Numbers speak clearly to the chances of 5-year-old mare St. Trinians in Saturday's Santa Anita Handicap.
A female horse has gone to the gate in the Big Cap 41 of the 72 times it has been run. All 41 times, the female has been walked past the winner's circle and back to the barn. The closest was Next Move, who lost by a neck in 1951.
But then, there are reasons to believe that attempt No. 42 will be the charm, and those reasons are not merely based on this mini-racing era of girl power. Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta dominated the scene last year, and Rachel put away Mine That Bird in the Preakness. Now, racing is perseverating on the April 9 matchup at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas between the wonder women.
So why not some more from St. Trinians, the 7-2 morning-line favorite, at Santa Anita? She is an English-bred trained by Mike Mitchell, ridden by Joel Rosario and named after a fictional girls' boarding school in England, St. Trinian's, where the girls, according to the cartoon that depicted them, stole a racehorse to bet on and were usually more naughty than nice?
The Big Cap, after all, made a gender breakthrough of sorts last year, when Einstein came home first for trainer Helen Pitts-Blasi, the first female trainer to win it.
St. Trinians ran as recently as Feb. 13, in the Grade I Santa Maria Handicap for fillies and mares. This will be her first challenge of the boys in this country. She won three of five against them in England and has an 11-race career with a 7-0-3 record and winnings of $268,587.
Much of that came in the Santa Maria, where she won against the likes of Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic champion Life Is Sweet. The logical next step was the March 13 filly-and-mare Grade I Santa Margarita. But there was a problem. Zenyatta is running in that one as her final tuneup for Rachel Alexandra.
According to Vic Stauffer, Rosario's agent and an interesting part of the story of this year's Big Cap, there were quick calculations after St. Trinians won Feb. 13, and Mitchell's open-mindedness in bringing a horse back so quickly was the key element.
"Mike's always the same — win, lose or draw," Stauffer says. "While the horse is cooling out, he is saying congratulations, way to go, now what's next."
The logic of running St. Trinians a week early, in a race worth $750,000 instead of one worth $250,000, and avoiding Zenyatta, was overwhelming.
"Plus, this was a chance to make history," Stauffer says.
It could be similarly historic for Stauffer, who is best known in Southern California racing as Hollywood Park's race-caller, but whose day job as a jockey agent might be just as challenging. Stauffer not only handles Rosario's book, but also that of jockey Martin Garcia.
Usually, handling one jockey's book is enough to drive a man to drink. Normal jockey insecurity over getting the best rides does not include having the person booking yours also booking somebody else's. Stauffer has had Rosario, one of the hottest riders in the country, for 16 months and Garcia for six weeks.
"I don't mind," says Rosario, currently fifth among North American riders.
Stauffer says, "I know this is unusual, but Joel is special and gave his good graces. My family and I thank him for that."
This setup, spread over eight or nine races on a Thursday afternoon, is less of a problem. But it gets more complicated when you have two jockeys in a huge race such as the Big Cap.
Stauffer does. Challenging St. Trinians and Rosario will be Garcia, on Bob Baffert's Misremembered.
So, as they head for home, will Stauffer have to take the path of the horse's namesake and become Roger Clemens by misremembering whom to root for?
"I'll make a value judgment at the quarter pole," Stauffer says. "Whoever is ahead, I'll become a rooter."
And if St. Trinians and Misremembered are neck and neck on the lead?
"I'll just start smiling and adding up the numbers," Stauffer says.
He says he faces similar perception problems when calling races at Hollywood Park, and he says he handles that by remaining professional at all times.
"Joel had six winners in one day this summer at Hollypark, and I didn't mention it at all, as I called the first five," Stauffer says, adding that that had been done before only by Bill Shoemaker, Laffit Pincay and Kent Desormeaux, legends all.
"Then, before the last race, where Joel could get his sixth, Eual Wyatt [Hollywood Park general manager] called and said I should go ahead if he wins. So I did. I even called him the Dominican Dandy. A great rehearsed ad-lib."
St. Trinians is a crooked-leg horse who, when she runs, resembles Michael Phelps doing his butterfly stroke. With Saturday's expected rainy weather, that could be an advantage. So could the four-pound gender allowance she receives. She will carry 113, four males the most with 117.
History could be made. More girl power could be sweeping racing. It just might be a day that nobody misremembers.