Del Mar success continued to mean little at Santa Anita as Kotashaan won the $300,000 Oak Tree Invitational and Shepherd's Field scored a major upset in the $200,000 Norfolk Stakes on Sunday.
On Saturday, Phone Chatter, beaten by 7 1/2 lengths by Sardula in the Del Mar Debutante, turned the tables on the heavy favorite and won the Oak Leaf Stakes. In the Oak Tree, Kotashaan won by four lengths over Luazur, the colt who had upset him by a nose in the Del Mar Handicap. An hour earlier, Winning Pact, Ramblin Guy and Ferrara, the 1-2-3 finishers in the Del Mar Futurity, ran 4-2-3 in the Norfolk as Shepherd's Field beat Ramblin Guy by a half-length at 8-1.
Richard Mandella saddled Phone Chatter and Kotashaan.
"I think he's the best horse in America right now," Mandella said of 5-year-old French-bred Kotashaan, who has five victories and two seconds in eight starts this year.
Star Of Cozzene, another grass specialist who was considered a leading horse-of-the-year contender, ran fourth Saturday in the Turf Classic at Belmont Park. Trainer Mark Hennig, at Santa Anita Sunday to saddle Prenup for his sixth-place finish in the Norfolk, said that the chance of Star Of Cozzene running in the Breeders' Cup Turf, against Kotashaan at Santa Anita on Nov. 6, is remote. There would be a $240,000 supplement required for his horse to start, and the horse's new Japanese owners are more enthusiastic about winning the Japan Cup. Before he was shipped east, Star Of Cozzene beat Kotashaan twice during the winter at Santa Anita.
Mandella said that Kent Desormeaux was close to tears after his ride on Kotashaan at Del Mar, where he moved late with the horse and ran out of ground against Luazur.
This time, Desormeaux and Kotashaan stalked Luazur from the time the four-horse field settled in going down the backstretch. Midway through the far turn, Kotashaan moved on Luazur, passed him before they reached the quarter pole and drew clear by mid-stretch.
"As well as he ran today, it makes that last race hurt even more," Desormeaux said. "This horse is a freak of nature, and he'll keep showing it if I don't get in his way."
Kotashaan is owned by Frenchman Jacques Wertheimer and partners, who have not seen the horse run since he was sent to Mandella in California during the fall of 1991. Sunday's victory was worth $180,000, giving him earnings of more than $1.1 million. He paid $3 to win, running 1 1/2 miles, the same distance as the Breeders' Cup Turf, in 2:25.
Luazur finished 5 1/2 lengths ahead of Let's Elope and D'Arros was last. Navire was scratched from the race because of a cough.
Bobby Frankel, Luazur's trainer, said that he was still pleased with his French-bred's race and he is expected to return in the Breeders' Cup.
Before the Norfolk, Shepherd's Field had been second, third and finally first in three maiden races at Del Mar.
In his first start, on July 28, Shepherd's Field ran second to Showdown, beaten by 2 1/2 lengths. Based on that, trainer Brad MacDonald thought that a $50,000 claiming spot might be right for the roan colt's next race.
But then Roger Gebhard, who bred Shepherd's Field and races the Spectacular Bid-Ransomed Captive colt with his wife, television anchorwoman Ann Martin, called the Daily Racing Form for an analysis of the race. Gebhard was told that, allowing for track variances, the winning time of :58 3/5 for five furlongs was the sixth-best this year by a 2-year-old.
Based on that, the next time Shepherd's Field ran, he was in an allowance maiden race instead of against claimers. He finished third, beaten by two lengths, and the winner was Ferrara, who would run third in the Del Mar Futurity a month later. Shepherd's Field came back in three weeks, breaking his maiden after his owners agonized for several minutes while the Del Mar stewards sorted out an inquiry.
Before the Norfolk, Gary Jones, who trains Winning Pact for John and Betty Mabee, told his owners that Shepherd's Field would be dangerous.
"He had the style to win this kind of race," Jones said. "And then when my two horses (Winning Pact and Ferrara, who is owned by actor Don Ameche) wound up in the same spot, head and head for the lead, it looked like somebody might come and beat us."
Jones said he gave his jockeys, Desormeaux on Ferrara and Corey Nakatani on Winning Pact, hardly any instructions.
"These horses have their running styles, and you can't change that, because you've got to be fair to the owners," Jones said.
Shepherd's Field, under Chris McCarron, was fourth after a half-mile, with Ferrara, Winning Pact and Ramblin Guy setting the pace. Shepherd's Field, while still six lengths back at the top of the stretch, was able to split horses through the lane as he made his winning move.
"We didn't think about this race until about three weeks ago," MacDonald said. "We are thinking Breeders' Cup. The more this horse trained, the better and better it looked that he would be able to go long."