Leatherbury's on track for 5,000 wins, even if he's king of desk-chair trainers

HORSE RACING

January 12, 1992|By MARTY McGEE

King Leatherbury entered 1992 with 4,800 wins, which should make the summer of 1993 the target area for his becoming the third trainer in North America to win 5,000 races.

(McGee's over-under line: Aug. 4, 1993.)

As Leatherbury's legend grows, and as he continues to operate the way he does -- he seldom goes to the barn in the morning or does any physical work with his horses, preferring instead to "manage" his large stable from an office -- skeptics continue to question his horsemanship.

Leatherbury, 57, used to do the dirty work. Now he doesn't need to, not as long as his horses keep winning at a decent percentage. He literally has forgotten more about horsemanship than most "hands-on" trainers know.

The man's numbers speak for themselves. And yes, they are Hall of Fame numbers.

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Striking out: When Strike the Gold finished second in an allowance race on Wednesday at Gulfstream Park, the defeat marked his eighth in a row since he won the 1991 Kentucky Derby.

Before 1992 is over, surely the Alydar colt will win a race. Won't he? If not, he'll become the first horse since Cannonade (1974) not to win a race after a Derby triumph.

Yes, even Gato del Sol (1982) and Winning Colors (1988) -- perhaps the two worst Derby winners of the last 20 years -- won after garnering the roses. Gato del Sol won a mere four times -- and only two stakes -- in 27 starts after the Derby. Winning Colors won twice in 12 starts afterward, the Turfway Park Budweiser Breeders' Cup her only stakes win.

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Breeders' bound: Big Al's Express didn't make it to last year's Derby, but this year's Breeders' Cup could be all his.

The Maryland-bred colt had Churchill Downs officials up in arms when he came from Northern California last April to make his first career start in the Derby Trial. Predictably, the colt was outrun by more than a sixteenth of a mile and was ruled out of the Kentucky Derby by his trainer and part-owner, the warm-up-suit-and-Reebok-wearing Thomas Allen. Churchill officials were relieved.

Well, the colt broke his maiden on Dec. 29 at Santa Anita Park. Afterward, Allen told track officials that Breeders' Cup IX at Gulfstream Park on Oct. 31 was his long-range goal.

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Calendar problem: Unlike other big events such as the Super Bowl, the Breeders' Cup hasn't been able to schedule racing's ** greatest day years ahead of time.

The 1993 date and site still are undetermined. The main obstacles are the usual ones: limited options that come with working around Notre Dame football to televise a four-hour program on NBC on an autumn Saturday afternoon; and negotiations with a potential host track concerning money, preferential seating and other logistics.

That said, look for an announcement sometime in March giving )) Breeders' Cup X in 1993 to Santa Anita. In fact, with its weather, its medication rules, its facilities, its population and its time zone (TV, remember), Southern California is always the ideal spot for the Breeders' Cup.

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Same bad habit: Kent Desormeaux was a sensation without equivocation when he rode in Maryland, but fans would occasionally get on him for not riding out a mount when the horse was no threat to win. The action sometimes would result in Desormeaux's blowing second or third money.

In Friday's Racing Times, Jay Privman takes Desormeaux to the mat for a bad habit that apparently has continued in California. In a column "Desormeaux has to be taken to task for laziness," Privman wrote: "But Desormeaux gives up on a horse in every race -- every race -- when he can't win."

A condemning photo accompanies the article: Desormeaux is standing straight up, easing his Santa Anita mount, as they are beaten by a whisker for second.

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An offer from Laurel: Laurel is offering a new membership club in which patrons can earn free gifts, admissions and other perks during the meeting that extends through March 24.

Registration is free. The idea is for horseplayers to come often, thereby earning free admissions, seating, discounts and wagering credits. At the end of the meet, a fan could earn as much as $100 in wagers, if he or she attended the track enough times during the program offer.

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