In the mornings, Captain Valid had been fooling people.
Chris McCarron, aboard the 2-year-old colt for a recent workout, thought that Captain Valid showed the aplomb of an older horse.
Last Monday, Captain Valid worked five furlongs in 1:00 1/5, and Gary Jones, his trainer, didn't think it was anything special.
"But then I saw that horses like Precisionist and Nostalgia's Star (both stakes winners) had worked slower on the same day," Jones said. "That's what made me think that maybe we had something."
McCarron had something going down the stretch Saturday in the $127,600 Hollywood Juvenile Championship. He had Captain Valid with a lot of run left, and at the wire they were 1 1/2 lengths better than Qualify to give Jones' unbeaten colt his second win.
Captain Valid's winning time, 1:11 3/5 for the six furlongs, will not tempt anyone to make him the early favorite for next year's Kentucky Derby. His clocking was slower than $20,000 claiming horses were running Saturday, and it was easily the slowest winning performance in the 28-year history of the Juvenile.
But Jones will not throw the victory back. The country's 10th-leading trainer last year with purses of $3.1 million, Jones waited until the third-to-last day of the current Hollywood season before winning his first stake. Captain Valid's win was only the eighth in 97 races for Jones at the track.
Although the 12-horse Juvenile seemed to be a race that several horses could win, the crowd of 27,149 bet the most on the first three horses across the finish line. After Captain Valid, Qualify was a neck better than Jazzing Around, who saved third after leading by two lengths coming into the stretch.
Captain Valid, the third choice at the windows, paid $7.80, $3.40 and $2.80.
Qualify, the second choice along with stablemate Persevered, paid $3.20 and $2.40. Favored Jazzing Around returned $2.80. Persevered, who had won his only start by 2 1/2 lengths, was never in contention and finished sixth.
The win was worth $73,600 to Corbin Robertson, a Houston oilman who has been in racing since 1972. Robertson bred Captain Valid in Kentucky through a mating of Valid Appeal and Arctic Deb.
In Captain Valid's first start, a 5 1/2-furlong race June 28, he won by six lengths.
Early in the colt's training, McCarron got off Captain Valid one morning and heard Jones say that he was looking for a spot to run the horse.
"A spot?" McCarron said to the trainer. "There are hundreds of races around for maiden 3-year-olds."
Told by Jones that Captain Valid was only a 2-year-old, McCarron said: "I was shocked. This colt doesn't have many of the bad habits that you see in most 2-year-olds."
Captain Valid didn't start well in the Juvenile, however, breaking inward from his No. 3 post position and making contact with Academy Grey, who was ridden by Corey Black.
"I had to pull my horse off of Corey's horse before he started running hard," McCarron said.
McCarron quickly hit Captain Valid a couple of times with his whip because Jones had told him that he didn't want the colt running behind too many horses.
But because of the bad start, Captain Valid was in the middle of the pack going down the backstretch. Cliffs Place, a 49-1 shot from New Mexico, took the lead, with Jazzing Around, an impressive winner in New York in his last start, immediately taking up the chase.
Coming out of the turn, Jazzing Around appeared to have a comfortable lead, and Jones wasn't confident. Captain Valid was on the inside, a place the trainer had hoped not to be.
"At the eighth pole, I thought we were beat," Jones said. "But Chris hit him a couple of times, and the colt seemed to find another gear."
Qualify clipped the heels of another horse going down the backstretch and raced with the greenness that McCarron hasn't found in Captain Valid.
Jazzing Around ran second at Belmont Park in his first start, then won there by 9 1/2 lengths about two weeks ago.
"I still thought he ran a good race," jockey Patrick Valenzuela said. "It was the first time he's been six furlongs, and he got leg weary. By the time we got to the sixteenth pole, he was just walking. Another thing--maybe the trip from New York took something out of him."
No matter which way Robertson and Jones go next with Captain Valid, it will be a big step up. Their options are the $150,000 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga Aug. 23 or the Arlington-Washington Futurity (estimated purse: $500,000) at Arlington Park Sept. 1.
"One race (the Hopeful) has more prestige, but the other one is for an awful lot of money," Jones said. "We'll just have to talk about it."
Meantime, the Robertson-Jones-McCarron team is getting excited again about Turkoman. Robertson sold a 50% interest in the 4-year-old colt to a group of investors the other day.