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DISTAFF

Look of Adoration Brings Victory

The longshot goes easy early, saving enough punch for stretch run. Valenzuela picks up his first Cup win since 1992.

October 26, 2003|Bill Christine | Times Staff Writer

John Amerman was on the golf course at Indian Wells, finishing up a round of 81, when he closed the deal to buy Adoration in 2002. In Saturday's first Breeders' Cup race, the 4-year-old delivered the equivalent of a hole-in-one for Amerman, his wife, Jerry, and longshot players. The $2 win payoff was a sweet $83.40, third highest in the 20 runnings of the stake.

The Amermans bought Adoration for an undisclosed price after John Amerman had seen the filly break her maiden by eight lengths at Santa Anita. The previous owners -- John O'Hara, Steve Bajer and Bill Malis -- had bought Adoration at a Keeneland yearling auction for $40,000.

"They got enough money for her [from the Amermans] that it was an offer they couldn't refuse," said David Hofmans, the trainer of Adoration before and after the sale.

Elloluv finished second, 4 1/2 lengths back, and Got Koko ran third. Sightseek's fourth-place finish, as the 3-5 favorite, has opened the door for Azeri, who missed the Distaff because of a tendon injury, to win the Eclipse award for best older filly or mare. Azeri, horse of the year in 2002, lost for the first time in 12 starts last month but was otherwise undefeated in 2003. Sightseek, beaten four times this year, had won four straight Grade I races before Saturday.

There was contact between favored Sightseek and Elloluv leaving the gate, but Jerry Bailey, riding Sightseek, could find no excuses for his filly's defeat.

"She got squeezed a little bit leaving the gate, but after that she was never in the race," Bailey said. "I tried to ease her into position down the backside, but she came up empty. She had nothing going for her today."

Pat Valenzuela rode Adoration for his seventh Breeders' Cup win and the first since 1992. Valenzuela, whose career has frequently been interrupted by drug problems, has returned to the top of his game. Valenzuela rode in only eight Breeders' Cup races from 1993 to last year.

An expert with front-running horses, Valenzuela was able to lollygag through soft early fractions, leaving Adoration with enough punch for the stretch run. Before the race, John Amerman suggested that he would be happy just hitting the board, but Valenzuela said: "No, John, we can take it all."

Adoration ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49. The Distaff was her fifth win in 14 starts and second win in four tries this year. In her last start, she finished fourth, behind Got Koko, Elloluv and Azeri, then was moved up to third following the disqualification of Elloluv.

"She ran a great race that day," Valenzuela said. "I only got beat three lengths and I had to check pretty hard. For this race, [Hofmans] took the blinkers off and she relaxed. We took advantage of her getting out on the front."

For his only other Breeders' Cup win, Hofmans sprang a 19-1 upset in the Classic at Woodbine in 1996, when Alphabet Soup beat Cigar, the defending horse of the year.

"That year," Hofmans said, "Alphabet Soup had a certain look about him the day before the race. It was like he was focusing on what he had to do. This time, in the paddock, Adoration had that same look."

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