Go Go Lolo is not a professional dancer, but she has a few moves that'll make your head spin.
She used them in the $30,000 La Verendrye Stakes last Saturday night under new jockey Travis Cunningham, pounding herself into position in early stretch and then exploding between horses passing the sixteenth pole. If you blinked you...
The six-year-old mare drew away quickly to win by 11/2 lengths. It was the first stakes win of her 25-start career, and it probably won't be the last, considering her cagey trainer Murray Duncan. Remember, the former potato-plant worker who beat champion Balooga Bull three times with a claimer named Pleasant Closing.
Same pattern here.
Duncan and partner Garylle Stewart claimed Go Go Lolo this spring at Oaklawn Park when her then-owners dropped her into an optional claimer with a price tag of $25,000. Duncan was watching, as were a few others, and he had to win a three-way shake with two other sharpies to take home his new horse. It looks like he might have a steal of a deal.
"Her owners were trying to get a piece of a $67,000 purse," said Duncan. "But they had to enter her for a claiming price because she wasn't eligible for the conditions otherwise. I watched her run in the race before that one and she was banged hard from both sides passing the eighth pole. She probably would have finished in the money."
Cunningham had won only a single race going into the La Verendrye, but Duncan had seen him named on some good horses at Oaklawn Park and Remington Park and had no problem putting him aboard.
Cunningham has been in the Winner's Circle more than a few times on big horses, the best being Rocky Gulch, who won the $200,000 New Mexico Cup Classic in 2006, becoming the first New Mexico-bred horse to break the $1-million mark earnings. Cunningham was still an apprentice at the time, but he had Rocky Gulch ready for a guts-and-glory finish to win by a neck despite a slow pace set by El Minuto.
Duncan knew he had the rider he needed. Cunningham knew he had the horse.
"In her first start here she gave me three more gears," said Cunningham. "But that was right at the end of the race and it was only five furlongs. She galloped out strong and well in front of the field, so we knew she would run well with the added distance."
And Go Go Lolo is being looked after by the same team that worked with Pleasant Closing, Jamaican exercise rider John Mills and his son, groom Nicholas.
"They're excellent," said Duncan, who understands the often under-rated value of top help in the barn. "They've been with me for three years now."
While Duncan did work in a factory for 25 years while raising two daughters, Karen and Annie, with his wife Pat, he grew up with horses and was always itching to get back to them.
"We had to get the girls all grown up first," said Duncan. "And once I was into that job, there was a pension, I had to keep going."
Duncan got his first saddle from Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Famer Duke Campbell, who at the time was with Manitoba racing icon R. J. Speers on his farm in the Carberry area, and he got his first job at the racetrack with trainer Ernie Maloney in 1960.
"He brought Precambrian here in a box car in January from Toronto," said Duncan. "It was 30 below and all he had to eat were a couple cans of peaches."
Duncan of course, went on to guide Precambrian to win seven races in a row during the 42-day meet at Assiniboia Downs in 1961. They missed winning eight in a row by head. He could also gallop a horse, the best back then being 1968 Gold Cup-winner Clique, for the late A.E. Bert Blake.
Before he went to work in a factory, Duncan was already winning races with riding star Bobby Stewart south of the border at tracks that included Raceway Park, Beulah, Latonia, Hazel Park, Monmouth Park, Liberty Bell and Sportsman's Park. Difficult places to win races, some of which don't even exist anymore.
But Duncan's still here at 73, and he's back doing what he loves to do with a good mare that has some pedigree to her. Go Go Lolo is by 1998 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Awesome Again out of winning mare, but her third dam, Lillian Russell, is a half-sister to the late super sire Mr. Prospector by Prince John, a major stamina influence. Classy breeding.
Slip a $20 in this babe's bridle and she's likely to stomp you.