Continued from part 1
Caressing, though based at Churchill, got lost in the media shuffle in the weeks leading up to the Breeders' Cup. The most compelling story centered on She's a Devil Due, whose owners, Brian Griggs and Mike Goetz, second-mortgaged their homes to raise the $30,000 needed to buy the filly. Her earnings now exceed $474,000 with her third-place finish in the Juvenile Fillies.
"Any time you run well in one of these races, you have to be pleased," trainer Ken McPeek said. "She's a good filly."
Thus far, Pollard's $180,000 investment has produced a healthy $680,242 in only five starts and, given the wide-open nature of the division, Caressing figures to earn her share of votes as 2-year-old filly champion of 2000.
Pollard, upon his arrival in the interview room not far from the paddock, fought back tears when asked about his first Breeders' Cup victory. He immediately changed the subject and began talking about Vance, who, as Pollard expected, immediately returned to the backstretch with his filly after the winner's circle ceremony.
"I've got a lot of confidence in David," Pollard said. "I'm so happy for him. It's a dream come true."
At Barn 48, about an hour or so after Caressing's victory, some of Vance's employees quietly celebrated as they waited for Vance and the filly to return from the test barn.
"Out of all the people I've worked for, David's one of the greatest horsemen I've ever been around," said Sanders, the exercise rider who recently returned to work for Vance. "He's very deserving of this."
"He's a great guy," said Randall Newburn, a hotwalker hired in April. "When he scolds you, he doesn't get crazy with you. You really can't get mad at him. He does it the right way."
Vance, dressed in a maroon blazer and an open-collar shirt, and carrying binoculars, made his way alone from the test barn back to his shedrow. He accepted congratulations, made a telephone call, and waited for his filly to return. He indicated it was difficult to say just how much it meant to win a Breeders' Cup race. "All my life, I thought winning the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) accounted for everything," he said. "But you know, I think this is better."
Vance called Caressing "a pleasant filly--a little on the ornery side--who showed she could run early on." He said she's fairly easy to train, "but don't make her do something she doesn't want to do."
Caressing returned to the barn with Vance's daughter, Trisha, his assistant trainer and the filly's appointed groom. She called Caressing, who seemed no worse for wear, "a pistol with a heart as big as her body."
Vance indicated he would discuss the filly's immediate future with Pollard, but said it is quite possible Caressing will get a couple of months off and then begin training for a spring campaign. In the meantime, Vance will concentrate on winning races for his clients during the balance of the Churchill fall meet.
Vance, who is said to have a keen eye for spotting an underachiever on the track, has done exceptionally well for Claim to Fame Stable, which is based at Churchill. In 1999, the stable claimed the filly Cheslie's House for $50,000, and she went on to win a stakes and place in others; in 1998, Vance claimed the mare Castle Blaze for $12,500, and she proceeded to finish second in four stakes, and third in the grade III Gardenia Handicap; and in 1996, the trainer took Baby Rabbit for $17,500, and that filly went on to win a stakes and place in two others.
Vance said the claiming game has gotten more competitive in Kentucky, but that actually could be a blessing. He seems somewhat relieved the days of having two full barns are gone.
"If I had 60 horses here, I'd be dead," Vance said. "I don't want to keep more than 30 anymore. There's just too much aggravation."
That's not to say he minds stakes winners, or for that matter, Breeders' Cup winners.
"It has been a good life for me," said Vance, who had several years in the 1970s in which his horses earned more than $1.5 million. "Winning a race like (the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies) is fantastic. But I've had claiming horses most of my life, and I'll probably die with claiming horses. I love them."