On the first day of the new year, it was a day of firsts at Santa Anita Friday as Raveneaux, a 31-1 longshot, came from behind to win the $134,750 filly division of the California Breeders' Champion Stakes.
A modest 3-year-old in a modest field, Raveneaux hit the wire a neck ahead of Super Avie, achieving:
--The first stakes win for Hal Schneider, a 60-year-old Van Nuys man who also had never bred a horse until he sent his broodmare, Princess Raven, to the stallion Poleax for the mating that brought Raveneaux.
--The first $100,000 thoroughbred stakes win for Kent Daly, a 44-year-old trainer who had won three six-figure races during his quarter horse days.
--The first $100,000 thoroughbred stakes win for Scott Stevens, a 27-year-old jockey who cheerfully lives in the shadow of anonymity cast by his younger brother, Gary, one of the leading riders in the country.
--And the first stakes win for Raveneaux, who could have been claimed twice at Del Mar for $32,000 in August and who ran for $50,000 and $40,000 claiming prices at Hollywood Park last month.
But there were several horses in Friday's race who had equally flimsy credentials: The seven-horse field consisted of five starters who had run for claiming prices and two who had actually been taken by other trainers.
One of the fillies that changed hands, Super Avie, had been bought by trainer Jacque Fulton for $40,000 in November at Santa Anita.
Fa La Te Dough seemed a cut above these horses, having won three of five stakes since she registered her first career win in August at Del Mar. But she was laboring down the backstretch of Friday's seven-furlong race, settling in third place and then dropping back to fourth, and at the end the even-money favorite of the crowd of 29,549 was fourth, beaten by more than three lengths.
"At the half-mile pole, I knew I was in trouble," said Marco Castaneda, Fa La Te Dough's jockey.
Raveneaux, the longest price on the board, paid $65.60, $19.80 and $6.80. Super Avie, who overtook the leader, Pirate's Angel, inside the sixteenth pole but didn't have enough to withstand Raveneaux, paid $5.80 and $4.20 for finishing second. Pirate's Angel, who finished three-fourths of a length behind Super Avie, paid $3.80 for third.
With purses of only $20,650 for two wins in six starts before Friday, Raveneaux earned $78,500. Her time on a track listed as good was 1:25.
In her last start, at Hollywood Park on Dec. 12, Raveneaux won by 2 3/4 lengths, even though she was bumped leaving the gate and got trapped behind horses with an eighth of a mile to run.
"I was confident going into this race," Scott Stevens said. "She had worked better getting ready for it. A lot of times, she had been working like an average horse, and she used to be speed crazy. But the last couple of times she worked, she was very relaxed."
Raveneaux was ahead of only one horse after a half-mile. She had moved up just one notch and was out in the middle of the track in the upper stretch. But Pirate's Angel had run out of gas, and Stevens got Raveneaux to close faster than Super Avie did.
Originally from Boise, Ida., where he was a leading rider, Stevens later rode at Longacres and came to Southern California in September 1986. He has stayed busier in the mornings, working horses first for Wayne Lukas and currently Eddie Gregson, but G. Stevens--his 24-year-old brother--is the name that appears in most of the race results.
Scott Stevens was 0 for 10 for the Santa Anita meeting before Friday's stake, and last season he won only 6 times with 149 mounts, which placed him 24th in the standings. He had three mounts Friday--two off-the-board finishes before Raveneaux--and the rest of the weekend is more typical--no rides today and two Sunday.
Stevens has never considered returning to Longacres. "You get 5% of what a horse earns for finishing second and third here," he said, "and that's more than you get for winning a race--sometimes even winning two races--at Longacres.
"The trainers in the morning take care of me; they pay me for what I do. And I've always had one or two horses that keep me going, like Great Communicator."
Stevens rode Great Communicator to a second-place finish last year in the Hollywood Invitational, a $300,000 race.
"I don't like being compared to my brother," he said Friday. "But somebody has to be at the top of the standings, and if it's my brother up there, that's great."
Gary Stevens had three mounts Friday, with no winners. For a day, the spotlight was on the brother who's more used to the shadows.
Horse Racing Notes