08/09/2011 1:51PM

Del Mar: Tizway, Malibu Pier give Hughes plenty to look forward to

Email
Benoit & Associates
Malibu Pier, who runs in Sunday's John Mabee at Del Mar, is one of several stakes horses B. Wayne Hughes has for the Del Mar meet.

DEL MAR, Calif. – It’s the future that most intrigues 77-year-old owner and breeder B. Wayne Hughes.

Last weekend, as Tizway was romping home in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga, Hughes was one of the most delighted people in attendance. His Spendthrift Farm in Lexington, Ky., had recently acquired the breeding rights to Tizway, arguably the nation’s top older handicap horse.

“Tizway is just a monster,” Hughes said a few hours after the race. “We got lucky there, I think. We’re so anxious to get him in the stud barn.”

That will happen next year. In coming days and weeks, Hughes’s small but prominent racing stable may collect major prizes of its own.

Sunday at Del Mar, Malibu Pier starts in the $250,000 John Mabee Stakes for fillies and mares on turf. Later this month, the oft-injured Crown of Thorns will start in the Grade 1 Pat O’Brien Stakes for sprinters at Del Mar. On Labor Day weekend, Preamble, the winner of his last four starts, will make his stakes debut in the Windy Sands Handicap at Del Mar.

Hughes, the founder of Public Storage, the massive self-storage company, was once a California man through and through, but his acquisition of Spendthrift Farm in 2004 changed his life. Hughes now spends a majority of his time at the 850-acre farm, overseeing a refurbishment of the property and upgrading its bloodstock, particularly through stallions. A 50-acre parcel was recently added to the property. As a result of that activity, the racing stable has shrunk in recent years, with Hughes emphasizing the breeding side of the business.

“We changed our philosophy two years ago,” Hughes said. “I liked the breeding side anyway.”

Spendthrift has nine stallions, led by Malibu Moon, who is firmly entrenched among the nation’s leading stallions in progeny earnings. The farm also has interests in stallions in other states, including Dublin, who will stand in New York in 2012.

There will be no abandonment of racing. Hughes attended the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale earlier this week with the intent of buying a prospect or two.

Malibu Pier, by Malibu Moon, has led the Hughes stable this year. Trained by Carla Gaines, Malibu Pier has won 6 of 11 starts and $407,200, highlighted by stakes wins on turf in the Santa Ana Stakes, and Santa Barbara and Beverly Hills handicaps. Hughes and Gaines discussed sending Malibu Pier to Arlington Park for Saturday’s Beverly D. Stakes, but opted to stay in California for the Mabee.

“I think we’ll be competitive in there,” Hughes said.

Malibu Pier is by Blue Moon, whom Hughes purchased from Europe during her racing career. For Hughes, Blue Moon was second in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland won the Grade 2 Buena Vista Handicap at Santa Anita in 2002.

“She looks like her mother,” Hughes said of Malibu Pier. “Her mother is small and not the most racy-looking horse you’ll ever see. She could run pretty well.”

There is hope between Hughes and Gaines that Malibu Pier can start in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Churchill Downs in November. Hughes has had Breeders’ Cup success, having won the 2003 Juvenile with the champion Action This Day.

Last November, Hughes and trainer Richard Mandella thought they were on the verge of another Breeders’ Cup win with Crown of Thorns in the Dirt Mile. But a knee injury detected the day before the race led to a layoff for Crown of Thorns. It was the latest in a string of ailments that has plagued the horse, who was second by a nose to Dancing in Silks in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

This year, Crown of Thorns, 6, was second in the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap at Hollywood Park and then seventh in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs in June. An abscess was detected in a foot in the weeks after that race.

“If anything can go wrong, he’s the perfect example that it will,” Hughes said. “He’s been a difficult horse. He could be a Breeders’ Cup horse. He’s sound now.”

Preamble, bought by Hughes for $190,000 as a yearling in 2009, won an optional claimer at Del Mar last week in his first start since April. “We were surprised that he did that,” Hughes said. “He might be a nice horse.”

Crown of Thorns and Preamble could become Spendthrift stallions, joining the roster at a farm where the physical makeover is largely finished. Improving the bloodstock will keep Hughes and his team busy into the future.