Edited Press Release from Santa Anita track notes
History will be made in Monday’s $200,000 California Derby at Santa Anita. In careers combining three decades, for the first time, father and son Hess will run horses against each another in a stakes race, this one with a purse of $200,000 for three-year-olds going a mile and one sixteenth.
Hess Jr., 52, based at Santa Anita with 34 head and a trainer since 1987, sends out two horses, Fire When Ready, a gelded son of Empire Way, and Kaleidoscope Kid, a gelding by Papa Clem.
Hess Sr., 83 and a long-time fixture in the Bay Area where he currently has 14 head, has been training since 1959. He will be represented in the Derby by Intimidate, a chestnut Vronsky colt who already has a stakes win on his resume, having captured the Dec. 16 King Glorious S. at Los Alamitos, in addition to two lesser triumphs at Golden Gate Fields.
“I think we’ve run in claimers against each other up north, but we’ve never run in a stakes together,” Hess Jr. said. “We try to stay away from each other. I don’t want him to make me look too bad.
“The joke is, my father tells me he’s taught me everything I know, not everything he knows, but the truth is, he’s my number one fan and has always put not only me but all of his four children first. He’s my number one supporter and my best friend in the world, and it’s really an honor, not to work against him in this race, but to work with him. His horse is probably going to kick my ass but we’re going to try to kick his ass back.”
Asked about running against his son for a lucrative prize, the elder Hess said, “We’re taking a shot,” but summarily dismissed overt emotions. “I don’t worry about things like that,” he said. Told his son didn’t want his father “to make me look too bad,” Hess Sr. said, “He’ll probably win it.”
Despite being slightly under the weather recently, Hess Sr. planned to be at Santa Anita for Monday’s race. “I’ve got a little cold,” he said, “but I think I’ll be all right. You have to maintain an even outlook in racing. This business is too up and down, so you have to keep the proper perspective.”
Now, it’s a matter of the three horses getting to the post, having a good trip, and, as they say in pre-fight instructions, “May the best man win.”