DEL MAR — For openers, trainer Laz Barrera was hesitant to go to the winner's circle after Wednesday's $258,035 Del Mar Futurity. The bob of a head separated Barrera's Qualify and the filly Sacahuista at the wire, and a number of people around Wayne Lukas, the trainer of Sacahuista, were saying that she had won.
But the placing judges examined the photo of the finish, which showed that Qualify had won by the shortest of noses. So Barrera headed for the winner's circle, although he had a tough time finding the iron gate that would lead him there.
"It's over here," Albert Barrera, one of Laz's sons and also a trainer, shouted to his father. "The way you're going, you can't get there."
Barrera's misdirection was understandable. Before the Futurity, his horses had started in 59 Del Mar races without winning. Barrera, eighth in the national training standings with purses of $1.9 million, had salvaged the summer only because four of his horses won stakes during August at Saratoga.
Before Qualify, however, the Del Mar season had been disastrous even beyond Barrera's 0-for-59 slump. Several of his horses were sidelined because of training injuries, and a week ago about $6,000 worth of equipment had been stolen from his barn.
"I didn't win any before now, but this is the one I wanted to win," Barrera said.
The Futurity was won with a Danzig-So Endearing colt who had finished first in his debut at Hollywood Park in June, then been second and fourth with legitimate excuses in two subsequent starts.
"He was shut off three times in the Hollywood Juvenile," Barrera said. "Then he had a tough time coming out of the gate (in the Balboa Stakes at Del Mar Aug. 27). That's the reason I put a real fast work into him (a half-mile in :46 4/5) a couple of days ago, to make sure he'd break quick today."
The Balboa was won by Temperate Sil by 2 lengths, reason for the Charlie Whittingham-trained colt to go off the 9-10 favorite in the Futurity. Temperate Sil, fractious before going into the gate, was wide on both turns and finished fifth.
Qualify, earning $158,535 for Ethel Jacobs, his owner and breeder, paid $13.80, $7 and $6 as the third betting choice in the closing-day crowd of $23,468. Qualify ran the mile in 1:35 3/5, the second-fastest time in the last seven runnings of the stake.
Sacahuista, paying $6.80 and $5.40, finished a half-length ahead of Brevito, who returned $5 after finishing five lengths ahead of fourth-place Polar Jet.
If the trainers were in doubt about the finish, the jockeys seemed to know who had won.
"I thought we got beat in the last jump," said Pat Day, riding Sacahuista because Chris McCarron suffered a broken shoulder blade in a spill last Saturday. "I think my filly might have been watching the other horse (Brevito) and didn't see the winner, and that might have cost us some momentum right at the end."
Gary Stevens, riding Qualify, thought he had won the race easier than it seemed.
"I was sure I won," Stevens said. "I waved my stick. Pat (Day) congratulated me right by the wire. Then I started wondering. All the other guys seemed so nervous. I think this colt is going to get better as he goes longer."
Stevens, at Belmont Park Monday to work Turkoman, a horse he'll ride Saturday in the Marlboro Cup, missed his plane in New York and was unable to ride another of Barrera's horses, Key Bid, in the Coronado Stakes the same day.
Key Bid ran third, one of six show finishes that Barrera had during the meeting. Barrera also had four seconds and lost one race on a stewards' disqualification after his horse was first across the line.
Bill Shoemaker, riding Temperate Sil, didn't feel that the colt's skittishness before the start was a factor. Temperate Sil, who had the No. 8 stall in the field of nine, still broke well but was wide on the first turn and raced fourth, just ahead of Qualify, going down the backstretch before trying to rally five horses wide going into the stretch.
"I was hooked on the outside," Shoemaker said. "Then about halfway through the second turn, he spit out the bit."
Brevito, who had won stakes in Louisiana in his only two previous starts, was the early leader, followed by Sacahuista and Polar Jet. Sacahuista took the lead at the top of the stretch, with Brevito hanging on gamely and Qualify rallying from the outside to win.
The race after the Futurity--and the last race of the season--was also won by Barrera, with Stevens riding Paskanell to victory. The 62-year-old trainer found the winner's circle without any help the second time.
Horse Racing Notes
Daily average attendance for the Del Mar season was 19,776, a slight drop from last year, but the betting for the 43-day season averaged $3.7 million a day, which broke a track record and was up by 5% over last year. . . . Pat Valenzuela, who was the leading apprentice as a 16-year-old at Del Mar in 1979, was the riding champion this summer with 55 wins, 9 more than apprentice Corey Black. On Wednesday's card, Black rode three straight winners. . . . The leading trainer was Henry Moreno with 13 wins, followed by Mel Stute, Ron McAnally and Bruce Headley with 12 apiece.