherbrother, the 9-year-old gelding who is a member of the exclusive 100 starts/20 wins club.
Claustrophobic, graying and balding under his forelock, Amanotherbrother is a headstrong senior who spends his days browsing around an outside pen at the Sandy Shulman barn.
His best races may be behind him, but he still can muster the former fire, as he did on April 18 at Santa Anita when he got victory No. 20 for a $16,000 price tag. The chestnut finished seventh in his most recent race on May 10 at Hollywood Park.
By now, after 102 starts and more than 82 competitive miles, Amanotherbrother is a four-legged treasure trove of historical trivia. For instance:
--He has been ridden by 22 jockeys, including Dario Lozoya, Bill Shoemaker, Jorge Velasquez and both Gary and Russell Baze.
--He has been favored 10 times and has brought back a piece of the purse 71 times, earning close to $400,000.
--He has run on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, Lincoln’s (real) birthday and the Fourth of July.
Amanotherbrother made his first start on Feb. 1, 1984, at Santa Anita. At the time, John Henry was still the king of the hill, Orel Hershiser was a rookie, and the words Iran and Contra had yet to be joined by a hyphen.
“The Brother” finished fifth that day, but he has outlasted nearly all of them in the long run. Of the 10 young hopefuls he faced in his debut, only one--a horse named Crime Spree--is still in action, and he has fallen to the bottom of racing’s barrel, competing for $3,200 price tags in New Mexico.
Amanotherbrother remains a part of the Big Show. He is an institution in the Shulman stable, where his exercise rider, Chato Ortiz, simply calls him “Granddad”.
“Putting him outside has made a big difference with this old guy,” said Shulman, who claimed him originally for $16,000 and moved him into allowance company. “He never did like an inside stall. Look at this one over here, where he kicked a hole in the wall. We go to some added expense to make sure he’s outside, but it’s worth it.”
Julio Canani admits he gave in to a soft spot for Bright and Right when the 8-year-old gelding returned from a seven-month layoff last February.
The trainer had originally purchased the son of Search for Gold from his breeder, W.R. Hawn, in December 1987 for about $60,000. Bright and Right won six of nine races for Canani, who eventually lost him to trainer Mike Goodin for $50,000 in November 1988.
“I had a feeling he might come back fresh after that layoff last year,” Canani said about Bright and Right’s Feb. 24 return. “When I saw him in the paddock, his coat looked good, he was walking good and he didn’t seem to be showing any pain.”
Canani claimed Bright and Right for $32,000 of owner Larry Gleason’s money. Five races later, the Cal-bred was back in the winner’s circle at Hollywood, on May 23, after his 16th victory in 47 starts.
“I think he just needed to get himself fit,” Canani said. “He was a little heavy. But he’s such a kind horse, and so classy, every time you lead him over, he tries as hard as he can.”
Sometimes, he tries too hard. Bright and Right has been plagued by weak hoof walls all his life. He missed nine months of his 5-year-old campaign in 1987 recovering from hoof problems, back when he was trained by Mark MacDonald.
“Yeah, I’m the guy who sold him to Julio and had to watch him win all those races,” MacDonald said with a laugh.
MacDonald remembers Bright and Right as the only older horse in a batch of Hawn’s 2-year-olds shipped from trainer Charlie Comiskey in San Francisco.
“I really had no idea who he was,” MacDonald said. “I took it for granted he was a $12,000 horse. Then one day he outworked a good horse with his neck bowed. I looked up his record and saw he’d won a stakes and finished in the money almost every time he ran.”
In fact, Bright and Right had been one of the most promising young Bay Area horses in early 1985. He broke his maiden by eight lengths and finished third in the Golden Bear Stakes before his feet started bothering him. By the time he got to MacDonald, he had run 1-2-3 in 20 of 22 starts.
MacDonald got approval from Hawn to drop Bright and Right into a $50,000 claimer on Dec. 11, 1986, at Hollywood Park.
“I’ll never forget the race,” MacDonald said. “I bet $50 on him at 8-1 and I was doing cartwheels all the way down to the track when he won. Then they disqualified him. The next day, Julio came around to buy him.”
Paisano Pete was named by Texas oilman Ned Maddox, who bought the son of It’s Freezing as a yearling in 1984. Acting through agent Hal Oliver, Maddox paid $35,000.
Ill health forced the owner to give up his horses before Paisano Pete could repay the investment. He won three races for Maddox, then in June 1987, he started racing for the partnership of Oliver, construction executive Don McCoy and Dr. Robert Jones of Arizona.
Since then, Paisano Pete has become one of the most consistent pure sprinters on the local circuit. He has never threatened the very best, but the rest have “Pete” to beat whenever they run 6 furlongs, especially on the grass at Hollywood.
Since racing secretary Eual Wyatt began scheduling more of the popular grass dashes two years ago, Paisano Pete has won five in nine tries. His record at 6 1/2 furlongs down the hill at Santa Anita is an equally impressive three for five.
“He’s become a real fan favorite,” Oliver said. “They know he’ll put in his run every time.”
Although he has run for claiming prices as low as $50,000, as a maiden, and as high as $125,000, Paisano Pete has never left Richard Mandella’s barn. The 7-year-old has run only 33 times and won 13 races. If he has a weakness, it is his free-wheeling, front-running style. He tends to stop once he is caught.
That’s why his most recent race on May 11 at Hollywood was so encouraging to Oliver. Paisano Pete was pressed hard on the pace but refused to wilt. At the end of six furlongs in 1:08 he was third, beaten barely a length.
“This horse subordinates himself to no one,” Oliver noted.
Horse Racing Notes
Jockey Dave Patton will return to Hollywood Park today after injuring his foot in a starting gate accident earlier this month. He’ll ride Janitor in the ninth race. . . . Sunday Silence will work a half-mile this morning in his final prep for Sunday’s $300,000 Californian. Stablemate Ruhlmann, star of the Santa Anita Handicap, will stay in the barn this weekend and point instead for the $1,000,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on June 24. . . . Trainer Wayne Lukas said Grand Canyon is galloping daily at his Rancho Santa Fe training center and should be joining the race track stable soon.