Spawr has bullets to bet as Oak Tree concludes its season

Oct 30, 2001 5:50 AM

When Bill Spawr won the Oak Tree training title last year, it was considered an upset. Any meet that Bob Baffert does not win a training championship in Southern California is considered an upset, because the White-Haired Wonder has the bullets to fill and win any race, from lowly claimers to Grade I stakes.

Baffert, the nation’s leader in money earned with more than $14 million, won the Oak Tree training crown three years in a row, from 1997 through 1999, until Spawr toppled him last year, 17-16. With five racing days remaining in this year’s 32-day meet, Spawr was about to do it again. He had 11 wins from 43 starts while Baffert had seven from 55, a sub-par meet for him considering he was a runaway winner from ”˜97 through ”˜99 with 19, 21 and 21 wins, respectively.

Bettors would do well to support Spawr’s runners the final days of the meet.

“I’ve got a lot of ammunition left,” said Spawr, a native Californian who will be 62 on Dec. 13. “Some of the horses have already run this meet, so there’s a question of getting the races to go. The other day, I entered four horses, but only one race went. I’ve been entering two or three or four a day. I should have some horses in the right spots over the final days. I’m not saying they’re going to win, but I’ve got a lot of horses to run. I just hope they win.”

Winning may be everything in some sports, but not necessarily in racing, according to Spawr.

“Winning is great,” he says, “but there’s more to it than that. It’s protecting the owner’s investment. It’s the day money (daily fees trainers receive), and I know what that is. You figure it’s going to cost between $2,500 and $3,000 a month in expenses per horse. I appreciate that, because I own pieces of horses, too. Aside from winning, racing is about trying to make money for owners, and that’s not easy, because every horse has something wrong. You have to be able to read that, appreciate that, and put the horse in the right spot.”

In addition to long-time Spawr clients Farfellow Farms (nom de course of Kip Knelman of Minneapolis) and Sid Craig, the trainer now has 17 horses for John and Betty Mabee’s Golden Eagle Farm.

“What’s important is that all the horses run well,” Spawr said. “If they get beat, they get beat. If you run second, third or fourth, you get a check back and they’ve run a creditable race. Owners like that.”

Spawr, meanwhile, continues to give first call to Hall of Fame jockey Laffit Pincay Jr., who turns 55 on Dec. 29.

“He’s a marvel,” Spawr said, his eyes brightening. “There’s no stopping him.”

And at Oak Tree this meet, there’s no stopping Bill Spawr, either.

THE HOMESTRETCH: Despite Tiznow’s epic nose victory over Arc winner Sakhee in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Point Given has done more than enough to earn Horse of the Year honors, even though he was retired in August due to injury. Point Given won five Grade I races, and six of seven overall, including two Triple Crown events, while defending Horse of the Year Tiznow won only two of five starts before capturing the Classic, in an abbreviated and enigmatic campaign.

Besides, any horse that lost to Freedom Crest, as Tiznow did in the Goodwood, doesn’t serve to be Horse of the Year. If it comes down to a popularity contest between Tiznow’s trainer Jay Robbins and Bob Baffert of Point Given, however, the unassuming and low-key Robbins is likely to win the popular vote over the frequently caustic Baffert.

The other Breeders’ Cup winners should be named champions of their respective divisions. The Distaff is a tangled crapshoot after Unbridled Elaine registered a 12-1 upset; Tempera proved worthy of 2-year-old filly honors; Squirtle Squirt has done enough to dethrone over-the-hill Kona Gold as top sprinter; Banks Hill deserves female turf laurels; unbeaten European invader Johnannesburg showed he was the best 2-year-old colt; and Fantastic Light rates the male turf crown over impressive Mile winner Val Royal, who had only three races this year, winning two

DESPITE the fact that Baffert publicly didn’t blame defeat on jockey Victor Espinoza, who rode Officer to a disappointing fifth-place finish in the Juvenile, bet that the $700,000 son of Bertrando will have another jockey when he makes his next start in the Hollywood Futurity on Dec. 15.

ONLY one Breeders’ Cup favorite won, creating massive trifecta and superfecta payoffs. The $2 trifectas returned $2,551, $3,823, $2,445, $2,162, $5,166, $3,665, and $211, but they paled in comparison to the $2 superfectas, which were worth $27,799, $44,331, $56,927, $3,965 and $24,946 . . . Hollywood Park will offer free general admission and parking on Nov. 7, opening day of its 31-day autumn meet. Selected simulcast races from Churchill Downs, Aqueduct, Calder and Hawthorne will be available during the meet, in addition to full cards from Golden Gate Fields.