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Horse Racing : Sons, Daughters of Dimaggio Are Hard to Miss in California

July 30, 1987|Bill Christine

DEL MAR — It is hard to go more than a couple of days at a California track without seeing a son or a daughter of Dimaggio running.

On Wednesday, opening day at Del Mar, Summers Hitter, a 4-year-old gelding sired by Dimaggio, was supposed to run in the second race but didn't get the chance because of an overflowing entry box.

John Valpredo, who bred and named Dimaggio, still owns about one-fourth of the 15-year-old stallion, the rest belonging to Bud Johnston and Old English Rancho in Ontario.

Dimaggio was a name that came naturally for Valpredo, a former sandlot ballplayer who had marveled at how far Joe DiMaggio, the future Yankee star, could hit the ball while playing for the San Francisco Seals in the old days of the Pacific Coast League.

Not only that, Dimaggio was out of Batter Up, a mare whose sire was Striking. Dimaggio's sire was Bold Ruler.

Usually when a horse is going to be named after a prominent person, the Jockey Club in New York requires that the owner get permission. But Valpredo avoided that because he spelled the colt's name differently.

The sire Dimaggio has inspired all kinds of related names, including stakes winners Fifty Six Ina Row--after Joe DiMaggio's still standing record hitting streak--League Hitter and Slugfest.

Some of the other offspring have been Marilyn M.--DiMaggio having been married to Marilyn Monroe--and Coffee Maid, possibly because DiMaggio has been the commercial spokesman for Mr. Coffee.

Dimaggio's most famous son has been Prince Spellbound, who won a division of the Hollywood Turf Cup in 1982 and on Wednesday at Del Mar, even though Summers Hitter was scratched, Dimaggio played a part. His grandson, Savona Tower, won the second division of the Oceanside Stakes for Valpredo.

Prince Spellbound didn't have a baseball name but, in the winner's circle after the Turf Cup, there was a baseball connection. Stan Musial, attending the race because a friend from St. Louis had a horse running, made the trophy presentation to Bill Pease, Prince Spellbound's owner.

It was an unlikely tableau: One of baseball's best hitters honoring a colt sired by a horse named after another of the game's great hitters.

Patti Barton, who won about 1,200 races, which is probably still a record for a woman jockey, has a daughter, Donna, who has started riding winners at the Birmingham Turf Club in Alabama.

There are some interesting coincidences in the careers of Patti and Donna Barton.

Patti rode her first winner May 30, 1969. Donna rode her first race May 30 this year.

Patti's career ended July 8, 1984, when her horse went down and she was trampled by trailing horses at Fairmount Park, near St. Louis.

One day after the third anniversary of that spill, Donna Barton won her first race.

Exactly two years after that spill, Donna was galloping a horse that threw her. That was also at Fairmount Park.

"The rest of my life, I'll be doing a lot of things other than riding a horse on July 8 at Fairmount Park," Donna said.

Julie Snellings, a former jockey whose career ended because of injuries suffered in a spill, is a racing official at Birmingham. Fifteen years ago, Snellings was Donna Barton's baby sitter.

When Laffit Pincay won this summer's riding title at Hollywood Park, it was his 31st California championship, dating back to the first one at Hollywood in 1968.

Pincay has won 12 meet titles at Santa Anita, 10 at Hollywood, 5 at Del Mar and 4 in Oak Tree meetings at Santa Anita.

Trainer John Russell, who replaced Ross Fenstermaker as Fred Hooper's trainer earlier this year, had a successful season at Hollywood Park, with 20 winners from 80 starters.

"Like the brain surgeon, I can't lose them all," Russell said.

Russell hasn't heard anything from the Florida-based Hooper regarding the return of Precisionist after a disappointing start at stud.

"Naturally, I'd love to have the horse," Russell said. "But it's something that I'm not pushing."

Chris McCarron is still reserving judgment about how good Waquoit is.

Like Lost Code, the 3-year-old colt who missed the Triple Crown series but has emerged as one of the divisional leaders, Waquoit didn't get much attention earlier in the year. But under McCarron he has won three straight stakes, the most recent the Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont Park on Saturday.

"We didn't beat a strong field," McCarron said. "But at least we know now that the horse can carry weight and win."

After winning under 117 pounds in the Massachusetts Handicap and with 119 pounds in the Michigan Mile, Waquoit took the Brooklyn while carrying 123 pounds, nine more than his next-weighted opponent.

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