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THOROUGHBRED RACING : Marshall Can Stake His Claim if Latin American Wins Stake


Trainer Bob Marshall compares claiming horses to a game of chess.

"There's a move here, and then there's a move there," he says. "It's tough, because you've got to watch every race. The guys who are good at claiming, trainers like Bill Spawr and Mike Mitchell, would be good at anything they tried to do. I think I enjoy claiming because it's so analytical."

Latin American, the best buy Marshall has ever made in a brief career spiced by several profitable claims, takes his biggest step Saturday when he runs in the $400,000 Californian at Hollywood Park. Marshall has never run a horse in a Grade I race, and he has never won anything more important than a Grade III, but he feels that Latin American has earned the chance.

"We're 20-1 on the morning line, so that says that we can't expect to win," Marshall said. "But this horse has a big kick coming down the lane, and if the others (up front) come back to us, we might have a big shot. This horse has been our dream horse. If we get lucky and things go our way, maybe we'll be smiling after a race again."

Marshall, a 48-year-old optometrist who saved enough money to pursue a nagging ambition--training horses--in 1986, owns 25% of Latin American. Warren B. (Spud) Williamson, vice president of Hollywood Park, owns 40%, Mike Jarvis 25% and Mike Glickman 10%. They became partners after Marshall claimed Latin American for $100,000 from trainer Gary Jones out of a winning race at Hollywood Park last June.

Jones would have had one of the favorites in the 1 1/8-mile Californian, but Best Pal bruised a foot this week.

What's left is a seven-horse field, with Sir Beaufort, the Santa Anita Handicap winner, favored at 8-5. Marshall helped draw the post positions on Thursday, and this is what he came up with, starting at the rail:

Have Fun, ridden by Corey Nakatani, 116 pounds, 4-1 odds; Sir Beaufort, Pat Valenzuela, 120, 8-5; Memo, Paul Atkinson, 118, 4-1; Missionary Ridge, Kent Desormeaux, 116, 5-2; Portoferraio, Alex Solis, 116, 20-1; Reign Road, Eddie Delahoussaye, 116; 10-1; and Latin American, Gary Stevens, 116; 20-1.

"With only seven horses, I said to myself that the post positions weren't important," Marshall said. "But now I think we've got as bad a spot as there could be. I would have preferred No. 3, and I definitely wanted Reign Road (who comes from far off the pace) outside of us."

Since Marshall made the claim, Latin American has won three races, been second once and third three times, earning $239,815. He is winless in six California starts for his current owners and had a two-race winning streak--the New Orleans Handicap at the New Orleans Fair Grounds and the Edmond Handicap at Remington Park in Oklahoma--come to an end last Saturday when he finished third in a grass stake at Remington.

Marshall claimed Latin American in his first start after running last in a stake at Arlington International.

"You never make a good claim when a horse is coming off a good race," he said. "The time to claim a horse is after he's run a dud, but is still sound. Gary (Jones) brought Latin American back to California and had him training again eight days after that Chicago race. That made me think that the horse was all right. He was 3-1 when he ran in Chicago, drew the 10 hole and stayed there all the way, so I just threw that race out."

Marshall was also looking for a horse from Europe, and Latin American had raced in France before he was sent to Jones in California at the end of 1991. Latin American, a son of Riverman and Clever Dancer, a Mr. Prospector mare, was first sold for $300,000 at a yearling auction.

Before Latin American came along, Marshall figured his best claim had been Trebizond, who was purchased for $40,000.

"He won $250,000 for me in 18 months, and never won a stake," Marshall said. "He was always right there, but could never get the big money. He got beat by a nose in the Arcadia Handicap (against Madjaristan at Santa Anita in 1991). I said too many things about running him in the Longacres Mile, and when I ran him at Del Mar instead, I lost him for $100,000. But he gave us $270,000 net before we lost him."

Marshall doesn't have to search his mind for his worst claim.

"That would be Bullet Points," he said. "I claimed him for $62,500 last fall at Hollywood. He broke down in the race and had to be (destroyed) right there on the track. It just happened. He looked all right before the race."

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