• Mike Puype

Jay Hovdey: Puype's streak ends and plans for Breeders' Cup begin

Mike Puype was at a loss for an explanation. After his exhilarating stretch of sending out six straight winners at Betfair Hollywood Park between June 20 and 22 he found himself suddenly mired in a two-race losing streak with no end in sight . . . or at least not until later this week, when he runs another one he expects to win. The Puype streak infused one of those quiet, early summer racing weeks with a little spark at a time when so many lives are put on hold until the curtain rises for Saratoga and Del Mar.

Leading over six consecutive starters and winning with every single one of them is no mean feat, whether it happens at Hollywood, Finger Lakes, or the Yavapai County Fair. “Yeah, I got slowed up a little bit on Sunday,” Puype said. “But I didn’t jump off a bridge Sunday night or nothing. We’ll just have to try and start a new streak on Friday. “I had a lot of good entries and a lot of good rides,” Puype said of the streak. “A lot of things came together. I take nothing away from what happened – winning is winning here in Southern California – but I think what you’re seeing now realistically is racing that might be a little easier here with that big purse structure coming up at Del Mar.

I think that lightens up the entry box, especially in the claiming races.” This is typical Puype, a plain-spoken Arizona native of 46 who has had his hands on every kind of Thoroughbred, from an array of earnest claimers for a variety of patrons to world-beaters like Old Trieste, Lord Grillo, and Cobra King for owner Gary Biszantz, as well as Santa Anita Oaks and Test Stakes winner Turbulent Descent. Individually, however, none of Puype’s six winners in the streak would make a highlight reel. For the record he won: ? The second race, June 20, a $20,000 maiden claimer at 1 1/16 miles on the main track for a purse of $19,000 with 3-year-old Change of Plan, a son of Corinthian who was favored at 3-2 and ridden by Joe Talamo. Change of Plan races for a partnership that includes Showtime’s Jim Rome, who also has a piece of Mizdirection. ?

The fourth race, June 21, a $40,000 maiden claimer at seven furlongs on the main track for a purse of $27,000 with second choice Smart N Dreamy, a 3-year-old daughter of Smarty Jones ridden by Martin Garcia and owned in part by the Little Red Feather Racing syndicate. ? The fifth race, June 21, an allowance race at six furlongs on the grass for a purse of $57,000 with odds-on Bella Viaggia, a 4-year-old daughter of Good Journey owned by SLO Racing Stable, a group of friends from San Luis Obispo. Talamo was in the saddle. ?

The first race, June 22, an allowance race at seven furlongs on the main track for a purse of $54,000 with Jaam Racing’s Muchos Besos, a 4-year-old son of Macho Uno ridden by Edwin Maldonado who defeated heavily favored Everton from the Bob Baffert barn by a head at odds of 11-1. ? The fifth race, June 22, a $25,000 claimer at six furlongs on the main track for a purse of $26,000 with 4-year-old Insideondoutside, a son of Artie Schiller owned by Ron Richard, who was favored at 2-1 with Alonso Quinonez aboard. ? The ninth race, June 22, a $20,000 maiden claimer at 5 1/2 furlongs for a purse of $19,000 with Hustlin Nu, a 4-year-old son of Half Ours, also favored at 2-1 and ridden by Quinonez.

“The one that accomplished the most was Muchos Besos beating the Baffert horse,” Puype said. “In my wildest dreams I didn’t think I’d win that one. But the time before my horse was buried inside, and he needs to be outside to get brave. He was also blowing his race in the paddock before, and he’s not doing that anymore.” The Puype six-pack fell short of Noble Threewitt’s nine straight winners at Tanforan Racetrack near San Francisco in April 1956. But it did equal the Hollywood Park record of Allen Drumheller Sr., the Wizard of Walla Walla, who won six straight on July 4 and 5 in 1955, including five in one day. The widely respected Drumheller, who died of a heart attack three months later at age 61, tied Hall of Famer Bill Molter for the Hollywood training title that summer.

What happens at Hollywood Park tends to stay at Hollywood Park these days, as the clock ticks remorselessly toward its demolition. Still, the Puype streak received a degree of brief national traction because of the events of June 7, when the trainer turned a stormy day bright at Belmont Park with the spectacular Brooklyn Handicap victory of the 10-year-old Calidoscopio at a mile and a half. When last seen on the national stage, Calidoscopio was winning the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Marathon at 14 furlongs in similar style for his Argentinean trainer, Guillermo Frankel. Puype, who played host to the Calidoscopio team, took over after the Cup. “Imagine that, a 10-year-old winning a Grade 2 race from what looked like 30 lengths back,” Puype said of the Brooklyn. “I’ve never seen a horse that far back in my life, unless something was wrong. What an exciting race to win.”

Puype returned to earth the following afternoon when stable star Mizdirection, winner of the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, floundered on the soggy Belmont turf in the Just a Game. Both road warriors have returned to California. “I sent Mizdirection to Magali Farm for a month where she can unwind a little, get some hand grazing, and freshen up for later on,” Puype said. “I’ll have to decide if I want to run her against colts in the Eddie D. at Santa Anita to get her ready for her Breeders’ Cup race. “As for Calidoscopio, he’s getting a month, too,” Puype said. “There’s really no races for him right away, but if he never runs again he’s done enough. He’s truly found my heart and my respect, and I’ll treat that horse like the king he is.”