Dec 1, 2008


It will soon be the 19th anniversary of Sunny Blossom’s setting a new track record at Santa Anita in the Palos Verdes Handicap, six furlongs in 1.07.1. He flew the colors of Santa Barbara Stables, a band of racing enthusiasts rounded up by your humble scribe to try our luck with the big boys.

In the Los Angeles Times the next morning columnist Allan Malamud scoffed at that record as nothing more than a fluke on a super fast track. Basic handicapping skill said otherwise and I said so in a note to Allan. A decent claiming horse also won at six furlongs that day and needed 1.11 and change to do it. I pointed out to Allan that I had never seen such a spread over the same distance on the same day anywhere, let alone Santa Anita. Nobody else ran faster than usual that day, only Sunny Blossom.

To my delight, Allan wrote in his next column that I had persuaded him. Journalists are not readily found apologizing for the record. That no one has equaled that feat since is all the testimony needed that it was indeed an extraordinary performance.

How the landscape has changed since that golden after in 1989. Allan Malamud died much too young and the Los Angeles Times now barely acts as if racing exists.

I got to thinking the other day about track records of other horses in my care. Champion Speightstown could motor and equaled the six furlong standard of 1.08 at Saratoga.
Champion Chilukki sped a mile in 1.33.2 at Churchill Downs. Speightstown was bought at Keeneland for $2 million; Chilukki was a weanling when I bought her dam. Now that was luck!

Harmony Lodge was a great Gr. I performer who did not set any records but came close on occasion. This spring I found Broadway Hennessy and bought her because I thought she was the spitting image of Harmony Lodge, also by Hennessy. She broke the 5 ½ furlongs record at Golden Gate Fields first time out.

Sunny Blossom was found at Woodbine and there were plenty more speedy Canucks to be had at the right price. Slyly Gifted won the 11 furlongs Canadian Derby two weeks after taking the Longacres Derby at 1 3/16 miles. Both records still stand.. He was ridden by the ill-fated Ron Hansen whose body washed ashore in San Francisco Bay some years later in an unsolved murder case.

Bold Laddie was the first stallion project that I was involved in. The smallish son of Boldnesian broke down in a quest for the British Columbia Derby by the Jawl family of Vancouver Island. Bold Laddie’s progeny won over $10 million and he sired more than 30 stakes-winners, huge numbers for that part of the world’s limited opportunities.

Bold Laddie passed on stamina as well as speed. Lil Ol Gal set a world record for 3 ½ furlongs at two. I bought her for John Franks as a 4-year-old and she went on to win Woodbine stakes.

Laddie’s Prince was another versatile sort who set standards three times at two miles or longer.

Our latest speedster is Home For Harlan who broke the 6 ½ furlongs mark at Woodbine. He found the Toronto surface more congenial than his first few tries in California. He won again the other day in 1.08 and change.

After I bought him his trainer evidently was talking smack about my purchase, implying that I was either stupid or dishonest. It’s a good thing that the finish line speaks louder than jive,
He who laughs last, laughs best.