Sound values make
Mandella’s cup runneth over

Oct 28, 2003 2:03 AM

Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment.

Full Âí­effort is full victory

”” Mahatma Gandhi.

When it comes to training thoroughbreds, no man puts in greater effort than Richard Mandella. But he does it with the touch of velvet, just as he deals with his fellow human beings.

Not that Mandella is perfect. Far from it. Training horses for more than a quarter of a century has cost Mandella precious time with his family, and with a twinge of guilt, he has expressed misgivings at a vocation that often offers more toil than material rewards.

But he wouldn’t do anything else. The son of a blacksmith, Mandella set a standard few thought could be surpassed when he saddled four stakes winners on Breeders’ Cup day at Santa Anita in 1993, including Horse of the Year Kotashaan in the Turf and champion Phone Chatter in the Juvenile Fillies.

Mandella raised the bar to unattainable heights on Saturday when he won four Breeders’ Cup races: the Juvenile Fillies with Halfbridled; the Juvenile with Action This Day; the Turf with Johar, who dead-heated with High Chaparral; and Pleasantly Perfect in the Classic. According to the odds, they were no cinches. Halfbridled, who will be named 2-year-old filly champion, was the 7-5 morning line favorite but because she drew the seemingly unfavorable outside 14 post position, went off at 2-1, a price her backers may never get again. Action This Day (selected on top by your humble correspondent in last week’s GamingToday) paid a juicy $55.60. Johar, off at 14-1, had his price halved by the dead heat and paid $13.60. Pleasantly Perfect, who went off at $14.20-1, identical to Johar, returned $30.40.

Toss in The Tin Man’s fourth in the Turf and Minister Eric’s second in the Juvenile, and Mandella’s horses earned $4,564,040 in three hours. And that’s not counting the $18,000 Redattore picked up for his third in the Seabiscuit Handicap later on the Breeders’ Cup card.

But it’s not about money for Mandella. He was instilled with the significance of good values early on.

"It started with my father (Gene)" said Mandella, who turns 53 on Nov. 5. "I grew up on a ranch until I was nine when we moved to Cherry Valley at Beaumont where Three Ring Ranch was. My father had a small ranch there of nine acres and we had a little circle race track where we trained quarter horses and thoroughbreds and Appaloosas. My father was a very good blacksmith. We raised a few horses that were broke down and tried to patch them up and bring them back.

"I don’t think a young person could have a better all-around education as I got on that farm. I did a little bit of everything. When I was 16 I was talked into going to work at Three Rings Ranch, which was at the time the biggest farm in California. I got to break and train 100 different yearlings a year there for five and a half years. My father gave me the basics, which will hold you in this business. Those are the most important things.

"I went to Farrell Jones’ ranch for a year and worked at Santa Anita, too. And I met a man named V.J. Nickerson (retired trainer) who I can’t praise enough for the education he gave me in a very short time. It was just one of those magical things that happen when you meet somebody and a light goes on, and this man tells you everything, the answer to every question you ever had in your life, without even asking it. It’s been that way from the start. He’s a second father to me and I think the world of him."

Mandella displayed hopeful poise the week before the Breeders’ Cup, but failed to hide his enthusiasm for the upstart colt Action This Day.

"I had a feeling of confidence all week," Mandella said, "although the media wrote I was mad because Pleasantly Perfect had worked too fast. I remember I felt the same about Kotashaan after he had worked too fast before he won the Turf. I worked him a mile in 35 and change and was standing by the finish line, cursing. Charlie Whittingham walked up to me and asked what was the matter.

"I said, ”˜Oh, I told this rider to work the horse a mile in 38 (1:38) and he went in 35 and change.’ And Charlie looked at me and said, ”˜Damn, he can run, can’t he?’ That’s the way to look at it."

THE HOMESTRETCH: Pete Pedersen, California’s senior steward, remembers Bill Shoemaker, who died on Oct. 12 at the age of 72. Pedersen was there at the beginning and there at the end. "He was a great influence in the jocks’ room for us," the octogenarian official said. "He didn’t say much but when things got rough, he’d talk to the riders. I don’t ever recall him arguing with us, even when he had to take days he didn’t believe he had coming. He’d always tell his side (of the story), but if he got days, he went with the flow. He had a good feeling of what was right and wrong and relayed that to the other riders. It was a delight to have him there. We’ve lost a few of the others now, but he was the end of the real tough riders. Ralph Neves, I thought he was the best rider that ever came along. Longden, too. It was a rough, rough game back then. Shoe was one guy, doing it the way he did it, who straightened the game out. He learned Spanish like many riders when the Latins came in. One race, Paco Mena had him hung on the fence. Paco had a lot of horse; he wouldn’t let Shoe out. Shoe was screaming, ”˜Paco, Paco, Paco, Paco!’ Then there was silence as Shoe found an opening. He went through, glanced over at Paco and said, ”˜Adios, amigo.’ I saw Shoe ride his first race in March of ’49. The horse was a loser. I saw him ride his last race (in 1990). The horse was a loser. But in between, I would say, ”˜How sweet it was!’"