Don and Vera Brunette paid $6,000 for Zany Tactics when he was an unraced, hard-to-handle 2-year-old.
A year later, the Murietta couple--Don's in the building business--tried to sell the horse, who still hadn't gotten to the races. The Brunettes were willing to take a loss, but nobody was interested, even at $5,000.
There was no reason for any interest. Zany Tactics had been gelded, but that didn't help calm him down, and then he developed a leg problem. By the time he finally ran a race, Zany Tactics was a 4-year-old.
This is the same Zany Tactics who last Sunday won the six-furlong Coors Phoenix Gold Cup at Turf Paradise in the world-record time of 1:06 4/5; the same Zany Tactics who set an American record by traveling the seldom-run distance of six furlongs on grass in 1:07 2/5 last December at Hollywood Park, and the same Zany Tactics who has now earned more than $400,000, most of it in the last two years.
Turf Paradise can be a rock-hard track where sprint records have frequently been set. The old record of 1:07 1/5 for six furlongs on dirt was held by Petro D. Jay, who ran that fast at Turf Paradise in 1982, and by Grey Pappa, who set the mark at Longacres 10 years earlier.
A week before Zany Tactics' record-breaking performance last Sunday, there was so much rain in Phoenix that the jockeys considered the main Turf Paradise track dangerous and refused to ride. Management salvaged two programs by switching all of the races to the turf course.
By last Sunday, however, Turf Paradise had been baked solid and must have resembled the Indianapolis Speedway. In a race before the Gold Cup, a horse was timed in 1:08, which was just a fifth of a second slower than the best time of the season.
But even with optimum conditions, Zany Tactics ran an incredible race. Carrying top weight of 126 pounds--Grey Pappa carried 112 while setting the record and Petro D. Jay was under 120 pounds in tying it--Zany Tactics was 1 1/2 lengths behind Faro and his 115 pounds after a half-mile, which was run in a blazing 43 seconds.
Heading into the stretch, Faro still led by half a length, but without even a tap of the whip from jockey Jack Kaenel, Zany Tactics overtook Faro and reached the wire a length ahead. The third-place finisher, Zabaleta, who had barely beaten Zany Tactics going 6 1/2 furlongs last month at Santa Anita, ran third, 10 lengths behind the winner.
Said Kory Owens, who trains Faro: "My horse ran the best race of his career. But Zany Tactics just ran better."
Darrel McHargue, riding Zabaleta, thought he was in contention until Zany Tactics took off.
"My horse was right there on those first two horses," McHargue said. "But then in the middle of the turn, there I wasn't."
Zany Tactics is a California-bred, the result of a mating of Zanthe and Escort's Lady. The Brunettes and their trainer, Blake Heap, came close to skipping the Turf Paradise race and running in last Sunday's $1-million Santa Anita Handicap instead.
In the San Antonio Handicap Feb. 22 at Santa Anita, Zany Tactics finished fourth, about 2 1/2 lengths behind Bedside Promise, who later was one of the Big 'Cap favorites.
But Zany Tactics hadn't been nominated for the Big 'Cap, and it would have cost a $25,000 supplementary fee, plus a $15,000 starting fee, for him to run. The money, which was a consideration, was due the Wednesday before the Big 'Cap, and the Brunettes and Heap discussed the possibility all afternoon during the races that day.
"One minute, we were going to run, the next minute we were out," Heap said. "Then later on we were back in, then we were out again."
They finally decided to go to Phoenix. The winning purse there was only $60,000, compared to $550,000 for winning the Big 'Cap, but now their horse is in the record book a second time. It's a good thing for the Brunettes that no one paid any attention to that $5,000 price tag three years ago.
Lady's Secret, who'll carry 120 pounds, will make her 5-year-old debut today against six males in the $100,000 Donn Handicap at 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream Park.
Trainer Wayne Lukas found a 129-pound assignment unacceptable for the recent Santa Margarita Handicap at Santa Anita and shipped Lady's Secret, the 1986 horse of the year, to Florida.
Lady's Secret was actually rated at 125 pounds for the Donn, but by running against males she receives a five-pound sex allowance, which will be in effect until September.
Also carrying 120 in the Donn is Launch a Pegasus. Skip Trial will run with 118 pounds. Also in the field at 117 is Wise Times.
Fred Sahadi, who owns Cardiff Stud in Creston, spent a month trying to land Precisionist as a stallion for his farm. But Fred Hooper, Precisionist's owner and a Florida resident, decided to stand the horse at a farm near his home.