Alysheba cashed at Pimlico, not Belmont Big-money horse a triple threat in '87

May 15, 1992|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

Clarence Scharbauer was talking about money and horses two subjects with which he is well-acquainted.

"The first 3 million was easy," Scharbauer said. "It was the second 3 million that was tough."

Then the cattle and oil baron from the west Texas town of Midland -- "We're just country folks" -- made his point of distinction.

"Alysheba won $6 million without any bonuses."

Alysheba, the bay colt Scharbauer bought in 1985 for his wife, Dorothy, and daughter Pamela, is thoroughbred racing's all-time leading money winner, having surpassed John Henry in 1988.

But his earnings should have been inflated by at least another $1 million, the 1987 Triple Crown bonus money, had it not been for fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes.

Alysheba stumbled and nearly fell at the Kentucky Derby when he clipped the heels of Bet Twice, who had cut in front. But the son of Alydar recovered nicely to win by three-quarters of a length.

At the Preakness, there was no congestion, just a flawless ride by Chris McCarron, as Alysheba came from sixth to win by half a length in the field of nine. The victory, in 1 minute, 55 4/5 seconds, earned $421,100.

One of Scharbauer's favorite memories of the Preakness happened shortly before the race when his daughter was interviewed on television.

"We were in the saddling paddock, and Lynn Swann of ABC asked what it meant to win the Derby. Pam said, without hesitating, 'About like when you won your first Super Bowl,' " Scharbauer said.

Alysheba broke with Preakness tradition upon arriving in Baltimore, though. Normally, the Kentucky Derby winner goes to Barn E, stall 40. But because trainer Jack Van Berg had won the Preakness in stall 18 in 1984 with Gate Dancer, he again went to the other end of the barn.

"I thought Alysheba was as good a horse as I've ever been around," Van Berg said. "When he was 2, I told the owners he would win the Derby."

Alysheba did win the Derby -- and the Preakness -- with McCarron aboard. But McCarron made a tactical mistake in the Belmont, said Scharbauer, that ended up with Alysheba turned sideways at the top of the stretch. Alysheba came home fourth by half a length, out of the bonus money that was awarded on a 5-3-1 points basis.

Not sweeping the third classic cost the owners $3.9 million of the $5 million Triple Crown guarantee. A second-place finish would have earned the $1 million, nice-try bonus. A third-place finish would have salvaged $500,000 for tying Bet Twice in the point standings.

Instead, Bet Twice, which won the Belmont by 14 lengths, collected $1 million.

After the race, Scharbauer told reporters, "The money is not what is important."

But it was nevertheless disappointing to lose the race and the money to Bet Twice.

"Bet Twice is a nice horse," Scharbauer said, "but he's not in a class with Alysheba."

McCarron's mistake?

"Chris gave [Alysheba] a bad ride," Scharbauer said. "He's a fine young man, and he took the blame. He went into the first turn and throttled back. Alysheba ran like a deer until Chris put him into overdrive. He held back the first turn and three horses boxed him in, then he got turned around. He ran fourth, but he would have run second [without the congestion], and we would have gotten the million-dollar bonus."

Van Berg said he remembers giving McCarron instructions to go for the lead right away.

"I told Chris to be in front every step of the way," Van Berg said. "But he had it in his head he didn't want to be on the lead. He had heard so much about Cryptoclearance, he was really thinking more of him. He kept taking Alysheba back. He hit Gone West's heels and got turned sideways on the track."

Van Berg said he doesn't think fans got to see the real Alysheba.

"I don't think we ever got to see how fast he can run. He went as fast as he had to to win. Whatever he had to do to win, he did."

Scharbauer, who has Hereford cattle, sheep and oil on his Midland ranch, said he made $4.5 million a year in breeding fees after he retired Alysheba in November 1988. Alysheba stands at Lane's End Farm in Versailles, Ky., along with several other members of the class of 1984 -- including his chief rival, Bet Twice, Java Gold, Gulch, Cryptoclearance, Capote and Lost Code.

"This horse meant so much to Midland and West Texas," Scharbauer said. "He's been a real shot in the arm."

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