For a moment, it appeared as though Pico Perdomo was going to accept victory in silence.
Never at a loss for words normally, the trainer was reluctant to talk to the assembled reporters after Stalwart Charger's upset in the $206,300 Del Mar Budweiser Breeders' Cup Sunday.
"I don't want to say anything," he said. "(Stalwart Charger) is a big boy. He can speak for himself."
Before anyone attempted to get the 3-year-old gelding's thoughts, Perdomo decided he couldn't keep quiet.
Minutes after Stalwart Charger atoned for his 3-5 failure in Hollywood Park's Swaps July 22, his trainer was predicting another victory in two weeks. "He'll win in Louisiana (the Super Derby Sept. 23)," said Perdomo after the son of Stalwart beat Flying Continental by 2 1/4 lengths. Ruhlmann, the 2-5 favorite, was third, ahead of stablemate Lively One in the four-horse field.
"Nobody will beat him down there. You can bet on that, my friend."
Looking for a race before the 1 1/4-mile Super Derby, Perdomo decided to try Stalwart Charger against older horses for the first time. It didn't seem like a particularly good idea considering the opposition--Ruhlmann, who usually runs well fresh; Lively One, who is partial to Del Mar; and Flying Continental, winner of the Charles H. Strub and San Fernando last winter at Santa Anita.
Reunited with Roberto Gonzalez, who was aboard for Stalwart Charger's victories in the Sausalito and California Derby last April, the 5-1 third choice was ahead of only Lively One for the first half-mile, moved up to engage Ruhlmann entering the stretch, and there was little doubt from there he was going to win.
Winning for the fifth time in seven starts, Stalwart Charger completed the mile in 1:34 3/5 and earned $116,300.
Beaten by almost four lengths by Jovial and Silver Ending in the Swaps, Stalwart Charger had an excuse that day. "He had a cut on his right foreleg," said Perdomo. "It was fine for the Silver Screen (which he won by 4 1/2 lengths), but it became infected. We missed some training with him. He couldn't stretch his leg out the way he usually does.
"Look what he did. He beats Ruhlmann; he beats Lively One. I know what I've said before and I still believe it. He's something special.
"I chose Gonzalez because he knows the horse, has faith in him and he will listen to me. He did exactly what I wanted him to do."
Replaced by Laffit Pincay in the Silver Screen and Swaps, Gonzalez, who is based in northern California, was more than happy to come south.
"I had a call to ride him in the Super Derby and the trainer told me he needed this race for the Super Derby, so I took off eight horses (at Bay Meadows) today.
"He showed me he can go to the lead or come from behind. He was a little hot and looked a little skinny since his last race, but he felt great."
Flying Continental, the longest shot in the race at nearly 6-1, defeated Ruhlmann by a half-length for the place. The heavy favorite made the lead without any pressure--he led by two lengths after a 45 2/5 half-mile--but put up little resistence when challenged by the winner.
"He just got tired," jockey Gary Stevens said. "My horse stopped real bad between the three-eighths and eighth pole. I was completely out of horse at the quarter pole and he finished with a lot of heart.
"His breezes have been easy; he probably needed the race. A hot day like today might have taken something out of him, too."
Break up Team Del Mar.
Local riders Eddie Delahoussaye, Kent Desormeaux, Laffit Pincay and Pat Valenzuela easily defeated Team Arlington in the first stage of the All-Star Jockey Challenge.
In a scoring system which awarded 12 points for a victory down to 1 for finishing eighth and last, Team Del Mar won, 81-48. The victory was worth $10,000 to each member.
Going in, the locals were, on paper, equipped with the best horses and the results of the fourth, fifth and sixth races bore this out. Delahoussaye began by winning with Silver Quad, then came victories by Desormeaux and Pincay on Michael's Flyer and Warfare Prince, respectively. Mounts were assigned by random draw.
Besides his victory on Warfare Prince, Pincay finished second on Wood Spirit in the fourth and fifth on Force And Spirit in the fifth, giving him 25 points, the most of any jockey. Desormeaux was next with 22, then came Delahoussaye (18) and Valenzuela (16). Pat Day with 14 led Team Arlington, whose other members were Earlie Fires, Randy Romero and Jorge Velasquez. They each took home $5,000.
The series will be completed Sept. 30 at Arlington.
Perky Slew, the runner-up at 46-1 in Hollywood Park's Landaluce, heads a field of seven 2-year-old fillies in today's $81,800 California Thoroughbred Breeders' Assn. Stakes.
Purchased privately by trainer Donn Luby for owner Charles Kenis after she beat $40,000 maidens in her second start May 31, Perky Slew finished second behind Sawsan in the Joy to the World at Golden Gate, then lost by three lengths to Garden Gal in the Landaluce. Delahoussaye, who was aboard for her only victory, has the call today.
The other entrants are Theresa's Pleasure, who began her career with two victories at Los Alamitos; Number's Game, who broke her maiden July 30; Fly For Free; Dragonetta, a distant third behind Lite Light and Beyond Perfection in the Sorrento; Spirited Susan, and Ain't Half Bad.
Horse Racing Notes
The Breeders' Cup Classic is the proposed stop for Stalwart Charger after the $1 million Super Derby. . . . Trainer Pico Perdomo's only other Del Mar stakes victory came with Tomboy Blues in the 1985 Coronado Stakes. . . . Clover Racing Stable had to settle for fifth in the Molson Export Million with Kansas City, but its Sunshine Jimmy won a $50,000 Final 14 Regional race at Belmont Park. The 3-year-old son of Judge Smells won for the fourth time in 17 starts and covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:40 3/5, one-fifth of a second off the track record. By winning, Sunshine Jimmy earned a spot in the $250,000 Final 14 Finale Oct. 14 at Bay Meadows.