01/28/2010 1:00AM

A second generation of success


ARCADIA, Calif. - Sometimes the racing game, patriarchal to its core, boils down to a history of fathers and sons. That is why watching Marty Jones and Don Valpredo at work with a good horse is so much fun.

Marty's father, Gary Jones, has been retired from training since 1996. He was just 51, and he had a great career, but it was either walk away or watch his heart explode from high blood pressure and the effects of stress. Never mind the cigarettes. And while the elder Jones had a client list to die for, it was all he could do to keep himself from every once in a while telling one of them to take a flying leap.

Don's father, John Valpredo, died in 2005 at age 96. He was a central California valley farmer, a breeder, and a horse owner who took the term "hands-on" to extremes. The elder Valpredo hired trainers with the understanding that they would enjoy all the benefits that accrued from having their names listed in the program, but beyond that all the shots would be called by the owner, from leg wraps to feeding times.

Marty Jones, unlike his voluble father, never uses one word where none will do. He runs a tight, true ship with a variety of clients, mostly Californians, and in the nearly 14 years since Gary's retirement he has established himself as one of the most reliable, consistent trainers in the West.

Don Valpredo, otherwise busy with the 4,000 acres of crops harvested each year by Valpredo Farms, still loves nothing more than to walk the shed row with his trainer, nagging about this and pointing to that, channeling the spirit of his late father. Valpredo knows, though, when to pull up and let the man do his job.

"One day I said, 'Marty, do you call that a gallop?' " Valpredo recalled with a chuckle. " 'Do you know how long it took for her to get around that track once? Three minutes and twenty seconds. What the hell do you think she got out of that?' That was my father coming out in me.

"So the other day we're watching horses at Hollywood Park, and Marty says, 'Do you know who that was who just went by at a slow gallop?' "I did. It was Zenyatta. Marty says, 'Why don't you go tell Shirreffs you're worried she's not getting anything out of that? I know John. I can introduce you.' "

One good dad deserves another. Now, Valpredo and Jones will try to do it their way on Saturday at Santa Anita in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Classic with the 4-year-old gelding Compari, a son of the crack middle-distance horse Redattore. The field is salty - for half a million it should be - and the relatively inexperienced Compari will have his hands full with grass freak The Usual Q.T., old warrior Bold Chieftain, Lava Man's brother Enriched, and the Florida invader Wicked Style. But for pure upside, Compari's turn of foot and four straight wins from five lifetime starts should be enough to give the others pause.

Compari is coming off two sprint scores on grass, including the Sensational Star at Santa Anita on New Year's Day. Last spring, he won the Snow Chief Stakes for Cal-breds at nine furlongs on Hollywood's synthetic main track, same conditions as the Classic.

"I've always thought of him as a route horse, not a sprinter," Jones said. "In those last two races, he was just able to get control, and then he's a really nice horse. I guess he'll probably be on the lead Saturday, so we'll see how far he can take them."

Compari is owned by Valpredo in partnership by his longtime associates John Harris and John Nicoletti.

"He was raised right here in our little pasture in Mettler," said Valpredo, who was co-owner with Harris of the 1994 Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up Soviet Problem. "He kind of takes his game with him. You know, Marty's horses usually don't fire first time out. That's just his style. When this horse ran third in his first start, he showed a lot of determination. I judged him off that, and I haven't been disappointed."

Compari lost the middle of his 3-year-old season to quarter cracks. After time spent recovering at Harris Farm he has come back blazing, although Jones noted that a minor crack has recurred and been patched this winter. Of more concern, he said, was the training time lost to recent bad weather.

"He hasn't run a route of ground since he's been back, so you don't like to miss much when you're stretching them out like that," Jones said.

Certainly, Compari's got the folks to get the distance under any circumstances. Redattore beat the best in eight- and nine-furlong races like the Kilroe, the Shoemaker, the Citation, and the San Antonio. Compari is out of Southern Charm, and her dam, Fantasy Lover, was a half-sister to the long distance grass star Bien Bien.

"John Nicoletti and I bought Southern Charm in Kentucky, and Campari is a drink we shared while we were there," Valpredo explained, alluding to what is described in beverage guides as "a bitter Italian aperitif made according to a secret recipe originally developed in 1860 by Gaspare Campari in Milan."

"We shared some Campari in Kentucky," Valpredo said. "After a late night my Italian heritage says that you never go to bed without something to settle the dinner. So it was like medicine at first, then we started liking it - Campari with an orange slice.

"When it came time to name this horse, we couldn't get Campari, so we went with Compari. And that's fine, because it can also be a takeoff on 'compadres,' which means friends."