As the field of seven 3-year-olds went to the post Saturday in the $122,000 San Rafael Stakes, the tote board at Santa Anita suggested that it was a two-horse race. The crowd of 35,075 had installed Masterful Advocate as the even-money favorite, Temperate Sil was 8-5 and then there was a drop to Stylish Winner at 6-1.
The crowd was only half right. The San Rafael was never anything but a one-horse race, with Masterful Advocate breezing to a five-length victory that leaves nothing but derbies in his immediate future--the one at Santa Anita April 4 and the one that comes with roses in Kentucky May 2.
Temperate Sil, making his first start since winning the Hollywood Futurity and finishing a half-length ahead of third-place Masterful Advocate in December, loomed close to the leaders until the field reached the far turn, then wound up fifth, 16 3/4 lengths behind the winner. Temperate Sil beat only Simply Majestic and Stylish Winner, who was eased by jockey Gary Stevens after the horse appeared to be near collapse in mid-stretch.
Chart the Stars, who had just broken his maiden three weeks ago, won the battle for second, finishing 3 1/2 lengths ahead of Hot and Smoggy. From there, it was six lengths back to Bold Archon in fourth.
Masterful Advocate, with Laffit Pincay only waving his whip, ran the mile in an excellent 1:35 4/5 on a track that was labeled good and was rapidly approaching fast. The win, Masterful Advocate's third straight and his fifth in eight tries overall, was worth $63,500, increasing his earnings to $409,425 for his owners, Century City attorney David Leveton and Harry Belles, who is trainer Joe Manzi's father-in-law.
It was Manzi who bought Masterful Advocate at a Keeneland yearling auction for $5,500. The story behind the sale is preposterous, but separate Manzi and Leveton and they tell it exactly the same way.
Manzi was in Kentucky not to buy horses, but to scout yearlings at the farm of Bob Hibbert, another of his owners. He missed a 1 p.m. plane at the Lexington airport, so with a three-hour wait for the next flight he went across the street to Keeneland just to sample the sale.
Standing in the back of the arena, Manzi bid on a couple of horses, but their prices went too high and he dropped out. He had seen Masterful Advocate before he was brought out to the sales ring, and got involved in the opening bidding.
Manzi made a bid of $4,500, but when somebody else went to $5,000, he wanted to drop out and signaled to the bid spotter that he was finished. The spotter thought Manzi was bidding $5,500, and Masterful Advocate was his.
"I dropped out because I thought he'd wind up going for a lot more than that," Manzi said. "After I got him for $5,500, I thought that maybe there was something wrong with him, something that I might have missed. I went back to check, and couldn't find anything."
It gets better. Manzi's plane stopped in Dallas, and during the layover he called Leveton in Los Angeles and sold him half of the Torsion-Miss Satin Doll colt. In 1983, Leveton and Manzi raced Knightly Rapport, a stakes winner who was on the same trail as Masterful Advocate before he broke down at Santa Anita.
Masterful Advocate paid $4, $3 and $2.60. The other payoffs were $11.20 and $5 for Chart the Stars at 30-1, and $3.60 for Hot and Smoggy.
"He left nothing in doubt today," Manzi said of Masterful Advocate. "Every pole was a winning one. He runs fast but easy. The longer distances (the Santa Anita Derby is 1 1/8 miles and the Kentucky Derby is 1 miles) shouldn't bother him."
Bill Shoemaker, despite breaking from the outside post, had Temperate Sil in a good position going down the backstretch. He was on the outside, but in fourth place and at one point appeared to be gaining on Masterful Advocate and the others. But on the turn, Temperate Sil seemed to lose interest.
"He didn't run much," Shoemaker said. "He was kind of laboring. He acted like he couldn't handle the track. I was surprised."
Horse Racing Notes
Today's first post is 12:30, a half-hour earlier than usual. . . . Other winners in 3-year-old races Saturday were Why Not Try in the Swift Stakes at Aqueduct and Demons Begone in the Southwest at Oaklawn Park. . . . Greinton, last year's Santa Anita Handicap winner, has been introduced to four mares in Kentucky and has gotten three of them in foal. . . . Alysheba and Red and Blue were scratched from the San Rafael and Alysheba will run in today's ninth race. . . . Lady's Secret is headed to Florida, to run in the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park next Saturday. . . .Brave Raj, last year's champion 2-year-old filly, won't run again and a decision will be made soon whether she will be bred this season. Brave Raj fractured both knees in a workout at Santa Anita on Dec. 31.