Tony Dutrow keeps himself in the dark about some things. He has to.
"When I enter a horse in New York, I've learned that I can't buy a Racing Form," says the Maryland trainer. "If I saw a Gone West, a Mr. Prospector, a Seattle Slew, D. Wayne Lukas, Bob Baffert, John Kimmel and Jerry Bailey, I'd be so intimidated I wouldn't run."
So when Dutrow entered Coach Knight in a race Thursday at Saratoga, he did not know his $75,000, first-time starter would be facing a $4.2 million yearling trained by Lukas. When did Dutrow know?
"I looked at a Form the day before the race," Dutrow says. "But by then my horse was already there. I was committed to running."
As it turned out, Coach Knight outran the expensive yearling as well as every other horse in the race. At odds of 9-1, Dutrow's Coach Knight, prepared quietly here at Laurel Park, won the $41,000 maiden-special-weight race for 2-year-olds by 2 1/4 lengths. He paid $21.80 to win.
The high-priced Distinction led into the stretch, then faded to seventh, finishing 15 3/4 lengths behind Coach Knight. A son of Seattle Slew, Distinction is the second-most expensive yearling ever sold at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale.
Dutrow picked out Coach Knight in March at a sale of 2-year-olds in Ocala, Fla. He was an athletic chestnut with the pedigree to go long. He was a relative bargain at $75,000 because his sire, Editor's Note, despite having won the 1996 Belmont, is unproven. Members of his first crop are 2, just now beginning to race.
Dutrow took in two partners: Tom Sutton, an investment broker from Glyndon who campaigned Global Gait as a 2-year-old, and Bill Hurwitz, an Owings Mills resident and former owner of 11 area auto dealerships.
Dutrow named the colt after Bob Knight, former Indiana basketball coach, now at Texas Tech.
"I don't agree with everything Bobby Knight does, but Bobby Knight is my kind of guy," Dutrow says. "I just took a chance and registered the name Coach Knight, and they gave it to me."
Dutrow says he has three other 2-year-olds that he believes have winning potential: Radio One (entered in the seventh race today at Saratoga), Saratoga Way and Lennon. The latter is named after John Lennon, the Beatle.
Coincidentally, when Dutrow saddled Coach Knight at Saratoga, Lukas, the Hall of Fame trainer, saddled the much-ballyhooed Distinction nearby. Not only is Lukas a close friend of Bob Knight's, he also trained Editor's Note, Coach Knight's sire.
After the race, as Dutrow and Lukas waited for their horses at the winner's circle, Dutrow recalled looking at Lukas and saying: "Wayne, can you get in touch with Bobby and tell him his namesake ran today?"
Dutrow says that Lukas was clearly disappointed at the performance of Distinction.
"But he was nice enough to smile at me and say, `OK,' " Dutrow says.
John's Call looking up
After finishing last in the Sword Dancer Invitational Handicap last weekend at Saratoga, John's Call bled from the lungs as badly as a horse can bleed, said Tom Voss, his trainer.
Voss blamed the oppressive heat that had strangled upstate New York. Last week, when the heat wave broke, the 10-year-old John's Call began feeling himself again.
"He's full of life," Voss said. "The cooler weather up here seems to have picked his head up."
In the Sword Dancer, John's Call attempted to become the oldest horse to win a Grade I race on the flat. Voss prepared him at his farm in Baltimore County before vanning him to Saratoga.
Now, Voss is faced with the prospect of administering the anti-bleeding medication Lasix to John's Call for the first time. He said he would probably breeze him on the drug, see how he responds, and then, if that goes well, look for a race in September. In that race, for the first time in 38 starts, John's Call would run on Lasix.
Voss said it's too early to say whether John's Call could make the Breeders' Cup Turf. But the trainer said he is not holding the Sword Dancer against his valiant gelding.
"I'm throwing that whole race out," Voss said. "It just knocked him for a loop, this whole thing."
A plan for `Disco'
Valora Testerman has regrouped after Disco Rico lost his opportunity to race last weekend in the Dave's Friend Stakes at Pimlico. Racing officials canceled the $75,000 stakes for lack of entrants to run against Disco Rico, one of the country's fastest horses.
Testerman, who trains the Citidancer colt at Pimlico, said that he will run Sept. 7 in the $100,000 Paterson Handicap at the Meadowlands. After that, he will contest the Grade II $250,000 Forest Hills Handicap at Belmont Park.
The reason for running in the Forest Hills is to earn points toward gaining a spot in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, Testerman said. If Disco Rico wins the Forest Hills, she will prepare him for the Breeders' Cup. If he doesn't, she will likely gear down and prepare him for the Maryland Million and Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash, both at Pimlico.
Broken Vow, the son of Unbridled and trained by H. Graham Motion, will race next Sunday in the $350,000 Iselin Handicap at Monmouth Park. That will be the race that dictates whether Broken Vow continues on the path to the Breeders' Cup Classic, Motion said.
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association has invited females to describe in no more than 50 words why they are the ultimate fan of thoroughbred racing. Author of the winning entry will receive a trip for two to the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships Oct. 27 at Belmont Park, plus a $1,000 betting voucher. Entries must be submitted by the end of August online at the NTRA Web site, www.ntra.com., or by mail to Ultimate Female Fan Contest, c/o NTRA, 2525 Harrodsburg Rd., Lexington, Ky., 40504.