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It's a Million to No. 1 Long Shot : Drumalis Recovers From Surgery to Win at Bay Meadows

January 02, 1986|BILL CHRISTINE | Times Staff Writer

According to many critics, 1985 was a disappointing year for movies. Perhaps a screenwriter should consider Drumalis for a story line in 1986. As trainer Darrell Vienna says of the Irish-bred horse, "You couldn't make up a script with a better ending than this one."

After emergency stomach surgery following the Arlington Million in late August, Drumalis seems fully recovered and has not one but two careers in front of him. A lifelong grass runner in Europe and the United States, Drumalis might have a future on dirt, as well.

Vienna is considering three handicaps at Santa Anita for Drumalis--the San Gabriel on Sunday, the San Marcos on Jan. 26 and the San Antonio on Feb. 16. The San Gabriel and San Marcos are on the grass, a surface where Drumalis has run all but one of his 23 races, but interestingly, the San Antonio is a $200,000 dirt race.

After what Drumalis has accomplished since surgery in August, Vienna has a right to think that the horse is capable of anything.

Drumalis finished 11th in the Million, beating only two horses, and hours later was on the operating table for removal of two-thirds of his caecum, which is similar to the human appendix.

"I was lucky," Vienna said. "Not knowing any of the veterinarians at Arlington Park, I took him to a nearby vets' clinic in Naperville. I found out later that the man who did the surgery (Dr. Joe Forner) is one of the best there is in treating intestinal disorders."

Vienna was told Drumalis might be able to resume training in a month, although he wondered whether the horse's chest cavity, where the surgery had been performed, would be able to support the stitching.

But return he did, and by late November--three months after the surgery--Vienna felt Drumalis was ready for a race and shipped the horse to Bay Meadows for the San Francisco Handicap.

Rain forced that race off the grass, however, and Drumalis didn't run. Drumalis returned home, and Vienna still thought that he needed a race to prepare him for the $300,000 Bay Meadows Handicap on Dec. 21.

"I didn't like the turf course at Hollywood," Vienna said. "So I decided to run him in the Bates Motel Stakes, even though he had never been on the dirt before."

Drumalis finished second behind Beldale Lear, then returned to Bay Meadows and the grass to win the $300,000 race by 1 1/2 lengths in track-record time of 1:47 for 1 1/8 miles. The field was formidable--Drumalis beat Silveyville, Nardipour, Temerity Prince, Talakeno and Sharannpour, all horses who had won stakes while Vienna's horse was recuperating.

In the Bay Meadows Handicap, Drumalis was running exclusively for William Gumpert, a Los Angeles attorney. Previously, Gumpert had owned 75% of the horse with Robert Kennedy, an Irish sportsman who had originally bought Drumalis and raced him to stakes wins in Italy and Germany.

"After the operation, Kennedy thought Drumalis would never run again and wanted to retire him to stud in Europe," Vienna said. "When Mr. Gumpert and I said that we wanted to try running the horse again, the other owner thought we were crazy. He thought we were a couple of cowboys from the Wild West trying to accomplish the impossible."

The Bay Meadows Handicap was actually the second comeback for Drumalis, who, like all other horses, celebrated a birthday Wednesday, becoming a 6-year-old. In early 1984, one race after he had begun running in the United States, Drumalis won three straight starts, but in the last of those races, the Premiere Handicap at Hollywood Park, he suffered a broken knee and was sidelined for 11 months.

Last March, in his first race back, Drumalis ran 10th, then went to Arlington Park to win the Stars and Stripes Handicap.

His troubles, weren't over, however. While finishing fifth in the Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar in August, Drumalis bled internally. But the win in the Stars and Stripes got him listed as an alternate for the Million, and when a few of the preferred horses dropped out, Drumalis was able to run.

The Million could have been a disaster in disguise. "He hadn't been acting that sharp before the race but then he picked it up in the paddock, and I thought he might run a good race," Vienna said. "He may have gotten sick during the race. When they operated on him that night, I was just hoping that he'd live. What he's done since then is more than anybody could have hoped for."

Horse Racing Notes

The weekend stakes are the Los Feliz for 3-year-olds Saturday and the San Gabriel for 4-year-olds and up Sunday. . . . Silveyville, second to Drumalis in the Bay Meadows Handicap, and Yashgan are scheduled to run in the San Gabriel. . . . Lord at War and Tsunami Slew will be flown to Kentucky today to begin their stud careers. . . . Three horses were scratched from Tuesday's six-horse San Miguel Stakes, including top-weighted Louisiana Slew, who has a minor hoof problem. . . . Snow Chief, winner of the Norfolk and the Hollywood Futurity, begins his 3-year-old campaign in the California Breeders' Champion Stakes Jan. 12.

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