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
“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.
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
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.