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Hovdey: With Proctor back, seems like old times

Monday, July 17th, 2017

The Best Horse in America slipped quietly into the Del Mar backstretch early Sunday morning with nary a network TV crew in sight, and by 9 o’clock, he was thrashing around at the front of his stall in the Bob Baffert barn, demanding attention.

“He’s saying you’d better not come around here without a carrot,” said Jim Barnes, Baffert’s man for all seasons, as Arrogate made his considerable presence known behind American Pharoah’s old Triple Crown webbing. Barnes sees nothing wrong with the mixed metaphor.

“We’ll keep recycling that webbing and hope we’ve got one good enough to deserve it,” he said.

So far, so good.

The Del Mar meet opening on Wednesday is hanging a bushel of hopes on the dappled gray shoulders of Arrogate, whose summer campaign is scheduled to begin with the San Diego Handicap on Saturday at 1 1/16 miles on the main track. The $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 19 is the other race on his plate.

:: First time ever! Get Del Mar Clocker Reports for the 2017 summer meet

That leaves 34 racing days worth of Thoroughbred sport without Arrogate, beginning with the traditional Oceanside Stakes on Wednesday at a mile on the grass. The full gate of 3-year-olds lining up in front of the stands will include young guns from the stables that management hopes will drive the meet, including those of Jerry Hollendorfer, Phil D’Amato, Peter Miller, Doug O’Neill, and Richard Baltas.

But what’s this? After a year’s absence from the summer scene, the Glen Hill Farm horses of the Leonard Lavin family have returned to Del Mar under the guidance of Tom Proctor. Caribou Club, a chestnut colt by City Zip, will carry the Glen Hill colors in the Oceanside, with Drayden Van Dyke in the saddle.

The stable is based these days at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland. Last summer, Proctor sent a cohort to Saratoga instead of the West Coast.

“We did okay there,” Proctor said as he perused his 11-horse Del Mar string. “I think we went 6 for 14, but it was one of those deals where everything just fell into place. This summer, the boss wanted to come here, so here we are.”

The boss is Glen Hill Farm president Craig Bernick, grandson of Glen Hill founder Lavin and a newly elected member of the Breeders’ Cup board of directors. In that capacity, it makes sense that Bernick would want a Glen Hill presence at the site of the 2017 Breeders’ Cup event, and there is always a chance that Lavin might be able to enjoy some quality time with his horses. The Glen Hill patriarch is 97 and lives in nearby Rancho Santa Fe.

Anyway, it’s only right that Glen Hill has something in the Oceanside. The brand has made a lasting mark on the summer series of races for 3-year-olds on turf, beginning in 1973, when Willard L. Proctor sent out the lavish chestnut Right Honorable to win the Del Mar Derby.

John Adams trained Glen Hill’s Relaunch to win the La Jolla Handicap and Del Mar Derby in 1979. W.L. Proctor took divisions of the Oceanside in 1991 with Repriced and in 1992 with Major Impact. Then, Tom Proctor, the youngest of Willard’s three sons, took over to win recent runnings of the Oceanside with Enterprising, the La Jolla Handicap with Enterprising and Old Time Hockey, and the Del Mar Derby with Banned.

Caribou Club is a workmanlike little colt who was a maiden when he won the Laurel Futurity last year in his third start. It was a nice effort, but don’t be too impressed. This was the 5 1/2 furlongs on turf version of the Laurel Futurity, not the historic 1 1/16-mile dirt race won by Count Fleet, Secretariat, Affirmed, and Spectacular Bid.

Caribou Club’s most recent race was a promising fourth in the James W. Murphy Stakes on Preakness Day at Pimlico, where he was beaten an arm’s length for second behind the romping winner, Yoshida.

“He was down on the inside that day, which maybe wasn’t the best place to be,” Proctor said.

With Proctor spotting runners at a variety of tracks, Bernick has spent much of his tenure revitalizing the Glen Hill broodmare band with sales purchases and covers to top stallions. Still, there are horses like Caribou Club who trace to the farm’s deepest roots. How deep?

“I walked his sixth dam, Lead Time, when I started working for my dad,” Proctor said with a grin. Lead Time was a foal of 1967, while Proctor hit the ground in 1956.

In due course, Lead Time produced Betty Sherrill, Betty Sherrill produced Creatively, and Creatively produced One Dreamer, who won the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs for Tom Proctor. As a broodmare, One Dreamer produced the Storm Cat filly Our Dreamer, who was the last horse fed by W.L. Proctor one November afternoon in 1998, when he dropped to his perfectly groomed Santa Anita shed row and died from cardiac arrest.

Our Dreamer never raced, but she did produce Broken Dreams, the winner of the 2012 Osunitas Stakes for Proctor at Del Mar and the dam of Caribou Club. History doesn’t get much thicker.

“We’re still in the same Del Mar barn my dad had – Barn P, so nobody got confused,” Proctor said. “There was Charlie Whittingham on the other side and Mel Stute next door. I know there’ll never be trainers like them again. That’s why sometimes I think the best thing about coming to Del Mar is the memories.”

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