Two trotting half-brothers have helped to form the French Connection, Los Alamitos style.
Nothing Ventured, a 4-year-old horse, has proved to be plenty gained for trainer-driver Nicol Tremblay.
Capital Game, his 3-year-old half-brother, has been a huge capital gain for driver and co-owner Gaetan Brunet. Tremblay and Brunet are both French Canadians from Quebec.
Nothing Ventured has won his last eight starts in invitational and free-for-all company, and had a career-best time of 1:57 2/5 at Sacramento. He will be trying to extend his streak in a $20,000 free-for-all feature next Tuesday.
Capital Game has dominated the 3-year-old trotting division in California. He has won three of his last four outings, the only setback coming when he ventured into the free-for-all ranks and finished second to Nothing Ventured at Sacramento. He ranks as a short-priced favorite in the second race Thursday, a $6,000 trot.
Tremblay and Brunet are unrelated and did not meet until the former moved to California in 1980. "A friend of mine said, 'Hey, I've got somebody I want you to meet who can't speak English,' " Brunet said with a smile, remembering the introduction.
Brunet, 38, came to the United States as a teen-ager from Ottawa. Tremblay, 48, learned the sport a tougher way, competing on the harsh winter circuits of Canada and New York.
Tremblay acquired Nothing Ventured for owner Gratien Deschenes of Quebec in a three-horse package as an unraced 3-year-old.
Tremblay describes Nothing Ventured as an ideal physical specimen but not very smart. "He's a bad-tempered horse and wants to kill himself all the time," he said.
"When we put him on the van in Sacramento, he cut himself, and we had to tranquilize him. He's just a dummy; he doesn't know where the mile starts or ends.
"But he's a good horse. he's got a lot of ability and he never breaks. He's not fussy, and he races without Lasix. The only thing he doesn't like is mud."
Brunet purchased Capital Game for $600 at a Pomona yearling sale. "I had $2,000 to spend for yearling capital," Brunet said. "I took him back East in March of his 2-year-old year and he got real sick and almost died. They held up the van for 48 hours in Amarillo, and I was real lucky that we found a good vet there who treated him.
"He was a horse not made, he was born. When I was at Vernon Downs (in New York) that summer training him, Howard Beissinger, Clint Galbraith and Team Nordin all said, 'Who is this colt?'
"He qualified at Vernon last September in 2:04, the last quarter in :30, and I called Jack Sherren, my father-in-law, in California. He said the last Sire Stakes race just went in 2:05, and I headed back.
"It's funny. At this time last year, the mare (Initial Investment) was nothing, and now she's a prolific broodmare."
In addition to Nothing Ventured and Capital Game, Initial Investment is also the dam of Final Investment, an 8-year-old who won in 2:00 4/5 trotting this summer at Vernon Downs.
J. Paul Reddam, a mortgage banker in Sunset Beach, knows timing is everything. He was happy to see Riviera Hanover win the first $35,000 leg of the American Pacing Classic in 1:55 Saturday but considers the likelihood of a repeat performance this Saturday remote. "If we were going to get the money, this was the time," said Reddam, who co-owns the 6-year-old gelding in partnership with Maryann Plano, wife of trainer Rick Plano. "Next week, we're facing a different class of horse."
T K's Skipper, the best older pacer in the nation, will join the series Saturday. "He'll be there (today) and race Saturday," trainer Nick Sodano said from New Jersey. The 5-year-old horse was originally scheduled to arrive last week, but a flight cancellation forced Sodano to transport him from Du Quoin, Ill., to Lexington, Ky., to train. T K's Skipper, who had a 1:49 2/5 time trial Sept. 1 at Du Quoin, will arrive on a Tex Sutton charter flight with a load of thoroughbreds.
Reddam and Plano enjoyed their moment in the sun. "I've owned horses for 10 years, and this is the best one," Reddam said. "We claimed him for $50,000 last December, and now he's won $57,000. We're 'out' and he's getting better. We had all the best of it. Dare You To (the favorite, who finished third) had a real tough trip and had been off for three weeks. Making the top was the key. He's won seven times for us and never lost when he's on the lead."
Harness Racing Notes
Driver Gene Vallandingham was suspended for 10 days through next Tuesday by Los Alamitos stewards for "careless driving which resulted in disqualification and an accident" in the invitational pace Sept. 1. Vallandingham, driving Riviera Hanover, veered out in the stretch and interfered with Power and Glory, who broke stride and fell after the finish. Jim Todd, Power and Glory's driver, who went after Vallandingham on the track, was fined $200 by the stewards for "unprofessional conduct upon the conclusion of the race."
Driver Bob Sleeth will return Thursday after a 10-day suspension. He failed to pass a test for alcohol Aug. 30. Stewards placed Sleeth on probation for the remainder of the year. . . . A filly by Denali out of the Rowdy Yankee mare, Positively Rowdy, topped the Pacesetter yearling sale at Los Alamitos Sunday. Rick Plano paid $29,500 for the unnamed filly. A total of 55 yearlings were sold for $319,725, an average of $5,813, up from the average price of $4,400 last year.
Peter Wrenn, who came from Detroit to drive Dare You To Saturday, said he would continue coming west on weekends before returning full time for the winter in three weeks. Wrenn, 27, scored his 2,000th career victory during the summer in Detroit. He finished third in the driver standings at his first Los Alamitos meeting last winter. . . . Lloyd Arnold, president and general manager of Los Alamitos, said a consortium of 14 Nevada sports books will be able to start handling Los Alamitos wagering Sept. 27.