02/25/2010 12:00AM

Colt an inspiration for his owner


ARCADIA, Calif. - There are realists among the dreamers this time of year. Ed Delaney is one of them. Of the 10 Derby-age youngsters entered in the $150,000 Sham Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita, only two of them were not rendered eligible to the Triple Crown package earlier this month - Delaney's stakes winner Wolf Tail and the former maiden claimer Straightomidnight.

Delaney, 65, is from upstate New York. Albany, to be specific. He has been a musician and a songwriter, a bar owner and a wholesale car dealer. He used to own trotters, then came west a couple decades back, and now has gotten back into the game with eyes wide open and enthusiasm intact.

"My mother used to bring me to Saratoga all the time when I was a kid," Delaney said. "It was a big deal. I don't really remember the names of horses I saw. I just remember how much I loved the whole racing deal."

Not long after Delaney got back into the game, he went out on a $4,500 limb at the 2007 Barretts mixed sale and bought the 9-year-old Dynaformer mare Bright Sunday, who was in foal to the young Deputy Minister stallion Strive.

"It's a long wait, raising one like that," said Delaney, who keeps his horses at Magali Farm in Santa Ynez, Calif. "It takes more patience. But if you can just try to put it out of your mind, it's kind of exciting watching them grow up, and watching them develop, however it turns out."

About two months after Delaney bought the mare, Wolf Tail hit the ground, and it's not hard to see where he got his name. It flows out from his bay hindquarters, streaked with several shades of gray, fully unfurled and trailing along faster at the end of his races than the beginning.

On looks alone, he is a horse worth watching, even though he has won just one of his eight starts to date. That one came last summer at Del Mar, where he took a modest running of the Graduation Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs. On pedigree, he was slumming. By a Deputy Minister stallion out of a Dynaformer mare, Wolf Tail should want to run all day and most of tomorrow.

"He's got a tremendous amount of stamina," Doug O'Neill said. "The Sham's a mile and an eighth, right? On the Santa Anita synthetic that's like a mile and a quarter on a conventional dirt track. Eddie and I have felt all along that once they start offering longer races we should have a little bit of an edge."

The downside of a horse with stamina is the length of time it takes for them to run all day. Sometimes it seems like all day. Wolf Tail has had only one shot at anything beyond a sprint and came up wanting, in the Cal Breeders Champion Stakes on the meet's opening day, when he was fifth to the still unbeaten Robert Lewis winner Caracortado.

"He'd been off about 90 days, and he was kind of soft," Delaney said. "He's more in shape now, and if he really runs, sure, he's got a shot.

"Whatever he does, he doesn't put that much effort into it," Delaney noted. "What I mean is, there's a lot more left. We're just trying to find a way to get it out of him. He's running in the Sham not because we think he belongs with the best 3-year-olds out here, but because it's a mile and an eighth, and that's what he needs."

O'Neill also thinks Wolf Tail could use the ultimate equipment change, but Delaney is reluctant to get out the gelding hatchet before exhausting alternatives.

"It's still possible, although Doug would do it quicker than me," Delaney said.

"And I can understand that," O'Neill said. "Eddie's a low-key guy, but when he's out here at the barn you can see his eyes popping when he watches Wolf Tail get tacked up and go to the track. He really feels a part of his horses. There's been more than a few times we've done some diagnostic exams strictly based on his feelings about one of his horses. That's great for us."

With his most frequent partner, Joel Rosario, serving a three-day suspension, Wolf Tail will be ridden for the first time by Chantal Sutherland, who ranks ninth in the Santa Anita standings and has won three stakes at the meet. Sutherland was aboard Wolf Tail for a six-furlong work last weekend at Hollywood Park, where O'Neill trains his main string.

"Because he is still a colt, he can be a little bit of a handful at times," O'Neill said. "She definitely finessed him and calmed him, and it seems like they get along well. Hopefully, we'll see that in the afternoon."

The Sham, with its nine furlongs replicating the major Derby preps, has been a race worth watching. Giacomo ran third in the 2005 version, while still getting his Derby sealegs. Bob and John won in 2006, then later took the Wood Memorial. In 2008 it was Colonel John, subsequent winner of the Santa Anita Derby and the Travers, and last year's Sham went to The Pamplemousse, the West's leading 3-year-old before a tendon took him out.

"We're not even thinking down the Derby trail," insisted Delaney. "There's so many nice horses out there heading that way."

But if his colt does jump up to win one of these splashy springtime races, Delaney did make a promise.

"I definitely will write a song about him," he said.