ELMONT, N.Y. — Trainer Billy Badgett won't be in the owner's box when his Go for Wand runs in the $1-million Breeders' Cup Distaff at Belmont Park Saturday. He will be roaming the grandstand minutes before the race, looking for a television monitor.
Normally, a trainer of such a talented 3-year-old filly would sit with the owner of the horse. But Jane du Pont Lunger, the 76-year-old Wilmington, Del., woman who bred and owns Go for Wand, is extremely superstitious. Badgett hasn't been in the owner's box to watch the filly run in almost a year.
Badgett has not sat in Lunger's box since last year's Breeders' Cup at Gulfstream Park, where Go for Wand won the Juvenile Fillies to clinch the Eclipse Award as best 2-year-old filly.
"I got caught in the crowd leaving the paddock," Badgett said. "I didn't make it to Mrs. Lunger's box. Ever since then, she's told me to stay away. She thinks the filly's got a better chance to win if I watch the race someplace else."
On Saturday at Belmont Park, where a victory could lead to the horse-of-the-year title, Lunger will be wearing the same mud-splattered shoes that she had on Aug. 11, when her filly scored a seven-length victory in the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga. Go for Wand has won two more major races since the Alabama, stretching her streak to five, and Lunger has worn the same shoes both times.
"As long as Go for Wand keeps winning, she's not going to clean those shoes," Badgett said.
Go for Wand has won 10 of 12 races--seven of eight this year--and earned $1.3 million. Some are comparing her to Ruffian, who might have been the best filly ever.
Ruffian, undefeated until she broke down and didn't survive emergency surgery after the 1975 match race here against Kentucky Derby winner Foolish Pleasure, is buried under a horseshoe-shaped hedge in the Belmont infield, about 50 yards from the finish line.
Other fillies have had top-heavy records similar to and even better than Go for Wand's. Just two years ago, Personal Ensign won the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs and was retired with a record of 13 victories and no defeats.
Go for Wand has been beaten, by Stella Madrid at Belmont as a 2-year-old and by Seaside Attraction on a muddy track in this year's Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. But her times at a variety of distances will make her a prohibitive favorite Saturday. Go for Wand has run seven furlongs in 1:21, won the 1 1/4-mile Alabama in 2:00 4/5 on an off track and in her last race, at the same distance as Saturday's Distaff, she won the 1 1/8-mile Beldame here Oct. 7 in 1:45 3/5, missing Secretariat's world record by only two-fifths of a second.
Despite such credentials, it wouldn't be surprising to see California-based Bayakoa, last year's Distaff winner, favored in the betting on the Distaff at Santa Anita, which is taking bets on the Breeders' Cup.
Bayakoa, whose owner, Frank Whitham, has paid a supplementary fee of $200,000 for the second consecutive year to make his Argentine-bred mare eligible for the Breeders' Cup, has won six of nine races in 1990, two of her defeats having been against males.
The managers of Go for Wand and Bayakoa decided on the Distaff after considering Saturday's $3-million Classic. The size of the field was one factor. The Classic will have 14 horses, with an awkward starting position midway around Belmont's clubhouse turn. The Distaff is a one-turn race with a field of only eight.
On Sunday, in her first timed appearance on the Belmont track since she won the Ruffian Handicap last year, Bayakoa worked seven furlongs in a sensational 1:22 4/5.
"There's no question that my filly likes this track," Badgett said. "But Bayakoa must like the track, too, the way she worked Sunday."
Gorgeous, the last female to have beaten Bayakoa and second in the Distaff last year, will be running again Saturday. Badgett expects Colonial Waters, winless for 13 months and no factor in last year's Distaff, to be the pace-setter, as she was in the Beldame before Go for Wand beat her by 4 3/4 lengths.
"I think this will be a jockey's race," Badgett said. "My filly and Bayakoa ought to be sitting off Colonial Waters early, and since we both have tactical speed, it will be up to the riders at that point."
Bayakoa's regular rider, Laffit Pincay, has won five Breeders' Cup races, more than anybody else. Go for Wand is ridden by Randy Romero, who has had three Breeders' Cup winners.
"I won't give Randy any instructions," Badgett said. "He's been riding this filly for two years and knows her well."
A 6-year-old, Bayakoa will carry 123 pounds, four more than Go for Wand. Bayakoa has won three times while carrying 127 pounds this year.
"I don't think the weight makes any difference--four pounds between two good horses like this," Badgett said. "We've got 119 pounds, the same weight that she carried in the Beldame, and that shouldn't hurt us. Not going up in weight is more important than the four-pound spread."
Because Easy Goer, Sunday Silence and Criminal Type went to the sidelines because of injuries, the Breeders' Cup Classic, the richest race of the day, has been downgraded in billing. The real classic horses running Saturday will be Go for Wand and Bayakoa. And Jane du Pont Lunger won't mind waiting a little longer to shine her shoes.
Horse Racing Notes
Entries for all seven Breeders' Cup races will be drawn Wednesday. . . . Expected to join Dispersal in the Classic field are Unbridled, De Roche, Flying Continental, Rhythm, Opening Verse, Home at Last, Beau Genius, Mi Selecto, Shy Tom, Izvestia, Go and Go, Lively One and Ibn Bey. . . . Great Commotion has a stomach ailment and won't run in the Mile. The 4-year-old English colt will leave soon for California, where he will be trained by Neil Drysdale.