"Give me a month at home in Pleasanton and I'll need a media fix," Shelley Riley said when she left New York after her horse, Casual Lies, finished fifth in the Belmont Stakes.
For five weeks during the Triple Crown campaign, Riley, with her glib tongue, and her husband, Jim, entertained the racing press with the exploits of their one-horse stable.
Now Riley is home in California, nursing her Triple Crown runner back to health at the Alameda County Fairgrounds.
Riley and her husband are the consummate small-time owners-trainers who became celebrities after Casual Lies finished second in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness. The horse lost his shot at a $1 million bonus in the Belmont Stakes after a quarter crack in a front foot burst open during the race.
The horse led for a mile, but then faltered when he began to feel the pain from his "achey-breaky" hoof.
"The foot is healing just fine and the crack has grown out about a quarter of an inch," Riley said. "He's back to galloping. But it's a day-to-day thing. We sort of have our eye on the Travers [Stakes at Saratoga Aug. 22], but our long-range goal is the Budweiser International at Laurel [at 1 1/4 miles on the grass Oct. 17]. I nominated him for the race last week."
Riley said that the local two-week fair meet has just ended. She and Jim served as grand marshals at the parade that opened the fair. They promenaded Stanley (nickname for Casual Lies) on the track before the opening day crowd.
"As soon as I got home, I picked up my other six horses and have them all in training at the fairgrounds," she said.
Riley particularly likes a 2-year-old filly by Silver Hawk that she bought at the Kentucky sales last year for $8,000. But it's going to be hard for the filly to top the success of Casual Lies, who Riley purchased for $7,500. So far, he has earned more than $700,000.
Riley arrives in Lexington today for the world-renowned Keeneland Summer Sales, the two-day extravaganza which is racing's most select offering of thoroughbred yearlings.
It's her first trip to the summer auction. Riley usually buys at the less select venues in the fall or winter.
"I probably won't buy anything," she said. "But who knows, something could catch my eye that slips by the sheiks or D. Wayne Lukas and I'll be there to snap it up."
Marylanders at Keeneland sale
Approximately 250 yearlings are for sale tomorrow and Tuesday at Keeneland. Among them are six Maryland-breds being sold by three Marylanders -- Eleanor Sparenburg of Ross Valley Farm in Sparks, Mrs. Richard du Pont of Chesapeake City and David Hayden of Upperco.
Sparenburg is selling three fillies. Two of the fillies are sired by Nijinsky II and the other is by Pleasant Colony. A Seattle Slew colt out of champion Heavenly Cause was cataloged for the sale, but is being withdrawn and will be sold at the September session, Tom Heron, Sparenburg's farm manager, said yesterday.
du Pont sells two colts, one by Deputy Minister and the other by Private Account.
Hayden sells a half-brother by Private Account to champion sprinter Safely Kept.
The high point for Sparenburg at the Keeneland sales came in 1987, when she sold eventual stakes winner Houston for $2.9 million. The Seattle Slew colt was out of her champion filly, Smart Angle.
Sparenburg is a veteran of these high stakes auctions.
An interesting footnote to tomorrow's sale will be to see if Sparenburg rolled the dice right in a 1990 bloodstock transaction.
Figuring that the daughters of Smart Angle might make better producers than the old mare herself, Sparenburg sold Smart Angle at the November breeding stock sale in 1990 for $750,000. She was carrying a full brother to Houston at the time and was purchased by Walmac Farm.
Just a few hip numbers later in the same sale, Sparenburg replaced Smart Angle with Solariat, a younger, multiple-stakes-producing daughter of Secretariat, that she purchased for $800,000 in foal to Nijinsky II.
Tomorrow the offspring from that transaction will be auctioned off.
Walmac sells the Seattle Slew-Smart Angle colt; Sparenburg, the Nijinsky II-Solariat filly.
The sales results will tell if Sparenburg made the right gamble.
Heron said there is another interesting facet to this year's sale.
He said that Chinese buyers are showing up for pre-sale inspection of the yearlings.
"The Japanese have long been players," Heron said. "But this is the first time for the Chinese."