Proud Truth had a rude introduction to California racing today.
After beating the best horses in America in the $3 million Breeders' Cup Classic, Proud Truth struggled home fifth against a weak field in the San Fernando Stakes. The winner, Right Con, hadn't finished in the money since February 1985.
Although he was the second-ranked member of his generation in Eclipse Award voting, Proud Truth's shellacking came as no surprise. The bettors at Santa Anita made him a 9-to-5 second choice behind Will Dancer, a colt who had won only a single allowance race in this country. They knew that Proud Truth probably didn't have enough speed to win here. As it turned out, neither did Will Dancer.
Right Con did. The colt broke alertly, and took the lead along the rail without a challenge. He was permitted to go the first quarter in 23 4/5 seconds, an unbelievably slow pace at this track. (Maiden fillies had gone the first quarter-mile in :22 2/5 earlier today.)
By the time the field reached the first turn, both of the favorites were in untenable positions. Proud Truth was parked five-wide around the turn, racing next-to-last in the field of 10. Will Dancer had broken tardily and was trailing the field.
Bill Shoemaker tried to get Will Dancer into contention by rushing four-wide along the backstretch, a move that almost always is doomed to failure here. Jorge Velasquez saved ground with Proud Truth, but the Darby Dan Farm colt showed no punch at any stage of the race.
Right Con didn't need any extraordinary punch after coasting to the six-furlong mark in a slow 1:11 2/5, hugging the rail that has been a tremendous advantage at this track. "I knew he was going to be very tough to catch," jockey Rafael Meza said. "He was going so easy." Right Con's more highly regarded stablemate, Fast Account, was following him along the inside and enjoying a perfect trip, but when he weakened, the leader turned into the stretch with a clear lead. He held off the belated rally of another outsider, 30-to-1 Nostalgia's Star, to win by 1 1/4 lengths, with Fast Account third.
The winner, who probably would have been 30 to 1 if he hadn't been part of an entry, paid $11.20.
Because of the ridiculous pace, the outcome of the first major stake of the year probably didn't tell much about the capabilities of these horses. That fact undoubtedly will hearten Proud Truth's trainer, John Veitch, and his jockey. "Considering how everything went," Velasquez said, "he finished all right. We never had a chance to get position, and I think you have to throw the race out."
Proud Truth will get his chance for redemption in the $600,000 Charles Strub Stakes two weeks hence. The locals still will be dubious about his chances.
An exacta payoff of $9,087.50 set a Santa Anita record when Wild Kitty, who went off at 24-1, and Got You Running, who went off at more than 99-1, finished 1-2 in the seventh race.
The payoff broke the track's previous record exacta payoff of $9,019 set Jan. 18, 1978.
There were 60 winning $5 tickets, according to track officials.
Wild Kitty, ridden by Eddie Delahoussaye, won the approximately 6 1/2-furlong race down the hillside turf course in 1:15 and paid $50.60 to win. Got You Running, ridden by Jack Kaenel, returned $131.80 to place.