Debonair Joe is beginning to look like one of the best claims in racing history.Taken for $12,500 on Sept. 20 from a race at Fairplex, the 3-year-old California-bred gelding has gone on to win the Vernon O. Underwood Stakes (gr. III) at Hollywood Park on Dec. 7 and the prestigious Malibu Stakes at(gr. I) Santa Anita on opening day. He's won four of five for his new owner, Lynne Ristad.Now, Juan Pablo Silva, the 25-year-old Tijuana native who trains the son of Ole, has his sights set on the $250,000 Harris Farms Sprint in the inaugural Sunshine Millions at Santa Anita on Jan. 25. "We'll probably go there, but if not, we'll go to the $1 million Godolphin Mile in Dubai in March, because the Sprint there (Golden Shaheen) is going to be too tough," Silva said. "The Mile comes up a little bit easier. If I don't run him in the Sunshine Millions, I'll just try to get another race into him as a prep for Dubai, to keep him fit."Silva, 25, from Tijuana, got his trainer's license at Golden Gate when he was just 17. "I won my first race at Golden Gate and from there I moved to Phoenix," Silva said. "When my father (trainer Jose Silva) moved from San Francisco to here, I moved back with him. I worked with him for a couple years before going on my own."Debonair Joe's remarkable success since the claim, understandably, has surpassed Silva's wildest expectations."When I claimed the horse, he was very skinny and showed no life," Silva said of the bargain bay. "A couple days after I claimed the horse, we scoped him, because he was coughing. He had a lot of mucous in his lungs. That cleared up, and I've been going very easy with him in my training.
"This is the kind of horse if you train him hard, he won't run, and I train him barefoot, because he gets body sore. If we train him in shoes, or a little bit hard, he starts going sore in his back. That's why I've just been training him easy. I gallop him and work him with no shoes. We took care of the infection he had in his lungs and he's just been improving since then. He's gained about 80 pounds since I got him and he's just getting better and better every day."