About a thousand miles east of Los Alamitos Race Course, trainer Adam Kitchingman was trying to lessen expectations for Cody Polansky's Scathing before the eighth race Dec. 14.
"She's doing well, but it's probably too short for her," Kitchingman said of the five-furlong starter allowance at Los Alamitos.
His reason for hedging was pretty clear. Scathing, a Grazen filly he claimed for $8,000 Oct. 6 at Santa Anita Park, was the first horse based at San Luis Rey Training Center during the devastating brushfire that hit the facility Dec. 7 to make it to a race.
Scathing, who had been jogging at Del Mar to prepare for the race since she was evacuated from San Luis Rey, broke slowly from post 3 under jockey Santiago Gonzalez Thursday and found herself last in the seven-horse field early on. She began to advance early in the turn, but still had plenty of work to do in the long Los Alamitos stretch run. As others began to tire in the final furlong, however, Scathing found her best stride, burst to the front between horses, and won by a length and a half.
To be fair, Scathing's barn at San Luis Rey was not one that caught on fire, and she was not released from her stall to run free like so many others were to avoid the flames. She was one of the lucky ones.
"Something nice to report from San Luis Rey," Kitchingman said after the race from Remington Park, where he'll saddle Greyvitos, another San Luis Rey resident, in the Remington Springboard Mile Stakes Dec. 16. "I knew the horse was training well, and if my horses were running loose or in the smoke, obviously I wouldn't be running them."
With Kitchingman in Oklahoma, Polansky—a plumber and self-described "normal guy"—was Scathing's representative in the winner's circle, along with his family.
"Luckily Adam's barn was one of the (lucky) ones, so she never left her stall," Polansky said of Scathing's experience during the fire. "No one knew for sure, but we were pretty sure she was OK. (We didn't hesitate to run her), because she seemed fine and while she's been at Del Mar she's shown no signs of anything. ... Of course, if there's any sign of anything, we wouldn't want to run her."
Polansky has won races as a co-owner before, but Scathing's win Thursday was his first with his name alone on the program.
"It just feels so good to win," he said.
To get cleared for the race, Scathing had to be examined by an attending veterinarian, as well as the state vet. According to an advisory sent out by the California Horse Racing Board Dec. 10, any horse who was based at San Luis Rey at the time of the fire will undergo a pre-race test that includes "auscultation of the lungs and airways" if they are entered in a race before Dec. 26.