04/16/2010 12:00AM

Duffel still getting it done at 86


ARCADIA, Calif. - Joe Duffel was as sharp with the wisecracks Thursday as his stable has been with wins recently.

Duffel, an 86-year-old California owner and breeder, has won with five of his last six starters at Golden Gate Fields and Santa Anita this month, including wins by 2-year-olds at Santa Anita on Wednesday and Thursday.

"I usually don't talk to you poor people when I'm rich," he joked with a reporter Thursday afternoon. "I'm fat as a hog."

Duffel can rightfully boast of success. Before Mahmoud Memory, a California-bred, won a maiden claimer at Golden Gate Fields on April 3, Duffel's runners had one win this year.

Mahmoud Memory's win was followed by victories from El Gran Bull at Golden Gate Fields on April 9, Theatrical Pro in a maiden special weight at Santa Anita on April 10, Auntie Maud in a two-furlong maiden race at Santa Anita on Wednesday, and Candied Hearts in the same division at Santa Anita on Thursday.

"It's really something," he said. "You talk about luck, it hit me all at once. I put a lot of money in horse racing. I'm very grateful to have a winner or two."

Duffel bred all five of the runners, and they are all California-breds with the exception of the Kentucky-bred Theatrical Pro.

Duffel may not own the 2-year-old winners much longer. Auntie Maud and Candied Hearts are entered in the Barretts May sale of 2-year-olds in training in Pomona on May 10.

Duffel has been through this before. In 2007-08, he campaigned Nevada Worrier, who was winless in four two-furlong races at Bay Meadows and Santa Anita in the spring. Duffel offered Nevada Worrier at the Barretts May sale that year but bought him back for $22,000. Nevada Worrier later won the Cavonnier Stakes at Santa Anita and the Golden Bear Stakes at Golden Gate Fields.

On Wednesday, Auntie Maud, a half-sister to El Gran Bull by Northern Devil, pulled a 24-1 upset with a half-length win over Spark City, finishing two furlongs in 21.66 seconds. For two-furlong races at Santa Anita, jockeys cannot carry whips, and horses are not fitted with blinkers.

On Thursday, Candied Hearts, a filly by Tribal Rule, beat open company with a neck win over Cabo San Lucas in 21.36 seconds. Both horses are trained by Jose DeLima, who says he has been most impressed by Auntie Maud.

"Nothing bothers her," he said of Auntie Maud. Candied Hearts "needs more time and is a little nervous."

Duffel will go to the sale with the intention of selling the juvenile winners but could buy them back.

"It's a decision to be made," Duffel said. "I asked Jose, and he said, 'Let's see how they come out of the race and see what comes up for races for them.' It's kind of exciting to have that problem."

Duffel has already made a decent amount of money. Both winners earned $21,840.

"The opportunity to pick up some money was great," he said.

Early reports from Randi Sackett, who runs Duffel's farm, were favorable.

"Randi thought they were the best," Duffel said of the 2-year-olds. "She's very good. She's entitled to all the credit. Jose did a wonderful job."

Duffel has horses with DeLima and Bruce Dillenbeck in Northern California. He has a farm in Wheatland, Calif., and has some mares in Kentucky. At his age, he stays active in construction business and farming.

"I don't tell anyone how old I am," he said. "They'll treat me like an old man."

The old man did not feel so old this week.

"It kinds of renews your faith in the horse business," he said.