Longshot Zanferrier Has a Familiar Ring, Chance of Success
They’re back. The Mr Purple gang, which pulled a winged colt out of a hat and won the Santa Anita Handicap a year ago, has returned with another unlikely contender for the $1-million race.
And when Zanferrier runs Sunday in the 60th Big ‘Cap, he’ll get even less backing than his stablemate did.
At 18-1, Mr Purple was one of the longest shots to win the Big ‘Cap. Zanferrier’s record is considerably worse, but the undistinguished 4-year-old colt has a few things going for him--Alex Campbell, Ron McAnally and Eddie Delahoussaye, plus the fact that he’s a close relative of Mr Purple.
McAnally saddled Mr Purple and Delahoussaye rode him to a two-length victory for owner-breeder Campbell in the topsy-turvy Big ‘Cap last year. Reunited, this threesome will go to the same trough with Zanferrier, the younger half-brother of Mr Purple. They’re both out of the same Stop The Music mare, Turk O Witz. She didn’t run much in the early 1980s but has produced an impressive family. Her daughter, Queens Court Queen, was a major winner at Santa Anita.
If the Mr Purple gang strikes again, the record Big ‘Cap win price of $118.40, set by Bay View in 1941, could fall. Campbell can’t deny that his colt is an improbable contender.
“I love Ron McAnally,” Campbell said. “I’m not the expert, so when Ron says he wants to run one of my horses, I do it. But for a race like this, I wish we were the high weight instead of the low weight. I’ll say one thing for my horse--he’s only carrying 112 pounds because he’s earned it.”
By not winning, Zanferrier gets in with the proverbial feather. A son of Lyphard, who also sired Queens Court Queen, Zanferrier has yet to run to his pedigree. He has won only two of 18 starts and is winless in eight stakes.
“Everything would have to fall in place for him to win,” McAnally said.
It took Zanferrier eight races to break his maiden, and he last won in a $39,000 allowance race 3 1/2 months ago.
“We’ll need a lot of luck and a lot of riding skill,” Campbell said. “But we’ve got the best trainer and the best jockey in the world going for us.”
McAnally and Delahoussaye are both in the Racing Hall of Fame. Before Mr Purple, McAnally had won the Big ‘Cap twice, saddling John Henry for his unprecedented consecutive wins in 1981-82. Before last year, Delahoussaye had gone 0 for 14 in the Big ‘Cap.
The horse with the lightest weight in the field has won the Big ‘Cap only four times, the most recent Martial Law with 113 pounds in 1989. Gentlemen, on a five-race winning streak, will be the high weight Sunday at 123 pounds.
When post positions are drawn today, Gentlemen’s stablemates, Siphon and Sandpit, are also expected to be entered, along with Chequer, Formal Gold, Just Java, Kingdom Found, The Barking Shark and trainer Wayne Lukas’ duo of Marlin and Editor’s Note.
“It would be an honor just to finish second, third or fourth behind such a good horse like Gentlemen,” Campbell said. “I just hope we don’t embarrass ourselves.”
A year ago, all of the Big ‘Cap favorites were embarrassed. Over a deep track that was hemlock for the speed horses, the short-priced Helmsman, Afternoon Deelites and Alphabet Soup finished fourth, sixth and 10th, respectively, while Mr Purple, Luthier Fever at 64-1 and the 14-1 Just Java led the pack across the finish line. At more than $14,000, the trifecta on those three was still underpriced.
Mr Purple ran only three more times after the Big ‘Cap, not winning another race, and now his stud career has begun at Calumet Farm. In his last start, the Hollywood Gold Cup, he was eased to the wire by jockey Corey Nakatani, a hairline fracture ending a career that brought $1.1 million in purses.
Campbell, a 69-year-old retired tobacco executive from Lexington, Ky., was as tickled for his good friend, David Reynolds, as he was for himself when Mr Purple won the Big ‘Cap. Reynolds, heir to a metals fortune and an owner who raced 1994 Preakness-Belmont winner Tabasco Cat in a partnership, is the original Mr Purple. He’s been wearing mostly purple clothes and neckties for at least 50 years, even when he goes two doors down from his home in Delray Beach, Fla., to battle Campbell in their long-running backgammon game.
“I get a kick out of winning, and the Santa Anita Handicap was a lot of fun,” Campbell said. “But whether it’s a stakes race or an allowance, it’s very special if you win with a horse you’ve raised yourself.”
Zanferrier qualifies on that count. If he has a distinction, it’s the company he has kept. Last year, he ran fourth in the Arkansas Derby, finishing about a length behind the second-place horse, Grindstone, who three weeks later won the Kentucky Derby.
Zanferrier goes into the Santa Anita Handicap off the same prep race that served Mr Purple so perfectly. Mr Purple was third in the Strub Stakes, and Zanferrier was fourth in it a month ago. That was the second time that Delahoussaye rode him.
“He’s a nice, honest trier,” Delahoussaye said. “He’ll win one of these stakes when it sets up right for him one of these days.”
At least Zanferrier doesn’t have to worry about the Strub winner. Victory Speech has gone off to Florida, to run in Saturday’s $500,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap.
“My horse comes from behind, and that can lead to traffic problems,” Campbell said. “He didn’t get the best of breaks in the Strub, but he finished strong. You can’t win if you don’t run.”