10/30/2007 11:00PM

Patience pays off for Nevada Worrier

EmailARCADIA, Calif. - In the spring, Nevada Worrier looked more like a candidate for maiden claimers than Saturday's $125,000 California Cup Juvenile at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting.

Nevada Worrier was winless in four two-furlong races at Bay Meadows and Santa Anita in the spring, races that almost never produce important horses. Then, owner-breeder Joe Duffel offered him at the Barretts May sale of 2-year-olds in training, hoping to sell the gelding for $40,000. Instead, he bought him back for $22,000 when bidding stalled.

But Duffel and trainer Jerry Wallace II have never given up on Nevada Worrier, who beat maidens at Del Mar in August and two starts later won the seven-furlong Cavonnier Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 8. On Saturday, Nevada Worrier will make his first start at 1 1/16 miles.

"Jerry thinks he can go that far, but all trainers think that they can," Duffel said. "The jockey said he has a gear he hasn't used yet. Of course, that gear could be reverse."

Duffel may sound cynical, but the 83-year-old horseman has a long involvement in racing and admits to being thrilled about Nevada Worrier's development.

Wallace, 43, says that Nevada Worrier deserves a chance in the Juvenile, even though the colt is by the sprinter Lord Carson, which suggests distance could be an issue.

"Every race has been another test for him," Wallace said. "As long as he keeps answering the challenges, we have to stretch him out. He hasn't shown us he won't do that. We always know we can back him up."

A winner of 2 of 8 starts and $99,019, Nevada Worrier has essentially had two seasons this year. He was trained by Shane Chipman and then Brian Koriner in the spring, with his best result for either of them a second at Bay Meadows on April 19. After failing to sell, Nevada Worrier was sent to Wallace, and he improved almost immediately.

The gelding finished fourth as a maiden in the Everett Nevin Alameda County Fair Futurity at Pleasanton on July 1, and pulled a 10-1 upset in a maiden special weight for statebreds at Del Mar. He followed with a seventh-place finish in the I'm Smokin Stakes at Del Mar and the win in the Cavonnier. In his last three starts, Nevada Worrier has been ridden by Jon Court.

Wallace dismisses Nevada Worrier's seventh in the I'm Smokin, saying the gelding was found to have a virus.

"He wasn't 100 percent," Wallace said. "We don't know how much that virus cost him."

For Wallace, Nevada Worrier has been a milestone horse, providing him with his first stakes win at Santa Anita. Wallace, who has 15 horses in training, is in his second year of full-time Thoroughbred training, having previously had a small stable of cheap Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses at Los Alamitos. Prior to that, he broke yearlings at Mira Loma Thoroughbreds and operated a home security business.

"This started out as a hobby and it grew," he said.

Wallace has won 20 races from 232 starters, with $380,254 in earnings. Seven of those wins and about $200,000 in earnings have come this year.

Wallace is the son of the singer Jerry Wallace, who recorded the 1959 hit "Primrose Lane." The elder Wallace still follows racing at the Victorville, Calif., satellite location, his son said.

Jerry Wallace never considered following his father in music.

"I grew up in it," Wallace said. "It wasn't appealing. I saw how much work it was."

Through the summer, Wallace has tried to teach Nevada Worrier to be more patient from the gate, hoping to undo some of the lessons learned in the hectic two-furlong races in the spring. Nevada Worrier came from off the pace against maidens at Del Mar and in the Cavonnier. He must do so again to have any chance in the longer California Cup Juvenile.

"He learned to respond to the rider and not run off like a maniac," he said. "You're able to control him and he'll do what you ask."

Duffel bred Nevada Worrier on his farm in Wheatland, Calif., near Sacramento. He keeps 100 horses on the property, mostly Thoroughbreds. Duffel owned Pencil Point, winner of the 1982 Bing Crosby Handicap at Del Mar. Even at his age, he still works in real estate and farms prunes, rice, and walnuts.

"I've worked all my life," he said. "I enjoyed it then and I enjoy it now. You can't chase women as much, at least not as fast. You can't drink as much. Half of your friends have died. I might as well work."

Might as well have a stakes winner in the barn as well, especially one that has come a lot farther than expected.