De Buena Fuentes, mother of this year's leading 2-year-old pacing filly, was born with a club foot, resulting in one leg being an inch shorter than the others. As a foal, her right eye was knocked out in an accident. As a yearling, she was sold at public auction for $7,500, mainly a tribute to bloodlines that have produced outstanding harness-racing broodmares.
Despite her handicap, she became one of the top 2-year-old racehorses of 1973. Trainer-driver Stanley Dancer fitted her with a corrective shoe, and she showed speed, gameness and heart. She won two races on the Grand Circuit before bone chips in her knees forced her retirement.
Alan Leavitt, the president of Lana Lobell Farms, one of the country's major standardbred breeders, liked De Buena Fuentes' broodmare possibilities and paid $20,000 for a half-share. By 1981, De Buena Fuentes had produced just three foals, and despite such top-of-the-line sires as Meadow Skipper and Nero, none was successful racing.
But her second mating to Nero produced a filly who was named De Buena Lobell.
When Leavitt, who keeps busy during the winter as an assistant trainer, got into a jogging cart behind De Buena Lobell at trainer-driver Howard Beissinger's winter headquarters in Palm Beach, Fla., he knew he owned something special.
"I knew it sooner than anybody else," Leavitt said. "I trained her myself until the first of May. There wasn't a horse we had who could keep up with her. It was like driving a Cadillac--you shaked the line at her, and she zoomed past everybody . . . She was always the first to reach the next time level."
The last day in Florida before coming north, she paced a mile in 2:10 1/5, exceptional for a 2-year-old so early in the year. She has been exceptional ever since, winning nine of 11 starts for $365,262, with a best winning mile of 1:55 4/5. She is so good that she has scared much of the competition away from Saturday's $225,000 Lady Baltimore Stakes at Freestate Raceway.
When they opened the entry box for the Potomac Stakes for 2-year-old pacing colts last month, the 46-horse field filled five divisions. When entries closed for the Lady Baltimore Wednesday, 21 names were in the box, necessitating only two divisions.
De Buena Lobell drew the No. 7 post position in the easier second, in which Leslie Lobell appears to be the main competition. The 11-horse first division includes Bill Haughton's Naughty But Nice; a strong entry of Peach Bottom and Hit Parade, and Maeling Hanover, who defeated De Buena Lobell in the Chapman Stakes at Roosevelt. John Campbell, the leading driver at the Meadowlands, is listed for five horses, including Peach Bottom and Maeling Hanover.
Leavitt also owns Bardot Lobell, last season's 2-year-old filly pacing champion and the first 2-year-old filly to race a mile in under 1:55 (1:54 4/5).
"She's the best 2-year-old filly I've ever seen," Leavitt said of De Buena Lobell, a big, stout bay. "This filly would beat Bardot Lobell, and I think she'll beat her record before the summer's over."
Beissinger, one of nine active Hall of Fame drivers, says speed is De Buena Lobell's greatest attribute.
She wasn't speedy enough to beat Maeling Hanover in one of her two defeats, finishing second. But Maeling Hanover since has gone off form.
The other loss came in the $1 million Sweetheart Stakes at the Meadowlands. when Beissinger had the rail and Leslie Lobell contested his horse for the lead the entire mile, with early fractions of 27 1/5 and 56 2/5, a suicidal pace. De Buena Lobell finished fifth, beaten by 3 1/4 lengths.
On Saturday night, Leslie Lobell has the post position just inside De Buena Lobell.
But Leavitt will not be at Freestate Saturday night. Instead he will be at Yonkers Raceway for the Cane Pace, the second leg of pacing's Triple Crown. "We've got Fortune Teller (a 3-year-old colt) in the Cane," Leavitt said. "This filly at 2 can beat Fortune Teller at 3. It's too bad we can't race her in the Cane."