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Zoffany Sticks His Neck Out : Seven-Year-Old Wins On Way to Retirement

March 30, 1987|BILL CHRISTINE | Times Staff Writer

Like in the song, the days have dwindled down to just a precious few for Zoffany, who will soon be sent to an Australian stud farm, to be remembered as one of the most successful New Jersey-breds ever to race.

Of course, New Jersey has been known more for turnpikes and tomatoes than thoroughbreds, even though two of its own, the filly Regret and Cavalcade, did win the Kentucky Derby.

Irrespective of birthplace, Zoffany has had a distinguished career. The 7-year-old son of Our Native and Grey Dawn Girl has been winning stakes since he was 3, and Sunday, before 59,871 fans at Santa Anita, he made the next-to-last race of his career a big one, taking the $211,200 San Luis Rey by a neck over Louis Le Grand, a horse who had beaten Zoffany two of the last three times they met.

This time, Louis Le Grand looked as though he was going to wear down his rival in the stretch, but Eddie Delahoussaye went to his whip, and Zoffany held on.

After Louis Le Grand, it was another neck back to the fast-closing Long Mick, who didn't have the best of trips. Long Mick had 1 3/4 lengths on Ferdinand, the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner who ran fourth in the five-horse field while making his first start on grass.

Ferdinand and Zoffany were alone up front in the early going, with Zoffany moving past the 4-year-old colt on the turn. They were still close in midstretch, but with a furlong left, Ferdinand began to drop back as Louis Le Grand and Long Mick tried to catch Zoffany.

Charlie Whittingham, who trains both Ferdinand and Louis Le Grand, anticipated that the race would unfold the way it did, wishing it would be otherwise.

"Ferdinand's not a lead horse," Whittingham said after the race. "I knew this would be a crazy race, pace-wise, because there was no pace, no speed, in the race. The slow pace was bad for Louis Le Grand, too, and then when he made his run, the winner had enough left that he didn't come back to him."

Timed in 2:25 1/5 for 1 1/2 miles on the grass, Zoffany earned $121,200 and, as the second betting choice behind Ferdinand, paid $5.20, $2.80 and $2.40. Louis Le Grand paid $3.40 and $2.80, and Long Mick's show price was $2.80.

Zoffany, who was purchased by one of his current owners, London art dealer Anthony Speelman, for $80,000 at a Keeneland yearling sale, increased his career earnings to $1.2 million. Zoffany is also owned by Englishmen Anthony and John Bodie, and they and Speelman, who don't breed horses, sold the horse as a stallion to Segenhoe Stud in Australia. Because of quarantine regulations in Australia, Zoffany must leave the United States after running in the $400,000 San Juan Capistrano at Santa Anita April 19.

John Gosden, the former Englishman who has trained Zoffany for the last three years, had been hoping to keep the horse in training for the Hollywood Invitational, but since that race is in June, it comes too late for him to run and satisfy stud requirements in Australia.

It was at Hollywood Park where Zoffany won his first major race, the Hollywood Turf Cup, in 1985. Zoffany also won the Sunset Handicap there last year.

The Sunset and a second-place finish in the Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar had sent Zoffany to Chicago as one of the favorites in last year's Budweiser Arlington Million. But on the first turn, he and a stablemate, Alphabatim, bumped, and Zoffany suffered a torn muscle in a hind quarter that knocked him out of action for a month.

"I mean to tell you, he was limping bad that day," Delahoussaye said Sunday. "They had to take him off the track in a wagon. When they told me later that he was coming back to run, I was really surprised."

Gosden doesn't have X-ray eyes, but he suspects Zoffany has a heart the size of the Ritz. The horse returned in the Burke Handicap at Santa Anita last November, running fourth but finishing only three-quarters of a length behind the victorious Louis Le Grand after a troubled trip.

A month later, in the Hollywood Turf Cup, he was again fourth and again beaten by three-quarters of a length, this time by Alphabatim, who got in his way at Arlington Park.

In January, Zoffany beat Louis Le Grand by two lengths with a come-from-behind move in the San Marcos Handicap at Santa Anita. They ran 1-2 again, with the order reversed, in the San Luis Obispo Handicap three weeks later.

"We were giving weight (eight pounds) that day," Gosden said. "And then we went with Forlitano for the lead, and that set it up for Louis Le Grand. Eddie (Delahoussaye) and I had gotten together and got it all back-frontwards. We made a bit of a mess out of it."

Sunday, Gosden and Delahoussaye suspected that they'd be sitting second behind Ferdinand.

"We wanted to be right on his girth," Gosden said. "Sometimes the plans go right for you, and this was one of those days."

Gary Stevens, riding Louis Le Grand because Bill Shoemaker stayed with Ferdinand, closed on Zoffany but never really believed he'd pass him.

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