Byline: Furman Bisher
SO ATLANTA JOURNAL AND CONSTITUTION (ATJC)
(Copyright 1989 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
LP HALLANDALE, Fla. - The way Billy Wright was thinking, about 4 o'clock Saturday afternoon, as the Breeders' Cup races are approaching el grande climax, he will slip away from the pandemonium of Gulfstream Park and join his grandmother at her hospital bedside. Together they will watch the sixth race, a mile and a half for a $2 million purse and the year's championship on grass.
Grandmother is Frances W. Luro, who owns El Senor, the 5-year-old roan - I call him grey - named for her illustrious and debonair husband, the oft-retired and unretired horseman. No book could possibly cover the myriad exploits of Horatio Luro, though one has been attempted. Traditionally the "dapper Argentine," he cavorted with movie stars and celebrity darlings and worked his melodic accent to fascinating advantage in his earlier years. He is now 88. TX In the thoroughbred world, this thoroughbred bon vivant etched his name in history as the trainer of two Kentucky Derby winners, Decidedly and Northern Dancer. At one time or another, nearly all of Luro's celebrated stock have made an R&R stop at Old Mill Farm in Cartersville, Ga., basically the Luros' home address. Billy Wright can't remember the time he wasn't around horses, at his grandfather's feet or on Old Mill Farm. It would have seemed a foregone conclusion that he would turn to horses, though he majored in psychology at Vanderbilt. Flippantly, he says, "I couldn't decide what I wanted to do, so I flipped a coin and it came up horses." He worked around the Luro barn until 1984, when he got his own license and became his own trainer. El Senor has been his greatest triumph, winner of a million dollars and change and four major stakes, running nearly always in Grade I events. "You can't accuse us of dodging anybody," Billy Wright said. An agent named George Blackwell bought the roan as a yearling for $43,000 in Kentucky. Natural as the naming would have seemed, El Senor was the 13th choice after such unsophisticated attempts as Sizzle, Chinchilla, Confederate Gray, Cloudy and Rainbow had been turned down by The Jockey Club. Nearly all of El Senor's success has come in his fourth and fifth years. Even at half the price, he was looking like a risky investment in his early seasons, for all of his impressive breeding. He has Exclusive Native, Raise a Native and Graustark on Valdez's side, his sire, and Herbager, Dedicate and Grey Dawn II on Sunrise Sue's side, his dam. "But he was too gawky as a two-year-old," Billy Wright said. "He ran with some good horses on dirt as a three-year-old, and beat some, then he stepped in a hole just breezing one morning and had to have arthroscopic surgery. They took out some chips and I gave him a long time to rest. "I brought him back at Gulfstream and he broke his maiden here, then went across town and won the Turf Cup Handicap at Hialeah. I call him a `hometown' horse because of that, and because I grew up mainly around Miami." He brought El Senor back on grass after his knee mended, mainly to give the horse a cushion, and he ran so well he left him on turf. This is his second go at the Breeders' Cup, his big chance at the brass ring, but Billy isn't too fond of his pre-race luck. "We're 14th, the outside post position, so far out we're almost on dirt," he said. "I know he comes from behind, but I'm just afraid that Caltech will get so far out front he'll be hard to catch. Fourteenth among 14 horses may just be too much for him, but it won't be for lack of work. I've trained him harder than I have for any other race, and he's in as good a condition as he could be." El Senor is noted for his heart-rending finishes, winner by noses and heads, and once by an extravagant half-length. Billy is torn between saddling El Senor himself or leaving it to an assistant to be with his grandmother. Mrs. Luro has been battling cancer for two years, and her condition has worsened to the point that she'll have to take the race by television. El Senor I is here, as always droppingby Barn 2 on the backside t o "offer his two-cents worth," as Billy puts it, "and usually his two-cents worth is worth more than that." Easy Goer and Sunday Silence have it to themselves in the $3 million centerpiece race, The Classic, but the Mile-and-a-Half Turf is probably the toughest field of the day. El Senor, early favorite at 3-1, runs against five imports from Europe, especially Behera, * owned by the Aga Khan, and one from Canada, plus Caltech, claimed at $25,000 by a local lawyer now savoring the taste of celebrity. This is the sixth in the Breeders' Cup series, the Super Bowl, the Olympics of horse racing, as they say. It is becoming more than a figure of speech. This stop represents an experiment, for Gulfstream will be trying to squeeze 53,000 horse lovers into space originally built to accomodate 30,000. Extra bleachers and pavilions have been jammed in nearly every vacant space, and parimutuel booths as well, and you can bet on that. I0607 *
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