08/10/2010 1:58PM

Wasted Tears's road show arrives at Del Mar

Barbara D. Livingston
Wasted Tears wins the Grade 3 Honey Fox at Gulfstream gate to wire. The 5-year-old mare brings a six-race winning streak into Sunday’s Grade 2 John Mabee Stakes at Del Mar.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Bart Evans walked into Wasted Tears’s stall late Sunday morning at Del Mar and began rubbing the mare’s ears.

“She likes this,” he said.

Evans then walked to her side and began scratching her stomach strongly with his index finger. That didn’t go as well. The mare turned her head toward Evans quickly, as if her next move was a bite.

“She’s saying, there’s no reason to do that,” Evans said.

For five years, Evans has been around Wasted Tears daily, a hands-on breeder, owner, and trainer, learning her likes and dislikes and what he, as a somewhat cantankerous horseman, can get away with when showing off the mare around the barn.

On the racetrack, Evans has learned that she thrives by racing in front on turf, which has led to graded stakes wins this year in Florida, Kentucky, and Texas. Off the track, he has watched her recover from a staph infection that nearly ended her career.

On Sunday, Wasted Tears, 5, will start in the $250,000 John Mabee Stakes at Del Mar, her first appearance in California. Wasted Tears brings a six-race winning streak into the Grade 2 Mabee, which is run over 1 1/8 miles on turf. She is perfect in all of 2009 and 2010, including wins this year in the Grade 3 Honey Fox Stakes at Gulfstream Park, the Grade 2 Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland, and the Grade 3 Ouija Board Handicap at Lone Star Park.

Evans vans her everywhere himself. He has a ranch in Midland, Texas, and spent two days traveling to California last weekend, stopping overnight at a friend’s ranch in Tucson, Ariz., to break up the trip.

The only surprise Evans found upon arrival at Del Mar was the cool temperatures in the high 60s.

“I may have to go back to the 104- and 105-degree weather,” Evans said. “I didn’t bring a jacket.”

What Evans did bring to California is a mare with 10 wins in 15 starts and earnings of $558,598. Bred by Evans in Kentucky, she began her career at 2, winning on turf at Retama Park, near San Antonio. She has made all but two starts on turf.

The only real setback was the staph infection last summer that kept her off the track for nine months. She lost considerable weight, and her career was jeopardized, Evans said.

“To come back from that and be able to race, it was unbelievable,” Evans said.

For Evans, Wasted Tears is his latest equine achievement in a lifetime around horses of all sorts. He is a member of the polo Hall of Fame, and played at world-class level – an eight-goal player - throughout the United States, Europe, and South America.

“I played a game and got paid to do it,” he said.

He quit, he said, “When I got too old to play the way I wanted to play.”

Evans is still involved in polo, through breeding and playing on a more casual basis.

“I still get on the young horses to see how they’re playing,” he said.

Also, his family-operated ranch in West Texas has a cattle operation.

“We diversify ways to lose money,” he said, with a wry grin.

All that and traveling with Wasted Tears keeps Evans active at an age he declines to disclose.

“I’m sixty-, oh, what difference does it make?” he said. “It’s about her, not about me.”

Evans has only had 10 starters on the racetrack this year, and Wasted Tears represents four of those starts.

Wasted Tears, by Najran, will be easy to find on the front in the Mabee under New York-based jockey Rajiv Maragh, who rode her in the Jenny Wiley. Even though she is a front-runner, Wasted Tears is not speed-crazy and will cooperate with a rider, Evans said. She keeps races interesting to the finish, too. Her four wins this year have been by a combined 2 1/4 lengths.

“Her best asset is her brain,” Evans said. “She’ll never draw off and win by 10, 20. There’s no reason for it.”

The Mabee is a Win and You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Churchill Downs in November, but that race is not on Evans’s mind. It’s run over 1 3/8 miles on turf, and the course could easily be less than firm in a Kentucky autumn.

“To run a mile and three-eighths at Churchill Down in November, under European conditions?” he said. “How many times do we run a mile and three-eighths in the United States?”

Regardless of where she is campaigned in the fall, Wasted Tears may be retired after this year, though Evans has not made any plans. He says the mare’s behavior will determine that.

“I’ve had a lot of good horses, mostly polo horses that are in the polo Hall of Fame,” he said. “Horses tell people how to listen. Sometimes you don’t want to say that they’re right. I can’t tell her to run next year. I’ll let her tell me.”