But Manzi's string of injuries persisted. Last Wednesday, Knightly Rapport also suffered a cannon-bone injury. He, too, is now out of the Derby. "I've been wiped out," Manzi said. "I have nothing left for the classics." Yet Manzi's record with Roving Boy, Pillager and Knightly Rapport should be noted. From Aug. 11 through Feb. 5, those three horses ran 14 times and won 12 races and $1,019,550. Manzi's three colts started in eight stakes during that span and won them all. "Well," he said, "at least I'll have some 4-year-olds next year who weren't burnt out at age 3." Manzi deserved a far, far better fate.
And whatever happened to Naevus and Shecky Blue? They both showed up in the San Vicente. Naevus, who entered the race undefeated in two starts and was heavily favored, finished a troubled fourth behind 11-1 shot Shecky Blue. Thus the first major warmup races on the East and the West coasts produced a 9-1 winner and an 11-1 winner, respectively. Usually early-season races are won by favorites, but this isn't a usual season.
Walk through any major backstretch these days and trainers by the dozen will lead you to good-looking, well-bred colts. "This one bucked his shins as a 2-year-old," they invariably say. Or, "I lost a lot of time with him because of bad weather. He may not get to the Derby, but you'll hear a lot about him later on."
The story is quite different when it comes to the 1983 fillies. This year's crop of 3-year-olds abounds with excellent runners. Princess Rooney, Ski Goggle, Fifth Question and Crystal Rail, for instance, have started a total of 16 times without a loss and have a staggering combined victory margin of 109 lengths. That's an average of seven lengths per win. Whether any of these fast fillies will run against colts in the Derby is, of course, a matter of speculation.
The day of the San Vicente also produced another possible 3-year-old colt for Louisville. Silent Fox, owned by Texan E.C. Johnston Jr., made his first start in a maiden race at Santa Anita. The colt is the great Affirmed's little brother. Laz Barrera trains him, and the resemblance between the two horses is striking. "This colt has ability," Barrera said as he was saddling Silent Fox. "It would be nice if he won today because I think anybody might be able to win this year's Derby the way it looks now."
Silent Fox broke slowly and gradually worked his way along the rail before getting to the lead. But as jockey Laffit Pincay Jr.—the man who never lost in his 10 rides on Affirmed—moved through the stretch, Pat Valenzuela, who was whipping Dance Star furiously, suddenly whipped Pincay's right hand. Unlike Solis, Laffit hung on to his bat and won the race by 1� lengths over Dance Star in a most impressive maiden voyage.
Frankel was musing the other day about the Kentucky Derby. He has a colt named Northrexford Drive, winner of the $113,500 California Breeders' Stakes on Jan. 9, that he believes will get him to his first Run for the Roses. "If you were a betting man you'd bet that there will be 20 horses in this year's Derby—all that the law allows," said Frankel. "My horse has won $74,000 and that should be enough to get him in, but he'll probably have three races before going to Kentucky. I could ship him to run for big pots, but when he gets on a van he's going only one way: to the Derby. It is the race. I think my horse is as good as Gato del Sol was at the same stage last year. I'm excited about this year's Derby. Hell, I wish they'd run it next week."
It would be a mighty funny race if they did. Nobody would have the slightest idea of whom to bet on.