Larry Barrera Reflects on Father Laz

(from Hollywood Park notes)
As Memorial Day Weekend begins, memories abound for trainer Larry Barrera.

Barrera, who returned to training last November following an 11-year hiatus, now oversees a 14-horse stable.

The 43-year-old Barrera will be in the winner's circle on Memorial Day Monday with his mother, Carmen, to present the trophy after the $150,000 Lazaro Barrera Memorial Stakes (gr. II). Hall of Fame trainer Lazaro Barrera, Larry's father, died in 1991.

"Laz always said 'take care of the horses, and they will take care of you,'" said Barrera. "The details, the little things count. The extra things, like taking the horse out for a little sun in the afternoon. What you do will come back to pay you back tenfold.

"He also taught me that this business is a team effort," continued Larry, who employs 11 people in the stable, comprised mostly of horses owned by Aaron and Marie Jones, former clients of his father. "It will all pay off."

Barrera also cherishes memories of the anniversary of the greatest week of his training career here in 1980. As a 20-year-old trainer still wet behind the ears in 1980, Barrera saddled the following improbable triple during his dream week:

May 28: Rich Cream, under Bill Shoemaker, defeated I'm Smokin by a nose in world-record time of 1:19 2/5 for seven furlongs to win the Triple Bend Handicap.

May 31: Image of Reality, ridden by Darrel McHargue, upset favored It's In the Air, trained by his father, by 3 1/4 lengths to win the Milady Handicap.

June 1: First Albert, a 16-1 longshot ridden by Paco Mena, defeated Big Doug by a head to win the Cinema Handicap.

"That was the best week I ever had," said Barrera. "I only had about eight horses at the time.

"Dad was not thrilled that I won the Milady," he recalled. "He said, 'I love for you to win, but I have to call my owners and tell them that I lost to you.' But he came back and turned the tables on me to win the Vanity.

"Image of Reality was my favorite filly and became one of the greatest broodmares," continued Barrera. "She is the dam of Toussaud, who had all those great horses (Empire Maker, Honest Lady, Chester House, Chiselling and Decarchy).

"Rich Cream should have been sprinter of the year," added Barrera. "He sired Creme Fraiche, a Belmont Stakes winner. Rich Cream was an amazing horse. Early in his career, a mile and a half was not long enough for him. After a year off, he became a great sprinter."

First Albert, named after Larry's brother, deserved a chance in the Cinema. "He was by Tudor Grey, a turf horse, and I thought he had a good shot," said Barrera. "It was not a strong year for 3-year-olds. First Albert later finished third to Amber Pass in the Travers."

While slowly rebuilding his barn, Barrera has won with three of 16 starters in 2003. He won the Tokyo City Handicap at Santa Anita in March with Kela, a 5-year-old horse scheduled to make his next start here in the $75,000-added Ack Ack Handicap May 31, the 23rd anniversary date of his memorable Milady victory.

Barrera was a teenage assistant to his father when they sent out the last Triple Crown winner, Affirmed, in 1978.

But Barrera is rooting for Funny Cide to join the elite Triple Crown club with a victory in the Belmont Stakes June 7.

"I'd love to see Affirmed be the last winner but it doesn't help racing," explained Barrera.