Gasper Moschera frequently gets introduced as a claiming trainer, but that's hardly a fair description when those claims go on to stakes prominence.
"I really don't think of it as claiming," Moschera once said. "I call it renting, because I don't keep them that long."
Videogenic is one horse that Moschera and her father-daughter owners, Albert and Barbara Davis of Long Island, N.Y., won't be leasing out. Not before or after the 4-year-old filly won Saturday's rain-spattered Santa Ana Handicap at Santa Anita by 13 lengths. That might be the biggest winning margin in a major stakes race since Conquistador Cielo won the 1982 Belmont by 14 lengths.
Videogenic, claimed for $100,000 by Moschera for the Davises at Belmont Park last May, has gone on to win nine stakes races. Her win in the $112,300 Santa Ana before a crowd of 28,387 was worth $62,800 and boosted her career earnings to more than $673,000.
Moschera won't offer to give the money back, but he admitted that the Santa Ana turned into a different, less-competitive race when it was taken off a turf course that had been drenched by 1 1/2 inches of rain.
One by one, the big grass guns in the race were scratched, the most notable being Estrapade, who won the race last year when trainer Charlie Whittingham's horses ran 1-2-3.
"This is a $4-million horse," Whittingham said of Estrapade, "and you just can't take the chance."
Whittingham, who has three horses--Strawberry Road, Val Danseur and Hail Bold King--entered in today's $100,000 Arcadia Handicap, must make some more decisions. He said Val Danseur probably would come out if the track is "really bad."
With Saturday's scratches, an 11-horse turf stake became a six-horse dirt race, or mud race, since more pounding from the heavens turned the track into a sloppy goo.
It didn't make any difference to Videogenic, who broke from the outside, had a clear lead going into the first turn and gradually expanded it. Videogenic, running 1 1/8 miles in 1:48 2/5, paid $7.20, $4.20 and $3. Capichi, who was last after three-quarters of a mile, finished second by 1 lengths, paying $3.60 and $3, and Water Crystals returned $4 for show. Truffles, sent off the 9-5 favorite because she had won a small stake in the mud at Santa Anita on Feb. 2, finished fourth.
Shipped here from Florida in February, Videogenic was scratched out of the La Canada Stakes because she would have had to carry 126 pounds, six more than her impost Saturday. Then she ran fifth in the Santa Margarita Invitational on dirt on Feb. 23.
Robbie Davis, a 24-year-old New York rider who ranks seventh in this year's national purse standings, made his Santa Anita debut Saturday after missing Videogenic's last start because he had the flu. Davis remembered that Videogenic had won a major race in New York on a wet track.
"It didn't make any difference who rode her that last time," Moschera said. "Those other horses (Lady's Secret, Johnica and Dontstop Themusic ran 1-2-3) were too much for her."
Whittingham trained Videogenic's sire, Caucasus. Videogenic once ran for as little as $35,000 and made the rounds of trainers before Moschera grabbed her for $100,000. When she had finished second on the grass the race before the claim, Moschera was convinced that she would be worth the investment.
Moschera has been right before. He claimed In the Ruff for $35,000, and the horse became a stakes winner. Moro, another $35,000 Moschera claim, has won several stakes.
Moschera has already claimed a couple of horses at Santa Anita. Era of Triumph, a $20,000 acquisition two weeks ago, ran second in Saturday's first race but was disqualified and moved back to fourth.
Barbara Davis, whose father is in real estate in New York, is Moschera's assistant trainer and gallops Videogenic in the mornings.
"We have four horses here now, and 31 in New York, but we'd like to get some more here," the 43-year-old Moschera said. "After we claimed those first two, we didn't have any money left."
Now the cupboard is no longer bare. Thanks to Videogenic.
Horse Racing Notes
Charlie Whittingham, who began training in 1934, never had a horse test positive after a race until his Newscene was disqualified after finishing fourth in a race at Santa Anita on Feb. 23. Procaine, a local anesthetic that is on the prohibited medication list, was found in Newscene's system, and the stewards took away her $1,575 share of the purse and fined Whittingham and his assistant, George Lambert, $500 apiece. "Procaine is contained in penicillin, and even though we gave it to the filly for a leg infection six days before she ran, it still showed up," Whittingham said. . . . Whittingham has changed his mind about Ferdinand and will run the colt next Sunday in the San Felipe Handicap. Originally, Whittingham said that Ferdinand would run only once, in the San Rafael Stakes, before the Santa Anita Derby on April 6. "He ran so green (finishing second to Variety Road) in the San Rafael," Whittingham said.