Spawr looking for a ‘Golden’ meet at Santa Anita

December 11, 2001 6:08 AM
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Bill Spawr’s stock is on the rise. He won his second consecutive Oak Tree training title last meet over perennial leader Bob Baffert, and if the fates allow, the 62-year-old California native will upset Baffert again at Santa Anita’s marathon 85-day winter/spring meet that starts on Dec. 26.

Only this time, Spawr won’t be content with a plethora of claiming race victories. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Spawr has been training for nearly 25 years and has six training championships on his resume. He has made a sweet living in the claiming game. Presently, Spawr is second behind Baffert at Hollywood Park with nine wins, a noteworthy feat in itself since Spawr is not enamored with the Inglewood track.

“I look for better things at Santa Anita, because the surface is better than Hollywood,” said Spawr, whose training headquarters are at Santa Anita. “When Hollywood gets some water on it, the track is OK, but generally, I’ve had more breakdowns at Hollywood than any other track.”

Spawr, whose garb includes shorts and sneakers, weather permitting, could be a man for all seasons at Santa Anita, which is located in his hometown of Arcadia.

“I have a filly for Golden Eagle Farm called Fashion Style who’s a very special horse and a few others for them I think are going to do well,” Spawr said. “I have a 2-year-old colt for Fred and Alice Jacoby and he’s a half-brother to Enjoy the Moment. His name is Got the Message and he’s by Memo. He can really run, but he’s got no speed leaving the gate. He might need a race first out, I don’t know. But if he draws well . . . he can really run. This horse is a 2-year-old and he’s bigger than any horse I’ve got in the barn. When I load him in the gate to school him, there’s no room for an assistant starter. He’s so big it takes him a sixteenth of a mile to get himself gathered up.”

Memo’s forte was alacrity, but he could carry his speed. He won the 1993 San Bernardino Handicap at 11/8 miles.

A multiple stakes winner in 1999, Spawr says the filly Enjoy the Moment was the fastest horse he ever trained, male or female.

Spawr’s most successful horse was Exchange, a $50,000 claim in 1991 who went on to earn more than $1 million. She won the Grade I Santa Ana and Santa Barbara Handicaps in 1993 and the Matriarch in 1994.

Diligent in his claiming activity, Spawr has had his share of stakes winners, but like any horseman, he constantly is on the prowl for a marquee horse.

“Absolutely, we are always looking for the big horse, a Kentucky Derby horse,” Spawr said. “And things are picking up. Golden Eagle brought in 17 horses for us. One of the best is a 2-year-old colt by A.P. Indy that’s a half-brother to Event of the Year, so there’s a lot of pedigree there. His name is Box Office Event. He’s very promising.”

A tireless worker in his own right, Spawr gives ample credit to his staff for his stable’s success. “I’m very fortunate that all my people are related, so to speak,” Spawr said.  “They’re brothers or cousins, all related.”

On the question of unionization, which will be available to backstretch personnel effective Jan. 1, Spawr says there will be no organized work force at his barn. “We took a vote already and not one person wanted the union, and we have 30 people,” Spawr said. “Not one person was in favor of it. In fact, they were adamant against it.”

Through Laffit Pincay Jr.’s plummet to near-oblivion a few years ago, Spawr remained loyal and gave the world’s winningest rider first call on his horses. The trainer continues to marvel at the work ethic and dedication of Pincay, who will be 55 on Dec. 29. The Hall of Fame jockey’s career victories are at 9,270 and counting.

“I don’t think Laffit knows he’s 54, going on 55,” Spawr said. “I just think he’ll keep going as long he gets good horses and is riding the way he is.”

THE HOMESTRETCH: A reliable source says that former jockey Corey Black has been a “closet alcoholic” for years. The likeable and loquacious Black, who left the race track scene several months ago after becoming an agent since retiring from the saddle, reportedly has gone through rehab in an effort to overcome personal woes and get his life back in order . . . Baby-faced Elvis Trujillo, 18, who won on his first United States mount, aboard a filly named Britetonzmyday for trainer Wesley Ward on Nov. 28, has riding in his blood. “He’s the nephew of a champion rider from Panama named Jose Corrales, who’s one of my best friends,” Ward said. Bill (Bear) Barisoff, former agent to Eddie Delahoussaye and the late Chris Antley, among others, has come out of hibernation to handle Trujillo’s book. “When David (Flores) was in Mexico for an international riding day, Elvis beat him a nose in one race and won five races that day,” Ward said. “Horses run for him.” Ward should know. He was the nation’s leading apprentice in 1984 when he won an Eclipse Award as top “bug” rider. “Right now, Elvis speaks no English,” Ward said. “He just says, ”˜Hi.’ He has a very big heart. He gave money to poor children in Mexico on days when he was not riding, and that’s a big plus. When some of these young riders have success early, it kind of goes to their head, but Elvis is a good kid.” . . . Bobby Frankel, favored to win his second consecutive Eclipse Award as top trainer, recently watched the first breeze of Beat Hollow under Alex Solis. The 4-year-old Juddmonte Farms colt, a Group 1 winner in Europe, is expected to be a major force this winter . . . For Eric Kruljac, the eight-day break between the Hollywood and Santa Anita meets will reduce some frequent flyer mileage. The 48-year-old trainer makes his base of operations at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, but has been racing regularly in California the past four years. “It’ll really be super for me, because I’ll continue to run at Turf Paradise and I’ll be in the Phoenix area with my four kids,” Kruljac said. “But my horses stabled at Santa Anita will be training. We can’t slack off. But it will probably save me a couple trips to LA. I’ll be able to stay in Phoenix the whole eight days.”