Ray Struder

Ray Struder

Courtesy Ray Struder

Chasing Landaluce

Ray Struder fell in love with Landaluce; he wants to extend her legacy this weekend.

Two-year-old fillies will line up for the Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) for the last time at Betfair Hollywood Park Dec. 7. The Starlet, 32 years old and a companion race to the CashCall Futurity (gr. I), offered juveniles one last big race with which to end the season, and its roll call of winnersfrom Althea to Goodbye Halo to Serena's Song to Blind Luck represents true star power.

However, it was one filly that didn't win the Starlet that has Thoroughbred owner Ray Struder chasing ghosts at Hollywood Park with his filly Rosalind this weekend.

Struder, like many in the industry, feels a connection to the great Landaluce. He hopes he can come full circle and help to extend her legacy far beyond the track, Hollywood Park, which will close forever at the end of the month.

Struder, 51, grew up in Knoxville, Tenn. A football injury in high school left Struder in a wheelchair.

"Knoxville's not known as 'the Hill' for nothing," Struder said. Better wheelchair access, better weather, and smoother topography led the young Struder to San Diego and San Diego State University. While a fan of Thoroughbred racing but with no true connection to the sport, bus trips to Del Mar came frequently for the college student. He would get a prime spot near the saddling paddock and watch each horse before heading to the rail to see the races.

On Sept. 5, 1982, the unbeaten filly Landaluce strode into the paddock at Del Mar for the grade II Del Mar Debutante Stakes. Unbeaten and untested in two starts, the streaking filly won by 6 1/2 lengths that day, leaving Struder in awe. He traveled to Santa Anita the following month to see her win the seven-furlong Anoakia Stakes (gr. III) by 10 lengths. Landaluce then added the Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. I) to her résumé.

"She was the first horse I wholly loved as a fan," Struder said. "I had the Daily Racing Form delivered to my apartment back then. She was going to run next in the Hollywood Starlet and I was going to skip school to watch her."

Landaluce didn't make the Starlet. Felled by a bacterial infection, she died the morning of the Starlet, sending shockwaves through the racing world.

"I was surprised how heartbroken I was by her death," Struder said. "I would think all the time about her and the two races I saw her win."

Fast forward a couple of decades. Struder had his own engineering firm back in Tennessee and the capital to enter the Thoroughbred business. He studied the business, attending Thoroughbred Owners' and Breeders' Association seminars for eight years before pulling the trigger. Struder turned to trainer Ken McPeek with a well-devised plan and modest budget to embark on his new journey as an owner.

Coming up with a stable name was easy: Landaluce Educe Stables. Which is Latin for "Landaluce remembered."

Struder's plan is simple. He wanted to own a race winner, then a stakes winner, then a grade I winner. Only buying fillies, he then hoped to breed a winner, breed a stakes winner, and breed a grade I winner; then breed and race a winner, breed and race a stakes winner, and breed and race a grade I winner. Having starting out in 2010, he's already well on his way.

Of Struder's affinity for fillies, Mc Peek said: "He's one of the few clients that thinks that way, and I think it's really smart; it helps build a strong foundation in the business."

From his first purchases came Niji's Grandgirl (a paternal granddaughter of Nijinsky II and grade II-placed and grade III-placed) and the Tennesseee-appropriately named Volcat (a paternal granddaughter of Storm Cat and winner of the 2012 Virginia Oaks, gr. IIIT).

His fillies then began their second lives as broodmares at the John and Martha Jane Mulholland's Mulholland Springs Farm in Scott County, Ky.

Meanwhile, along came Rosalind. A $70,000 purchase at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale, she ran third in the Pocahontas Stakes (gr. II) in September, then second in the grade I Darley Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland. She then closed resolutely to finish third, beaten only a half length by She's a Tiger and Ria Antonia, in the Nov. 2 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I).

Looking to close out her 2-year-old campaign, Struder steered McPeek away from Churchill Downs' Golden Rod Stakes (gr. II) and looked toward the Starlet.

Struder's mission is to further the legend of Landaluce. It won't end at the close of the meet when the doors are locked at Betfair Hollywod Park. He wants the legend to live on with a horse racing from his Landaluce Remembered Stable running in the final grade I race for 2-year-old fillies at the sight where Landaluce is laid to rest.