Paraphrasing an old expression, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it win.
With some thoroughbreds, winning is in their hearts. If you don’t believe it, talk to Ted West, a long, lean drink of water who trains under the name of Ted H. West, simply to distinguish himself from his father, former conditioner Ted West, who won six training titles and numbers 1984 Santa Anita Handicap winner Interco among his many success stories. He still assists his son and is an integral part of the barn’s day-to-day operation.
The Wests’ latest reclamation project is an 8-year-old horse named Singular Vision, a California-bred son of Never Tabled who toils at the low-end of the claiming ranks, when he is fit enough to race.
When Singular Vision won the first race at Santa Anita on Jan. 10, it was his 19th victory in 52 career starts, a winning percentage of better than 36. The dark bay gelding also has been second 12 times and third four times. He has been in the money in more than 67 percent of his races, has earned $254,150, and has won 10 of 24 races at Santa Anita.
"You need to look no further than his record to know why we claimed him," West said. "I’ve been a fan of this horse forever. I finally talked my dad into going for him. He’s got kind of a rule that he never claims a horse with a bowed tendon, but this horse has had a bowed tendon for as long as I can remember, so that thing was pretty set.
"The main thing is, he just wins races, and at this level, to pay your own way, you’ve got to win a lot and this horse sure pays his way. He’s never had a problem doing that."
Julio Canani, who trained Singular Vision on four separate occasions, concurs.
"He’s a horse that every trainer dreams for," the 62-year-old Canani said. "He does the job for you. Even if the jockey makes a mistake, Singular Vision overcomes it and wins. You have to treat him like a cripple, but he’s a professional and he’s an unbelievable animal.
"Believe me, horses know where the wire is and they know what they have to do (to win). Singular Vision is a pro. Anytime he feels good, he’s going to fire, if you put him in with the right company. If you put him in over his head, he’s going to break down again, because he tries too hard. That’s the only reason horses have to go to the farm””you overmatch them, they try too hard and they pull something."
West, 27, earned a business degree from Cal-Poly Pomona before taking over his father’s barn full-time nearly two years ago. He claimed Singular Vision for his mother, Mary, last April 1, for $10,000.
"Right after that, we ran him twice at Golden Gate, once for $25,000 when he ran second, and then for $20,000, when he ran third. He hurt himself after that race (May 20) and until his last race, he hadn’t raced for more than seven months."
Singular Vision didn’t need a refresher course when he returned. The old warrior ran like he never missed a beat, stalking closer than usual to the pace-setters in the six furlong race that carried a $15,000 purse, then taking the lead in the stretch while four-wide to win by a length under a vigilant ride from Isaias Enriquez.
West knew Singular Vision had problems before he claimed him, but in this instance, affection overruled business acumen.
"I definitely think horses know how to win, and some have more will to win than others," West said. "Mankind has been breeding horses for 400 years (in order) to get the fastest, most competitive horses, and over that time, some have really developed a competitive spirit.
"Some people say horses don’t know if they win. I’m convinced that they do. You just need to look at a horse like this. He’s won nearly 40 percent of his races. That’s not by luck. It’s because he knows where the wire is and he’s competitive. He’s won for a lot of different trainers, too. You see some horses with one win and 14 seconds, so it works the other way, too. They don’t want to win."
Not so with Singular Vision. He runs cheap, but he runs to win.
West says Budroyale, the former claimer who is recovering from a broken shoulder, will be sidelined another two or three months, but the full brother to Horse of the Year favorite Tiznow is expected to return to the races . . . Tiznow is scheduled to make his next start in the $500,000 Strub Stakes after a workmanlike victory in the San Fernando Stakes, his first start since winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic. No knock on Tiznow, who overcame foot problems and a less-than-ideal training schedule to win the San Fernando, but California’s handicap division is the weakest in memory . . . Agent Nick Cosato, who handled Patrick Valenzuela’s business before the jockey was suspended for one year last Feb. 11, was asked if he would take the troubled rider’s book again if he is granted a license to ride. Cosato’s answer was an unequivocal, "No." . . . Gary Stevens, who has hired bodyguards since he was the victim of an extortion scheme last month, has received another threatening missive, this one believed to be of the "copycat" variety . . .Surfside, who was expected to make her 2001 debut in the 11/16-mile El Encino Stakes (Gr. II) on Sunday, now is likely for the seven furlong Santa Monica Handicap (Gr. I) on Jan. 27, according to D. Wayne Lukas’ right-hand man, Randy Bradshaw.