Trainer Wayne Lukas won the money, but probably lost the trophy, when Tejano, the lesser-regarded of his two starters, upset stablemate Success Express Sunday in the $1-million Hollywood Futurity at Hollywood Park.
Sunday's result, before 24,907 fans, reversed the outcome of the Breeders' Cup a month ago, when Success Express was the winner and Tejano finished third, 3 1/2 lengths back.
A win Sunday should have clinched the Eclipse Award for 2-year-old colt for Success Express, but instead he lagged a few lengths behind in the early going, never reached contention in the stretch of the mile race and settled for sixth in the eight-horse field.
The defeat of Success Express virtually clinches the 2-year-old title for Forty Niner, the New York-based colt who won two major stakes and five out of six starts before his trainer, Woody Stephens, closed out his season in late October. Forty Niner beat Tejano soundly in the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park and they both finished behind Crusader Sword in the Saratoga Special.
Lukas considered not running Success Express Sunday, but not because of Eclipse Award considerations. Although the track was labeled fast, it was still wet from heavy rain late last week, and Success Express had twice run poorly on off tracks. An hour before the Futurity, Lukas was still debating about running Success Express.
An Eclipse for Success Express was not a factor, Lukas said. "These are two quality colts and there are two different owners," the trainer said. "The object is to win million-dollar races if they're available. If that wasn't the purpose, then we could sit back and watch Purdue King win the race."
Purdue King, who came into the Futurity with two straight stakes wins, broke on top under Fernando Toro when Success Express broke poorly and no one else appeared to want the lead. Second after a half-mile, Tejano edged ahead of Purdue King at the head of the stretch, then coasted home under Laffit Pincay for a 2-length victory.
Purdue King finished 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Regal Classic, who despite being second in the Breeders' Cup went off the 9-5 favorite, slightly ahead of Success Express. Overbrook, making only his third start and running in his first stake, was another slow starter and wound up fourth, 5 1/2 lengths behind Regal Classic.
By winning, Tejano earned $495,000 and increased his earnings to $1,177,189, breaking the record for a 2-year-old that Snow Chief set with 935,740 in 1985.
Tejano's time was 1:34 3/5, missing the stakes record of Snow Chief's by two-fifths of a second. Tejano, the third betting choice, paid $8.80, $5.20 and $3.20. Purdue King paid $6.20 and $3.60 and Regal Classic paid $2.60.
Pincay and Lukas are familiar figures in the winner's circle after million-dollar races. They lead their counterparts in seven-figure victories, this being the eighth for Pincay and the seventh for Lukas. This was only their second together, the other being Capote's win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in 1986.
"I told Laffit that we'll be catching him but that'll be tough to do if he keeps riding for us," Lukas said.
Pincay rode Tejano in his first three races--including the colt's maiden win at Hollywood Park in June--but other jockeys took over when the horse was sent East, until Pincay regained the mount in the Breeders' Cup.
That day, Tejano was a mess, looking as though he had been hit by a cloudburst even though the sun was out. Lukas dismissed the colt's washiness by saying that his handlers routinely sponge him with water, but on Sunday he admitted that Tejano had heated up and got excited.
"He was more calm today," Pincay said. "The last time, when I pulled him up, he didn't feel good in his breathing. I told Wayne about it, and they discovered that he had an infection in his throat."
Jeff Lukas, Wayne's son and right-hand man, schooled Tejano twice in the paddock last week and missed a third opportunity because of rain.
"He got stirred up coming over to the track from the barn on Breeders' Cup day," Lukas said. "Today, he didn't turn a hair. He got hot when he ran, but that's OK."
Barry Beal and Bob French, the Texans who own Tejano, are listed as the breeders, but actually it was Lukas who arranged the mating between Caro and Infantes, an Exclusive Native mare. Tejano was broken and raised at Lukas' farm in Norman, Okla.
Tejano wouldn't be racing for Beal and French if Infantes, in foal to Caro, hadn't failed to meet her price at a Kentucky auction. She fell $20,000 short of what the owners had projected, so they bought her back. Infantes was eventually sold, for a price that Lukas remembers as being $325,000.