09/06/2007 11:00PM

Peering through the glass ceiling


DEL MAR, Calif. - The praise being heaped upon Kathy Walsh for her work with the Del Mar Futurity winner Georgie Boy is well deserved. Winning a Grade 1 race is tough enough. Winning one in the face of the rampant sexism that has pervaded American racing through the decades adds an extra layer of polish to the achievement.

Goodness knows how many potentially gifted trainers have been squandered because money men were reluctant to trust women with their Thoroughbred investments. The list of women who have made a mark in the profession is embarrassingly small - populated by the likes of Christine Janks, Kathleen O'Connell, Jenine Sahadi, Sallie Bailie, Diane Carpenter, Laura de Seroux, Linda Rice, and Carla Gaines - and it makes no sense. If ever there was a skill set that transcends gender, the training of Thoroughbred racehorses fits the bill.

Walsh is being hailed as the first woman to train a winner of the Del Mar Futurity. Technically, that is true.

Technically, Loren Rettele has been credited through the years as the trainer of the 1977 Futurity winner, Go West Young Man. This is not a stretch, as a former disciple of Jack Van Berg, Rettele enjoyed a noteworthy run on his own, training such major stakes winners as Golden Act and Esops Foibles. Rettele retired from training some years ago to open an insurance agency.

As for his involvement with Go West Young Man, however, it was merely in passing. Rettele provided a Del Mar stall for Go West Young Man to facilitate his racing debut, on Sept. 3, 1977, as a courtesy to owner Lou Tuck, whose horses were stabled at the San Luis Rey Downs training center. When Go West Young Man finished a promising third in the maiden race, it was decided to keep him at Del Mar to prepare for the Futurity, scheduled for Sept. 14.

Go West Young Man's training was, in fact, supervised by Mary Lou Tuck, the owner's daughter, in her early 30s at the time.

"I had 25 horses at San Luis Rey Downs at the time," Tuck said Friday morning from her barn at Hollywood Park. "I couldn't get stalls at Del Mar. When it came time to run the colt in those Del Mar races, it was my dad's decision to send him in to Loren, which meant it was his name on the program."

Ten started in the 1977 Del Mar Futurity, run at a two-turn mile and topped by favored Balzac and Bill Shoemaker. Go West Young Man, under Frank Olivares, was the longest shot in the field at 74-1. When he won by 1 3/4 lengths, in a respectable 1:35.60, Lou Tuck promised his daughter, "From now on, he runs in your name. You get the credit."

And boy did he run. Over the next three seasons, Mary Lou Tuck helped Go West Young Man evolve into one of the best older horses of the decade.

"As a younger horse, he'd run a temperature of 106, with a high white count, after every one of his races," Tuck recalled. "We thought he might have been sick as a baby, and developed scar tissue on his lungs. Because of that, we never ran him too much, giving him plenty of time, and I think that's why he got so much better as he got older."

At 3, Go West Young Man missed the spring classics but won the El Cajon at Del Mar. At 4 he was pitted against the best and tipped his growing ability in the Hollywood Turf Invitational, when he was fourth, beaten 1 1/4 lengths, by Johnny's Image in course-record time. Then he turned 5.

The 1980 season in California was as golden as they come. Spectacular Bid dominated the first half of the year on dirt, while John Henry ripped through the West's turf races on his way to his first championship.

Go West Young Man took what was left, and it did not matter where or how far. He beat Balzac and Golden Act in the Century Handicap at nine furlongs on the Hollywood grass. He beat Balzac again going 10 furlongs on dirt in the Hollywood Gold Cup. At Del Mar, he went back to the turf to win the nine-furlong Eddie Read Handicap, beating The Bart. And then, in the Del Mar Handicap at just shy of 10 furlongs on dirt, Go West Young Man edged the brilliant Relaunch in a memorable showdown of two classy grays.

The Tucks decided to venture east after that, but the trip ran afoul.

"He hit his head pretty bad during the flight," Mary Lou recalled. "When he got there, he was bleeding from the nostrils. I've got to believe he suffered a concussion. When he was well enough, we took him back to California."

Go West Young Man never raced again. After grazing one day outside his Santa Anita barn, he developed symptoms of a neurological disorder. Soon, he was beyond recovery and had to be euthanized.

Mary Lou Tuck has not had a major winner since, but that doesn't mean she hasn't tried. And she was quick to praise Walsh for her Del Mar Futurity "first."

"It was real nice to see her win the race," Tuck said, then added with a laugh, "But she'd better follow it up with a win in the Hollywood Gold Cup."