Updated on 09/16/2011 9:14AM

Reason to hoist a cold one


DEL MAR, Calif. - Going into Wednesday's Del Mar Futurity, Mike Pegram was wondering when his fortunes would change at his cherished track by the sea.

"I'll tell you one thing," Pegram allowed, "as much as I love this place, it seems like I've never had any luck here. But I'm like Argentina. Nobody's gonna cry for me."

True enough, it's tough to work up a serious amount of compassion for Pegram. During the Del Mar season, he lives in a cliff-clinging party pad overlooking the far turn of the racetrack. When he's at home in Phoenix, he is on a first-name basis with at least half of the Arizona Diamondbacks. When he returns to his business base in the Northwest, he lords over a chain of McDonald's franchises that rivals the most successful in the nation.

Even his Del Mar racing luck hasn't exactly been all bad. Since 1991, the hot Pegram colors have been carried to Del Mar stakes wins by Silverbulletday, Hookedonthefeelin, Favorite Funtime, and Letthebighossroll, and he owned a piece of the 1992 Bing Crosby Handicap winner, Thirty Slews.

But until Icecoldbeeratreds cruised under the wire in the Futurity two lengths clear of stablemate Kafwain, Pegram never had won one of Del Mar's marquee events. And just as it is important for New Yorkers to strut their best wares at Saratoga, or the British to succeed at Royal Ascot, it is imperative that a horse owner with a Del Mar address eventually land a race like the Oaks, the Debutante, the Pacific Classic, or the Futurity.

And then go across the street and have an ice cold beer at Red's.

Both the Del Mar Futurity and Red Tracton's Steakhouse were established in 1948. Until now, there was no direct connection, other than the tradition of wrapping up each Del Mar meet with the Futurity and ending as many Del Mar evenings as possible at Red Tracton's.

Sporting his Del Mar uniform (shorts, sockless loafers, Tommy Bahama shirt) and savoring the winner's circle scene, Pegram recalled that he and the gang were at Red's on the evening of Dec. 28, 2001, watching the Holiday Bowl being played just down the road in San Diego. Things were going fine for his Washington Huskies until the fourth quarter, when Texas scored 27 points to steal the game, 47-43. They changed the subject to Thoroughbreds, and Pegram's upcoming crop of 2-year-olds.

"So we got to naming horses," Pegram said. "I'd already had one we called Seeyouatreds. Then a guy handed me an ice cold beer. I thought, you know what? This is a good name for a racehorse."

The beer is long gone, but the racehorse looks like he'll stick around.

Icecoldbeeratreds is a son of In Excess, out of the Crafty Prospector mare Guilded Times. He was bred by Pegram in California and received his early training in Ocala from J.B. and Kevin McKathan.

"Everything out of that mare has been a runner," Pegram said. "He's the best 2-year-old I've got. It's been that way from day one at the farm. From early on, when I asked J.B. where we were sitting with the 2-year-olds, he said, 'The homebred is the best one right now.' He still is."

Red - he's got to have a nickname, if only for the headline writers - won his first two against California-breds before finishing fifth of seven in the Best Pal Stakes, Aug. 21.

"From my vantage point, up there at the house, I know when they're changing the surface of the track," Pegram noted. "The sand started going on the track the Monday before the Best Pal, and he never got a hold of it. I ain't complaining - tracks change. We just caught it at the wrong time."

After the success of champions Real Quiet and Silverbulletday, as well as Dubai World Cup winner Captain Steve, the Pegram runners have been flying below the radar. Icecoldbeeratreds has things cooking again.

"At one point, Bobby [Baffert] told me I might want to change this horse's name," Pegram said. "He said he was becoming a serious race horse, and unless I wanted to breed to Quarter Horse mares, no one would ever breed to him with this name.

"I hope I have that problem."

The rematch

Last Sunday, it wasn't until late in the day, after all the Thoroughbred races had been run, that Pegram finally arrived at Del Mar.

"I've been watching football all afternoon," Pegram said as he headed to his box. "But I had to be here for the mule."

"The mule," of course, is Black Ruby. Southern Californians will get another chance to see the five-time world champion in action against her noble rival Taz on Saturday at Fairplex Park. This time, there will be win betting, so choose your mule carefully.

Black Ruby and Taz have split their last two encounters, and although Taz was outrun from the gate at Del Mar, trainer Ed Burdick predicts his boy will be on his toes this time.

"It will be just like Rocky III," Burdick said.

No, probably much, much better.