By Dennis Miller
Throughout history, the top racehorses all share something in common, other than winning races. They all look like majestic animals.
Keeping that in mind, taking one look at Tribesman can be a bit deceiving, as the horse, although among the elite horses in Northern California, wasn't as imposing looking as the other three horses getting ready for Saturday's 48th running of the $50,000 Sam J. Whiting Handicap at the Alameda County Fair.
But look no further than the comment by an owner of one of the horses in the race: "He may not look like much, but he's all racehorse."
Indeed and Saturday, Tribesman proved it, rolling to a 1-length win in Saturday's feature, cruising home for the win in the 6-furlong sprint.
The win was the 10th in 17 career starts for Tribesman and comes in the second race back after an eight-month break. After taking the Cal Cup Sprint last October at Santa Anita, trainer Roger Hansen gave the horse time off with some issues.
"Every time we take a step up, we seem to have a setback," said Hansen, who trains Tribesman for owner Kjell Qvale, who celebrated his 90th birthday Saturday. "But he's back in the 90 (percent range). He beat some nice horses (Saturday), we're getting close."
Tribesman came back on June 5, breezing to a win at Golden Gate Fields. Saturday was a tougher test, even with the scratch of Magic Texan--another speed horse--from the field.
There was still plenty left in the form of Bamaha Breeze and Guns On the Table. But even with the other talent in the race, jockey Russell Baze controlled the race from start to finish on Tribesman.
Every time Bamaha Breeze, under a ride from William Antongeorgi, tried to force the issue, Baze just let enough out on Tribesman to keep the distance between the two.
"I didn't want to take a chance on him easing up," said Baze, who never really looked like he asked Tribesman for all he had. "Believe me, I had horse left."
Baze didn't see the scratch of Magic Texan of making a difference in the race.
"Not really," said Baze when asked if his strategy changed without Magic Texan in the field. "Not in my mind. (Tribesman) broke so well today, the other horse wouldn't have been a factor."
Hansen wasn't so sure.
``Oh yeah,'' said Hansen about Magic Texan's departure changing the race. ``He was the only other legitimate speed horse in the race. Russell would have had to make more decisions, that's for sure.''
Next up for Tribesman will be the California Sprint Championships in Sacramento at the State Fair. After that, it all depends on Tribesman's healthy.
``If we're back to where we were last year, we'll go to the Cal Cup again,'' explained Hansen.
PLEASANTON ARABIAN DISTAFF
Anvirlik closed with a rush to defend her title in the 10th running of the Pleasanton Arabian Distaff, a 5-furlong test for fillies and mares.
Anvirlik was able to run down pace-setting Bessemer in the stretch to win the title she took home last year. Bessemer held on for second, with Ooh Lay La running third.