09/03/2006 11:00PM

Talent, and a name to back it

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Richard Mandella resented the suggestion that he ran a horse in the Del Mar Futurity about as often as Halley's comet was sighted in the northern sky.

"I'll have you know I once finished one-two in the Futurity," he said, trying hard to hide the fact that he was deeply wounded. "One-two."

No question, there was that rare celebration of an early harvest from the Mandella barn, when Siphonizer held off Minister Eric to win the 2003 running of the Futurity. There also was the Mandella colt Dixie Union, who finished second in the 1999 Futurity to Forest Camp.

Beyond those gems, however, Mandella has been mostly missing from the major 2-year-old race of the summer season, preferring to let nature take a little more time before throwing his best young runners into the flames.

Sometimes, though, the horse grabs Mandella by the lapels and takes him there, which is why he is quietly excited about the prospects of Horse Greeley, a son of Mr. Greeley who comes into Wednesday's closing-day Del Mar Futurity off a four-length maiden win Aug. 12.

There have been no monsters revealed among 2-year-old colts out West this summer, which gives Horse Greeley as good a chance as any in the field of seven. Still, the last two runnings of the seven-furlong Futurity have produced champions Stevie Wonderboy and Declan's Moon, so who's to say that Great Hunter, Prime Ruler, or Stormello might not follow in their footsteps?

Horse Greeley is owned by his breeders, Ted and Martha Parfet, a retired couple that hails from the central Michigan town of Hickory Corners. Ted Parfet, who is 83, has a note from his doctor excusing him from the trip this time, but that does not mean he won't be on the edge of his chair all day Wednesday until the race is in the books.

"We really did want to come out," Parfet said. "The opportunities are so great with a promising young horse that you just want to stay close and watch them all the time."

Ask Ted Parfet what he used to do for a living, and he answers with a self-effacing, "Oh, I worked for a company called Upjohn," but that hardly tickles the tale. From 1961 to 1987, Parfet was president and then CEO of the pharmaceutical giant, whose headquarters are in nearby Kalamazoo.

During his retirement, Parfet has indulged in his passion for sailing, bought and backed professional minor league hockey teams, and waded into Thoroughbreds, through the urging of friends who steered the Parfets toward Claiborne Farm.

"We're kind of low-key about it," Parfet said. "We've got three mares. If we can get a colt like this out of them every once in awhile, that really breathes some life into things."

Claiborne in turn helped the Parfets find Mandella, and it didn't take Ted Parfet long to figure him out.

"Believe me, he focuses on his horses," Parfet said. "He may not know what month of the year it is, but he knows everything his barn is doing."

Mandella trained Chile Chatte, the dam of Horse Greeley. A daughter of Storm Cat who cost the Parfets $100,000 as a yearling, Chile Chatte earned just over $300,000 and won four races. With a little break here and there, she might have been mentioned in the same breath as the best of her generation.

Chile Chatte ended her 2-year-old season by finishing third to Cara Rafaela in the Hollywood Starlet Stakes (as even little children know by now, Cara Rafaela is the dam of Bernardini). Chile Chatte also finished second or third in such mainstream events as the La Canada Stakes, the Hawthorne Handicap, and the Milady Handicap, and went off as the favorite in the 1997 Delaware Handicap before the humidity and the foreign soil knocked her back to fourth.

As a broodmare, Horse Greeley is Chile Chatte's first foal of any consequence. She has stamped him, too, not only with her chestnut coat and ample build, but also with an attitude that requires caution.

"He can be that way," said Horse Greeley's groom, Luis Pulido, as the colt pinned his ears and took an experimental lunge at a visitor. "But not like his mama. She was very mean."

Obviously, the Parfets have fun naming their horses, and they've certainly opened themselves up to groans and raised eyebrows with this one. Mr. Greeley got his name from his sire, Gone West, an homage to New York publisher Horace Greeley, who was famous for a lot of things, but credited in legend as the source of the mid-19th century exhortation, "Go West, young man, and grow up with the country."

In fact, it was Indiana publisher John B.L. Soule of the Terra Haute Daily Express who first came up with the line to top an editorial he wrote in 1851. Like most great writers, Greeley stole only the best from the best and used it in a subsequent editorial of his own.

All of which has nothing to do with how Horse Greeley will fare when tested for class Wednesday. Still, for those who mix odd bits of history with their hunches, it might help to know that the Del Mar Futurity was once won by a horse named Go West Young Man.