Several minutes after the 54th Santa Anita Handicap, Wayne Lukas glanced at the tote board.
"What was the time?" asked the trainer, who says he doesn't own a stopwatch.
Before he could pick up the numbers on the board, Lukas answered his own question. "The time doesn't matter does it?" he said. "We got the $500,000. We got the job done."
Technically, the first-place purse for the $1-million race was $550,000, and officially the time was a fair 2:00 1/5, but these are only footnotes to still another strong performance from Lukas' Farma Way, the 4-year-old colt who has gone from not knowing how to win to not believing he can lose. He won the Big 'Cap on Saturday by 2 3/4 lengths, and looked as though he had enough left to circle the track again.
Louis Cyphre, a 41-1 shot who finished fifth, tried to run with Farma Way down the backstretch, but Lukas' horse, never under any pressure, was allowed to cruise along through fractions of 46 1/5 for a half-mile and 1:10 1/5 for three-quarters. Farma Way pulled away from Louis Cyphre on the turn and won as he pleased.
"He used very little energy getting to the head of the stretch," Lukas said. "By the time he got to the quarter pole, he still hadn't taken a deep breath. It was effortless. A methodical, professional job."
Farma Way, who won only two of 10 starts before owner George Bunn fired Neil Boyce and sent the horse to Lukas late last year, has now won five in a row. He became only the second horse--after Ack Ack in 1971--to sweep the San Carlos, San Pasqual, San Antonio and Santa Anita handicaps for older horses.
Farma Way, running 1 1/4 miles for the first time, won as easily at the added distance as he had at seven furlongs. No horse has finished closer than 2 1/2 lengths of him in any of them.
The 4-5 favorite of the Santa Anita crowd of 43,512, Farma Way carried high weight of 120 pounds and paid $3.80 to win. Festin, who was last in the 10-horse field after three-quarters of a mile, closed the fastest of the others to finish second, three-quarters of a length ahead of Pleasant Tap. It was 5 1/2 lengths back to In Excess in fourth place.
Laffit Pincay, who has won five Big 'Caps, suffered another in a string of recent injuries when his horse, My Boy Adam, clipped the heels of the horse in front of him, Anshan, midway through the far turn. Pincay, who twice last year suffered broken collarbones, went down and was almost trampled by Festin, ridden by Eddie Delahoussaye, and Secret Hello, with Pat Day aboard.
Initially, Pincay complained of back pains. After being taken to nearby Arcadia Methodist Hospital, it was reported that he had suffered two broken ribs.
"I can't ride, but I can dance," Pincay was quoted as saying.
Pincay was released from the hospital. My Boy Adam, who was far back when the accident occurred, completed the course and was not injured.
"My horse was galloping when it happened," said Jerry Fanning, My Boy Adam's trainer. "He was in tight, but it looked like he was moving through when it happened."
Day and Delahoussaye were forced to swing wide with their horses because of the spill, but neither jockey used that as an excuse for not beating Farma Way.
"When Laffit hit the ground, Pat snatched up with his horse, and then I snatched up, too," Delahoussaye said. "Pat's horse came a lot closer to getting Laffit than mine did. It was pretty close."
Lukas' training job with Farma Way is reminiscent of the work he did with Gulch, only in reverse. Lukas shortened up Gulch, who ran ninth for trainer LeRoy Jolley in the 1 1/4-mile Breeders' Cup Classic in 1987, then came back the next year for Lukas at Churchill Downs to win the six-furlong Breeders' Cup Sprint and clinch an Eclipse Award.
With Farma Way, it has been a case of stretching a horse out. "When we first got him, I thought he might be a horse who would handle six furlongs to a mile," Lukas said.
One day, the trainer turned to Jeff Lukas, his son and No. 1 assistant, and said: "I think this horse might be able to run (in races) as far as they write them."
Last December, at Hollywood Park, Lukas saddled Farma Way for the first time and he ran fourth in a grass sprint. Since then, there have been consecutive victories in an allowance race and the four stakes.
After victory No. 2, in the San Carlos Handicap, Lukas changed Farma Way's training pattern. He had been working the horse a half-mile or five-eighths of a mile, but then he started sending him seven furlongs in the mornings, something he rarely does with any horse.
"He's the same way in the mornings as he is in races. Things come easy for him," Lukas said.
Last Monday, Farma Way breezed six furlongs in 1:14. "Just about everyone else that morning went faster," Lukas said. "But it was just what I wanted for my horse."
Gary Stevens, who rode Farma Way Saturday, won the Big 'Cap for the second consecutive time, after beating Lukas' Criminal Type by 1 3/4 lengths on Ruhlmann last year.
Bunn, who lives in Springfield, Ill., hadn't seen Farma Way run for Lukas until Saturday. Bunn is the only man to race the Marfa-Fine Tribute colt, but actually he is Farma Way's fourth owner. The horse was first sold by his breeders for $6,700 as a weanling. Then in 1988, Clyde Rice bought him at a Kentucky auction for $25,000. In 1989, Rice sold Farma Way to Bunn at a Florida auction for $145,000.
Bunn, who has raced horses for about 12 years, is chairman of the company that makes Bunn-omatic coffee machines, some of which are used at Santa Anita.
"That's been a family business for 30 or 40 years," Bunn said Saturday, "but it's really just an avocation. What I really am is a hayshaker."
Asked his age, the sixtyish Bunn said: "I'm 106."
He may have to live that long before another horse as good as Farma Way comes his way again.
* MIKE DOWNEY: Farma Way has settled in nicely as the new star of Wayne Lukas' barn. C4