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Hovdey: Truman takes his grass colt on adventure

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

Eddie Truman is loaded with 2-year-olds. Loaded. Not Bob Baffert loaded, mind you. Or loaded like Todd Pletcher. But Truman is blessed with a couple of genuine young runners, and if a few things fall their way, they could make some real noise before the Del Mar meet comes to an end.

Armour Plate, a son of Into Mischief, and Argosy Fleet, by Mineshaft, greet Truman each morning at his Del Mar barn, hard by the backstretch parking lot where he parks his white Vespa scooter. Their stalls face the rising sun, so they couldn’t sleep in if they wanted to, which they don’t, being active, young colts who haven’t missed a beat since their purchase at the OBS sale of 2-year-olds last March in Florida.

Both colts are owned by Peter Redekop, the British Columbia real estate giant whose colors have been waving proudly atop the multiple stakes-winning turf miler Alert Bay the last few years for trainer Blaine Wright. Truman’s best horse for Redekop has been the filly Go West Marie, who ran the table through a cluster of California-bred stakes in 2014-15. And now come these 2-year-olds, with hopes decidedly high.

Argosy Fleet was last seen in action July 3 at Santa Anita giving local division leader Run Away all he could handle in the 5 1/2-furlong Santa Anita Juvenile. Racing inside horses under pressure, the Truman colt surrendered only in the final sixteenth and finished a solid second.

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“What surprised me was how he showed so much speed going short, since he is clearly a colt who wants a distance,” Truman said Thursday. “Both of them do, for that matter.”

The same weekend Argosy Fleet ran in the Juvenile, Armour Plate underlined his trainer’s evaluation by winning a one-mile maiden race on the Santa Anita grass.

“The time was slow, and he ran really green, wandering around the first turn like he did,” Truman noted. “But they’re just learning.”

Armour Plate will have a chance to expand his education on Saturday when he faces Run Away and seven other colts in the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar. Argosy Fleet would have seemed like a natural for the race, but there is a method to Truman’s madness.

“Argosy Fleet had two tough sprints at Santa Anita,” the trainer said. “He doesn’t need to run again until the Futurity here Sept. 4. The other colt needs a race, but there’s nothing on the grass to get him ready for the turf race at the end of the meet. So, why not see if he can handle stakes company on the dirt?”

Truman was referring to the Del Mar Juvenile Turf, set for Sept. 3, which is a nominal proving ground for locals harboring dreams of trying the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, a race that has never been won by a horse based in California. Then again, with the Breeders’ Cup this year at Del Mar, who knows?

Although he won’t admit it, Truman is very much a West Coast institution. Now 70, he has been part of the cast of characters who have witnessed the sweep of modern California racing history, from his days working for Bobby Frankel through his own training career, which began in 1974.

Truman was a Kansas farm boy who followed an older brother to the racetrack. He rode in Chicago and Florida with some success before weight and burnout forced him into a sabbatical. Truman resurfaced in Southern California to hook up with Frankel as an exercise rider when the eventual Hall of Famer had a stable rich with claimers and a sprinkling of stakes horses.

“I rode them all,” Truman said. “Strong Award, Pataha Prince, Life Cycle – what a good horse he was. Those were the days Bobby would have us blow out a horse an eighth of a mile the morning of the race. Don’t ask me how fast we went, but he told us to let ’em roll.”

Truman’s budding career as a trainer was sidetracked in December 1976, when he suffered a severely fractured leg in a morning accident. His ability to work his own horses ended, but his passion for the profession never dimmed. Truman’s business flourished in the early 1980s with stakes runners like Casino King, Rusty Canyon, Marble Court, and Pencil Box, with a robust cast of claimers in supporting roles.

Neither did Truman let a bum leg get in the way of his adventurous nature. He became a marathon cycler and hiker, traversing hard climbs in exotic locales. He dove the Great Barrier Reef and a variety of lesser-known watery deeps. Truman and his wife, Elizabeth, recently trekked the famous trail to the Lake Agnes Tea House in Canada’s Banff National Park.

“That was on my bucket list,” Truman said, savoring the fresh memory. “And the list is still long – Africa, New Zealand, Iceland, the Galapagos.”

With each adventure, the racetrack pulls him back. Armour Plate and Argosy Fleet will be in deep water from Saturday onward, but part of the fun is not knowing what might happen.

“My wife wondered where we might go next,” Truman said. “Looks like it will depend on what happens that first week of September. A trip might be three weeks, as usual, or I might not want to leave these two colts for more than a few days. That would be all right.”

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