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LOS ALAMITOS : Walker’s Stable Is on a Hot Streak

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SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

John Walker stood before Mad Milton’s stall on the Los Alamitos backstretch, admiring the stakes-winning trotter when, without warning, the 3-year-old reached over the stall door and bit the sleeve of Walker’s racing silks.

The red silks with blue stars on white sashes look more like something Evel Knievel would sport for a motorcycle jump than the attire a harness driver would wear around the track.

“Hey! Do you know how much these cost?” Walker said. “Well, go ahead. Tear off whatever you want.”

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Mad Milton gave up and settled for swinging a three-foot length of rope at Walker, whose four-horse stable has come alive in the last week with a stakes victory and a second-place finish in a stakes elimination. All this for a 39-year-old owner, trainer and occasional driver, who recently fell back on shoeing horses for extra income.

On May 1, Mad Milton put on a startling performance, winning the $25,000 California Sires Stakes Final for 3-year-old colt and gelding trotters by 15 1/2 lengths. His mile time of 1:58 1/5 not only lowered his lifetime mark by five seconds but also was a track record for 3-year-old geldings.

The next evening, Walker drove PT Power to a second-place finish in a stakes elimination that qualified her for Thursday night’s $25,000 trotting final for 3-year-old fillies. Not bad for a filly who had failed to hit the board in four starts, had $300 in earnings before the race and has been in Walker’s barn for just six weeks.

“Everything has just turned around,” Walker said. “This has been a dream this week. I keep pinching myself.”

The small stable that Walker calls “four horses and a hound,” also includes Deported and Bellikelli and has had its share of problems this spring. Mad Milton was sick and has started only three races this year. And PT Power is finally recovering from an infection that so baffled two other trainers that they gave up on her. She wound up in Walker’s care six weeks ago.

The filly’s left hind leg bears a six-inch scar, and Walker says the healing process has not interfered with her ability to trot, but that the buildup of fluids must have bothered her in her previous starts.

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“She wouldn’t show any lameness, but (leading driver Joe) Anderson couldn’t hold her,” Walker said.

Anderson sat behind PT Power twice, and each time she finished last and was distanced by the field.

“She’d trot, but she’d be mad,” Anderson said.

“I told (Walker), ‘I can’t control her. You’re stronger than me.’ (Thursday night), she looked like a different animal.”

For a horse that is still eligible for a maiden race, PT Power has her work cut out in tomorrow night’s stakes final. She drew the advantageous rail in the 10-horse field, but must again contend with Exclusive Miss, the filly who beat her last week and is on a four-race winning streak.

Walker continues to nurse the leg, sometimes spending as much as five hours a day using Epsom salts.

“She’s green as grass and that’s really the first race she’s ever trotted the whole mile. She’s a different filly,” he said.

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And Mad Milton has become a different gelding. After two poor races in June and September last year, he lost a $20,000 stakes by a nick to Mighty Trouble, one of the top 2-year-old trotters on the grounds. He reappeared on April 3, losing to Mighty Trouble by five lengths in a stakes race and then broke his maiden by five lengths on April 24. His next start was his stakes victory.

“I was about four feet off the ground when he made his move on the turn,” Walker said. “This horse knows he’s good. We’ve got Anderson driving and they fit together.”

Anderson drove Mad Milton to his maiden victory April 24 and said the gelding’s time of 2:03 was more like a training mile than a race.

“I predict he’ll trot in 1:56 when it gets warm here,” he said. “He shows that potential. (Walker) has done a big job with this horse. He looks like he’s really blossoming.”

Mad Milton, who is owned by Walker, Milton Kramer of San Francisco and David Neumeister of Bakersfield, may race again May 15 in the next division of the California Sires Stakes Program.

As for Walker, the success of last week has more than made up for previous disappointments. He’s been on the California harness racing circuit since 1985 and has ridden the racing roller coaster many times.

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He bought his first race horse, High Axe, in his late teens and treated him like the show horses his family kept during his childhood in London, Canada. Walker eventually wound up with four other horses, all of which needed operations, and an $18,000 veterinarian’s bill. He was 22.

So he went to blacksmith’s school to learn a trade that “still carries me through when the times are rough,” he says.

Such as before last week.

Since the California circuit ends at Los Alamitos in July, Walker isn’t sure where he, his four-horse stable and the dog will go.

“It’ll depend on how good the horses do,” he said. “The stock dictates where you go. Right now, it’s looking good.”

The final six weeks of the 1991 harness racing season will be conducted on a Wednesday-through-Saturday night schedule, pending approval by the California Horse Racing Board.

Sunday racing will be added on June 16, 23, and 30 and July 7, 14 and 21. Post time on those dates will be 1:15 p.m. The harness season ends on Saturday, July 27.

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Los Alamitos Notes

Cool Charm Girl’s victory in last Friday’s fillies and mares invitational marked two milestones--her first victory in three races since she broke a blood vessel in her nose and fell on March 29, and the first time Lexie had lost after 11 victories. . . . Cool Charm Girl paced the mile in 1:56 2/5, her best time of the year and will race this weekend in the eliminations of the Guys and Dolls Pace in Freehold, N.J. “I knew she’d come back (from the fall),” driver Tim Maier said. “It’d just be a matter of time.” . . . Driver Abe Stoltzfus said that Lexie, who went off stride at the halfway point, came out of the race in good shape and would race again this weekend.

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