SANTA ANITA : Split Run Will Get Key Test Sunday
Although his older brother, George, is the novelist in the family, trainer Tom Proctor is also adept at imagery.
“I hated to see that horse go,” Proctor said the other day. “With him, I felt like I had a double-barreled shotgun. But now, maybe I’ve still got a big cannon.”
Media Plan, a 3-year-old gelding trained by Proctor, had won four minor stakes before he was sold a week ago to an M.C. Hammer family group for $450,000, which was more than the horse’s breeder and owner, Leonard Lavin, had expected to get.
This leaves Proctor with another Lavin homebred, Split Run, as a Kentucky Derby candidate, and the colt’s first two races have been so impressive that Jeff Tufts, the Santa Anita linemaker, has installed him as the 8-5 favorite for Sunday’s $200,000 San Felipe Stakes, the last significant tuneup for the Santa Anita Derby April 6.
The eight-horse San Felipe field is studded with seasoned stakes runners, but none of them has hung up a record like Split Run, who has beaten maidens by six lengths and won in allowance company by 12. Jose Santos, Split Run’s jockey, has compared him favorably with Fly So Free, the Kentucky Derby future-book favorite who will be ridden by Santos today in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.
The field for the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe starts with Oregon and jockey Alex Solis on the rail, followed, in order, by Conveyor, with Corey Nakatani riding; Compelling Sound, Gary Stevens; Silver Desire, Dale Baze; Split Run, Jose Santos; Scan, Jerry Bailey; Green Alligator, Eddie Delahoussaye; and Sea Cadet, Chris McCarron. Scan and Sea Cadet will carry 119 pounds apiece, with the others shouldering 116.
In the race before the San Felipe, two high-priced yearlings, King’s Canyon and Excavate, will try to enhance their Kentucky Derby standing. King’s Canyon, who cost $1.75 million, beat maidens in his last start, and Excavate, who sold for $1.1 million, ran a dismal last in the San Rafael Stakes March 3.
Proctor would prefer an easier spot than the San Felipe for Split Run, who like Media Plan is a son of Relaunch, the winner of the Del Mar Derby in 1979.
“I’d rather have a (restricted) stake for non-winners of a stake,” Proctor said, “but since we’re thinking of going back East, we have to find out something about this horse.”
Proctor, 34, might have a published author for a brother, but otherwise the family crest should include a horse. Proctor remembers working around the farm in Texas when he was eight and following his father, Willard, to the Chicago tracks during the summers.
Willard Proctor, 75, rode horses at bush tracks in the early 1930s and held a variety of race-track jobs before he began training in New Orleans in 1938. Willard Proctor has saddled about 50 stakes winners, and with Convenience in 1972 he won the $250,000, winner-take-all match race against Typecast at Hollywood Park. He has a string of horses at Santa Anita and has won as many races as his son--two--but none with a horse who has the potential of Split Run.
Convenience was owned by Lavin, the founder and chairman of Alberto Culver, the personal-grooming company, and the Proctors have worked for Lavin for more than 20 years. Tom Proctor’s brother, Hap, manages Lavin’s 337-acre farm near Ocala, Fla., and before him the farm was run by their uncle.
Lavin, who has never had a Kentucky Derby horse, saw the race for the first time as an 8-year-old when his father and uncle took him to Churchill Downs for Reigh Count’s victory in 1928.
Split Run didn’t get to the races as a 2-year-old because of shin problems, a common ailment among young horses. He was with Tom Proctor’s horses in Chicago last year and reached California when the contingent was shipped to Hollywood Park in December.
Like Lavin, none of the Proctors ever has sent a horse to the Kentucky Derby, but Split Run’s trainer doesn’t seem to be overwhelmed by the possibility.
“I’m not worried about the Kentucky Derby,” Proctor said. “I’m not obsessed with the race. There’s the Preakness. There are a lot of other good races after the Derby. Sometimes a trainer can get tunnel vision about the Derby and grind a horse down because of it.”
Proctor has, however, thought about the possibility of being at Churchill Downs on May 4.
“If this horse is the type, then I’ll be there,” he said. “I’ll be there grinning, wearing a suit and tie and everything.”
Horse Racing Notes
All of the San Felipe entrants are nominated for the Triple Crown races except Sea Cadet and Conveyor. Late nominations, at a fee of $4,500 per horse, can be made by April 8. The early fee was $600. . . . Compelling Sound is rated behind Split Run on the morning line at 3-1, and Sea Cadet, the El Camino Real Derby winner at Bay Meadows, is next at 7-2. . . . Oregon, who finished a well-beaten fourth in the Fountain of Youth, which was won by Fly So Free, bled in the race and will run with Lasix on Sunday.
Scan is trained by Scotty Schulhofer, who also has Fly So Free and Cahill Road in Florida. . . . Fly So Free is 7-2 to win the Derby in Caliente’s future book. Dinard, Best Pal and Excavate are next at 8-1. . . . Dale Baze, who rides Silver Desire, is a younger brother of Russell Baze. . . . Mane Minister, winner of Pirate Cove at Santa Anita Thursday, will run in either the Santa Anita Derby or the California Derby at Golden Gate Fields on April 13.
Bruho, making his first start since last May at Hollywood Park, took command early and went on to defeat a classified allowance field in Friday’s feature race. Bruho, also making his debut for trainer Jerry Fanning, covered the six furlongs in 1:08 2/5 on a drying track listed as “fast” in defeating Coastal Voyage and Jacodra.