All year long, trainer Wayne Lukas pointedly avoided running his good 2-year-old colts, Success Express and Tejano, against one another. There was too much money to be won in different parts of the country without the pair going head to head.
The plan worked. Tejano won the Arlington-Washington Futurity and the Cowdin at Belmont Park. Success Express won stakes at Canterbury Downs and Louisiana Downs.
But now million-dollar races have brought these two colts together. They have different owners--Gene Klein bought Success Express at a yearling auction for $150,000 and Barry Beal and Bob French bred Tejano--so both colts ran in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Hollywood Park Nov. 21.
That was a $450,000 payday for Klein as his Success Express won the race. Beal and French received $108,000 when Tejano ran third, 3 1/2 lengths back.
Tejano, because he had run against supposedly better competition in the East most of the year, had gone off the 2-1 favorite, while Success Express and an entrymate, Contempt, were coupled in the betting at 4-1.
There's another million-dollar race Sunday, the Hollywood Futurity, and it will bring both youngsters out of the barn again, along with six additional 2-year-olds.
Entries were taken Friday, and the field lines up this way, starting at the rail:
Overbrook, with Sandy Hawley riding; Purdue King, Fernando Toro; Spotted Raj, Pat Valenzuela; Success Express, Jose Santos; Sure Swift, Jorge Velasquez; Texas Typhoon, Alex Solis; Regal Classic, Pat Day; and Tejano, Laffit Pincay.
Not having been nominated, Success Express, Tejano and Regal Classic are being supplemented by their owners into the race, at $50,000 apiece. In the Breeders' Cup, which at a mile is the same distance as the Futurity, Regal Classic, the champion Canadian juvenile, finished second, beaten by 1 3/4 lengths.
There is more than the $495,000 winner's share of the purse at stake in the Futurity for Success Express. The son of Hold Your Peace could also clinch the Eclipse Award for North America's best 2-year-old colt with a victory.
In this regard, Lukas possibly has more to lose than gain by running Success Express Sunday. The horse may already have clinched the title with his victory in the Breeders' Cup, but a loss Sunday could swing the vote to Forty Niner, the best 2-year-old in the East, but a horse who didn't run in the Breeders' Cup.
Tejano probably can't win the Eclipse even with a victory in the Futurity. It's the penalty he's paying for having had a tougher campaign than Success Express and being unable to beat his stablemate in the Breeders' Cup.
Tejano was third, 5 1/2 lengths behind Forty Niner, in the Champagne at Belmont, and he also was unable to beat Crusader Sword, another top New York 2-year-old, in the Saratoga Special.
Regal Classic was the only horse in the Breeders' Cup to make a serious run at Success Express, who led virtually all the way. Regal Classic was trapped on the far turn when the horse in front of him, Tsarbaby, started to tire. By the time Regal Classic found running room on the rail through the stretch, Success Express had established too large a lead.
Pat Day has replaced Dave Penna on Regal Classic. Day, who leads the country in purses with more than $12 million, has won three million-dollar races this year--two on Breeders' Cup day, with Theatrical and Epitome, and the Travers at Saratoga with Java Gold.
Another dangerous horse in the Futurity is Purdue King. He was not eligible for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and his owner and breeder, John Valpredo, didn't want to risk the $200,000 supplemental fee.
The day before the Breeders' Cup, however, Purdue King won the Hoist the Flag Stakes on the grass at Hollywood, just five days after he had won on the dirt in the B.J. Ridder Stakes at Santa Anita.
In the Norfolk at Santa Anita two weeks before that, Purdue King was second to the 12-1 longshot, Saratoga Passage, with favored Success Express finishing fourth on a sloppy track. No more rain this weekend should leave Hollywood Park with a fast track Sunday.
A win by anyone but the top four--Success Express, Tejano, Regal Classic and Purdue King--would be a shock. Texas Typhoon has never won a race. And Spotted Raj was considered a non-starter all week by his trainer, Mel Stute, before the horse's owner, B.J. King, called from Florida and said he wanted to run.
"I guess I lied to the press, didn't I?" Stute said Friday. "But I didn't even know that he had been nominated."
Horse Racing Notes Wayne Lukas won the first running of the Hollywood Futurity, with Stalwart in 1981. Trainer Gary Jones and jockey Sandy Hawley, who have Overbrook in Sunday's race, won the Futurity with Fali Time in 1983, the first year it was worth $1 million. Trainer Mel Stute saddled the winning Snow Chief in the 1985 Futurity.