Thirty Eight Go Go may have less than two minutes this afternoon to show time hasn't run out on her racing career.
The grayish-white mare has been muddling through stakes races she once mastered and the outcome of the Gala Lil Handicap today at Laurel should bring her management closer to a verdict. Breeding season looms and with it thoughts of easing Thirty Eight Go Go into a life away from racing.
Trainer King Leatherbury and new owner David Hutson would rather wait. Their two-time Maryland-bred divisional champion is less than $140,000 shy of $1 million, a figure that would enhance her value as a broodmare. But that has not obscured the trend -- Thirty Eight Go Go has won one of her last 13, an allowance race, and hardly against overbearing rivals. In each of those races she has had odds of 8-1 or lower.
Leatherbury has won more than 4,700 races -- third most in history -- but the apparent downturn of Thirty Eight Go Go has him perplexed.
"I'm lost with her, to be honest," Leatherbury said yesterday. "I don't know where we are with her. She could explode and run a big race, but that's what we've been saying the last few times she ran."
When Thirty Eight Go Go was running on turf with no great distinction last summer at Pimlico, her jockey, Mark Johnston, said he was convinced she disliked the surface. In her next start she sprinted through the mud to an easy victory, but the euphoria didn't last. She has followed that effort with seven winless races under a variety of conditions.
"The whole objective with her is to try to make a million," Leatherbury said. "It's the reason to keep her in training another year. If she shows some signs of being able to do the job, we'll keep her in training. If not, we'll have to decide now, because the breeding season is coming up."
Hutson, a developer and breeder from Jacksonville, Fla., bought Thirty Eight Go Go from Boone and Janet Wayson last month for a reported $250,000. The mare has run fifth in two subsequent stakes races.
Thirty Eight Go Go, a 6-year-old whom Leatherbury bred, has pulled up gingerly after finishing a couple of races recently, but Leatherbury said tests have revealed no lameness.
"From all indications, she seems to be sound," he said. "When she runs and pulls up the way she has, there are days we've questioned her soundness."
Leatherbury said he still considers distance races the strength of Thirty Eight Go Go, and that is what she will get today in the $50,000-added Gala Lil. The
1 1/16-mile race gathered nine females, with Tia Juanita weighted highest at 118. Sweet Alex was assigned 117 and Thirty Eight Go Go is among three at 114.
Thirty Eight Go Go is set to break fourth from the rail, with stablemate Wait for the Lady to her immediate left. (Because of separate ownership, they won't run as a coupled entry.) Wait for the Lady should ensure a rapid pace in her first stakes appearance, but Leatherbury didn't say whether that would facilitate Thirty Eight Go Go's kick.
"I've had her her whole life," he said. "I should know her better than anybody. But I'm a little confused."