DEL MAR — Neither trainer Ron McAnally nor jockey Chris McCarron has had much experience trying to beat male horses with a female, as their Paseana will try to do today in the $1-million Pacific Classic.
McCarron is reminded of Glorious Song, the 4-year-old filly who won an Eclipse Award in 1980.
Glorious Song's championship season began in the winter at Santa Anita, where McCarron rode her to victory in the La Canada Stakes and the Santa Margarita Handicap.
Later, Glorious Song beat males, and by mid-summer her trainer, Gerry Belanger, felt she was ready to take on Spectacular Bid, who had won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness the year before.
Belanger's filly, with six victories in nine starts for the year, was assigned 117 pounds for the Haskell Handicap at Monmouth Park, and Spectacular Bid would have to carry 132.
But despite McCarron's success with Glorious Song, one of the filly's owners, Canadian Frank Stronach, wanted a "New York rider" in the Haskell. McCarron had been a star in Maryland, but in 1980 he had not yet secured a foothold in California.
McCarron still wanted the chance to beat Spectacular Bid. "I called the owner to argue why I should ride his filly," McCarron said. "It was the longest and the hardest I've ever argued to get a mount."
Stronach was not dissuaded, and Jorge Velasquez rode Glorious Song to a second-place finish, less than two lengths behind Spectacular Bid. "She didn't win," McCarron said, "but she made Spectacular Bid run as hard as he had to all year."
There has been no question about who would be riding Paseana since the 5-year-old mare got off the plane from South America midway through last year. McCarron has been her only rider, from the second-place finish in her U.S. debut through the seven-race winning streak that she will carry into the Pacific Classic.
The other day, McCarron talked about that first U.S. race, when the Gary Jones-trained filly from Argentina, La Charlatana, beat Paseana by two lengths in the Manta Handicap at Santa Anita in October.
"Paseana ran a very creditable race," McCarron said, "and when I got off her, I did something that I had never done before and probably will never do again. Now Gary Jones is a friend of mine, but something made me go over to him right after the race and say, 'Your filly will never beat my filly again.' "
No filly has beaten Paseana since then, but females that win horse of the year usually have to beat males to attract votes, as All Along did in 1983 and Lady's Secret did in 1986.
The Pacific Classic is the perfect vehicle for Paseana's national-title campaign. The disparity in weights doesn't approach the difference between Spectacular Bid and Glorious Song 12 years ago, but Paseana will carry only 119 pounds, a drop of eight pounds from what she bore in winning the Vanity Handicap on July 19. Her six rivals must carry 124 pounds.
The farthest Paseana has gone in the United States is 1 1/8 miles, an eighth of a mile shorter than today's race, but McAnally doesn't expect a problem.
"This filly is better suited to running a mile and a quarter than Bayakoa was," McAnally said. "A mile and an eighth was pretty much Bayakoa's ticket. Paseana ran a mile and a quarter without any trouble in Argentina."
In 1989 and again in 1990, Bayakoa was a divisional champion for McAnally, but she was unsuccessful in beating males.
"I don't think that racing is much different than other sports when it comes to females beating males," McAnally said. "Golf, tennis, volleyball, you name it, the men usually win. I know that fillies frequently beat the colts in Europe, but I don't know how they do it. This is the race to take the shot with my filly. None of the other contenders for horse of the year have been very consistent."
McAnally acknowledged that the fillies and mares Paseana has been beating are not an exceptional group. But none of today's starters have national reputations, although Jolie's Halo seems to be on the upswing again and Another Review has won four of his last five, beating other Pacific Classic runners Claret, Defensive Play, Missionary Ridge and Reign Road.
Daros, a European-raced gelding making his first start in the United States, took the lead with about a sixteenth of a mile to go and won the $300,000 Del Mar Derby by two lengths.
Blacksburg, the 6-5 favorite who had already won two stakes at the meeting, led most of the way but finished fourth.
Owned by Al and Sandee Kirkwood, Daros had won two of six starts in Europe. He arrived at Del Mar Tuesday night and left quarantine Thursday afternoon.
Smiling And Dancin, who came in from Saratoga and went off at 20-1, finished second, a nose better than Major Impact. It was another length farther back to Blacksburg in the field of 12.
Daros, timed in 1:48 4/5, paid $19.80 to win under Eddie Delahoussaye, who won the stake for the fourth time. Daros gave trainer Mike Puhich his first stakes victory at Del Mar.
Horse Racing Notes
Bob Camac, who trains Jolie's Halo, says that Another Review, not 9-5 morning-line choice Paseana, is the horse to beat. . . . The Del Mar Oaks, also being run today and marred by the heart-attack death of Pleasant Stage on Friday, is headed by Golden Treat and Morristown Belle, who ran 1-2 in the San Clemente Handicap on Aug. 8. That was the first grass start for Golden Treat after nine races on dirt. . . . The stewards gave Corey Nakatani a five-day suspension, starting Monday. Nakatani was aboard Sunnybrae, who ran fifth in a race Thursday after "crossing over without sufficient clearance," according to the stewards' ruling. . . . Jockey Eddie Delahoussaye won Saturday's final three races.