09/17/2006 11:00PM

Lightning strikes for Stute and son


POMONA, Calif. - Trainer Mel Stute said he could not believe he could be so wrong. He kicked himself for turning down a six-figure offer on the 2-year-old filly Quick Little Miss.

It was May, one month after she finished a promising fourth in her debut. In her second start, Quick Little Miss was dead last in a maiden special weight at Hollywood Park.

"I was upset I didn't take the money," Stute said.

Sore shins sidelined Quick Little Miss. The filly was a springtime dud, just like another 2-year-old, a colt trained by Mel's son, Gary Stute. A sharp runner-up effort by Roman Commander second time out gave way to a couple of mediocre efforts, and by late July, he was sick and on the shelf.

It was an empty summer for the Stute 2-year-olds. Quick Little Miss was going nowhere.

Oh well, there was always the Los Angeles County Fair to look forward to, with or without a good 2-year-old.

But Stute did not become the all-time leading trainer at Fairplex Park by accident, and no matter what happens the remainder of the meet, the middle weekend of the 2006 Fairplex season will go down as perhaps the greatest father-son training achievement in track history.

Quick Little Miss, still a maiden, roared through the far turn Saturday to win the $118,100 Barretts Debutante by more than four lengths at a big, fat $60.40 win payoff. Mel Stute was right about his filly's ability. And Gary was right about his colt.

Roman Commander, still a maiden, got stopped cold Sunday on the far turn of the $131,600 Barretts Juvenile. He somehow regained his momentum, and rallied past the favorite in deep stretch to win by a half-length at a juicy $62 win payoff.

The twin stakes might go down as incidental Fairplex lore. However, Little Miss Quick and Roman Commander won their respective races like horses that could turn out to be more than just minor stakes winners. The Barretts races are restricted to horses that were offered for sale at a Barretts auction. The going will soon get tough.

Quick Little Miss "has trained sensational all her life," Mel Stute said. And when she came out of her second start with sore shins, there was nothing for Stute to do but give her time. That, and let his longtime assistant, Ray Solis, work his magic.

Behind every good trainer is a top assistant.

"Ray give her a miracle blister," Stute said, "and all of the sudden she perked up and began to look like a racehorse again."

Solis, 61, has been working for Stute since 1963. What about his magic potion?

"It's a secret," Solis said.

That is not all that Solis knows. When the subject of Stute-trained longshot winners came up, Solis quickly recalled one. "Pair of Aces, 46-1, in the 1983 Oceanside at Del Mar," he said.

Spoken like a man who bet his money. "Two dollars," Solis said.

How much did he bet on 29-1 Quick Little Miss last weekend? "A little bit more," Solis said, smiling.

Isaias Enriquez rode Quick Little Miss, whose next start will be in the Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes against Grade 1 winner Point Ashley, whose trainer is one of Stute's favorite targets for good-natured ribbing.

Stute was informed that his Oak Leaf rival would be Bob Baffert. "Oh good, I can out-train that weasel," Stute said. And he cracked up laughing, a 79-year-old with a sense of humor and a filly who is living up to her early promise.

Quick Little Miss earned an 80 Beyer Speed Figure in her victory, winning with a brilliant last-to-first move rarely seen on the five-eighth-mile Fairplex track.

As for the colt Roman Commander, his future will be long, according to Gary Stute. Roman Commander lost the summer season when he got sick, and Stute had no choice but train him into the Barretts Juvenile.

It was against protocol, because Gary Stute runs his horses often. His 2-year-old filly Kimmy Potter is making her ninth start Wednesday in the Black Swan Stakes. Yet when Roman Commander made his first start in two months, Gary Stute promised "He'll run well."

He had no idea how well. Saving ground into the far turn, Roman Commander got caught in a traffic jam at the quarter pole and checked hard under Matt Garcia. He lost all his momentum at a stage in the race where mistakes are nearly impossible to overcome.

Roman Commander overcame it anyway, regained his stride, and weaved through traffic. When he turned for home, the Baffert-trained favorite Chief's Magic had kicked clear. Roman Commander made a little run, and then began to hang.

But inside the sixteenth pole, Roman Commander, a son of Deputy Commander, switched leads, took off, and won going away. The Beyer Figure Roman Commander earned was 76. It does not do him justice.

"I think his future is routing," Gary Stute said.

Two stakes upsets in two days, by two trainers with the same last name. Bets were cashed on Quick Little Miss and Roman Commander.

Going into Monday, there was a $332,520 double carryover in the pick six. Mel Stute still kicked himself. "The reason for the carryover," he explained, "is that I'm such a bad handicapper I singled [Quick Little Miss] and still couldn't win."

He and Gary cracked up. Again.