Gerry Kazmaier's enthusiasm caught up with the 49-year-old driver-trainer last week.
A recurring back injury, the result of years of racing, finally forced Kazmaier to skip part of Wednesday night's program. But less than 24 hours later, Kazmaier was back in the bike, and even though he didn't win any races the rest of the week, he is fifth in the trainer standings with his 15-horse stable.
"I was driving too much and got carried away," he said. "I think I'm 20 years old, and I'm not.
"I've got a lot of horses, so I'm riding all morning and I'm driving all night. Wednesday night, I drove my filly (Breezy Bev to victory in the second race) and (my back) was bothering me too much."
Kazmaier came to California last January with two horses--Breezy Bev and Shireviak. Wednesday's victory was Breezy Bev's first in 16 starts and Shireviak is winless in 25 starts. But the other horses in Kazmaier's stable have done well.
For instance, Theora Barnum, the top filly trotter on the grounds, was third in the Goldsmith Maid Final on Friday. In mid-August, she won an invitational trot and will race in that division again on Thursday.
Most of the stable consists of claiming horses, which Kazmaier has acquired for himself or partners.
"I have no complaints," he said. "Everything's been racing super. I don't have the highest-priced horses, but I try to keep them where they can do some good."
Kazmaier raced in California occasionally from 1970 until 1982, when he left for the East Coast. When he returned to California last winter, he learned that Shireviak had been injured in transit so, slowly, he began acquiring horses.
Since he drives his own horses, the stable isn't likely to grow, even though Kazmaier has claimed a few horses since the meeting began in mid-August.
"Driving four or five horses in one night is a lot for a small stable," he said. "I'd rather stay on top of my business.
"I like claiming horses so I can put them where I want them. I like them to finish 1-2-3 to give the public a run for their money. If they're going off at 30 or 40 to 1, I probably need to drop them (in class).
"The bottom line is, you have to finish in the top three to make it."
Odds Against finished second last year in balloting for the aged pacing horse and will probably be second in the balloting again this year, behind stablemate Artsplace, who has won all 13 of his starts.
Odds Against, a 5-year-old horse, easily won the first leg of the American Pacing Classic on Saturday. Driven by Bill O'Donnell, Odds Against took the lead at the start of the mile race and led throughout, winning by 2 1/4 lengths in 1:52 4/5. He will be a big favorite in this Saturday's second leg and the $100,000 final on Sept. 26.
Odds Against and Artsplace are two of the three aged pacers dominating trainer Bob McIntosh's barn this year. McIntosh, who is based in Windsor, Ontario, also trains Camluck.
Odds Against was shipped to California last Thursday with Lynda Lewis, who works for McIntosh. To get to California, they took a six-hour van ride to Dayton, Ohio, flew for four hours to Ontario Airport and then were taken by van to Los Alamitos. Two days later, Odds Against paced the fastest mile of the meeting.
"He jogged (Monday) morning and was feeling good," Lewis said. "The race didn't seem to take anything out of him."
Odds Against's victory was his first since a division of the Molson Export Series on July 11 at Greenwood Raceway, near Toronto. This year, he has won eight of 16 starts and $378,100. Last year, he earned $546,890, winning eight of 21 starts.
"I think he's about the same as last year as far as consistency (goes)," Lewis said. "I haven't seen him put in a bad race at all this year."
In early September, before the final of the Back To School Series, owner Henry O'Shea paid his filly, Kurahaupo Pride, a visit at trainer Rudy Sialana's barn.
The 77-year-old Santa Ana resident, who has owned horses for 15 years, liked what he saw.
"When I saw her (last) Saturday, I told everyone that she's coming around," O'Shea said. "This is probably one of the best horses I've had."
Kurahaupo Pride, one of two 3-year-olds in the final, pulled a minor upset in Thursday's final, winning in 1:56 2/5, her fastest mile in three American starts. The heavily favored Paul Blumenfeld entry of Nicola Mary and Dream Hanover finished fourth and sixth, respectively.
O'Shea bought Kurahaupo Pride during the summer. The filly raced in New Zealand until late June, then was shipped to the United States.
"She was racing against the best (in New Zealand) and she went backward, so we didn't pay top dollar," Sialana said.
She made her Los Alamitos debut on Aug. 21, winning a qualifying leg of the Back To School Series final with driver Bob Sleeth, who has driven her in all three starts. The next week, in the second leg, she was a well-beaten third. As a result, she was dismissed at 7-2 in the final.
O'Shea also owns Vance Win, a $30,000 claimer who has won two of 16 starts this year, but was a stakes winner last year in Canada. He plans to race Kurahaupo Pride in another series at this meeting.
"We've had the horse for only three starts, so we didn't know what to expect," O'Shea said.
Los Alamitos Notes
Sires stakes will resume this week with a division each night. Trotters will be featured on Wednesday and Thursday and pacers will race on Friday and Saturday. . . . Eggwhite, undefeated in five starts, will run in a non-betting race at 6:45 p.m. on Thursday.