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WILD WEST FOLLOWING FATHER'S PATH AS TRAINER HAS UPS, DOWNS.

Byline: Kevin Modesti Staff Writer

ARCADIA - Ted H. West was 10 years old, and already planning a career as a trainer, the day the elder Ted West saddled the tender-footed Interco to upset John Henry and Gato del Sol in the 1984 Santa Anita Handicap.

``I'd always wanted to be a horse trainer, to follow in my father's footsteps, but that's what sealed it,'' the son recalled as he prepared Budroyale for Saturday's Santa Anita Handicap. ``I thought, `If it's like this all the time, wouldn't that be great?' I found out it isn't like that all the time.''

``So did I,'' his father chimed in with a rueful smile.

Ted H. West was just out of Cal Poly Pomona, living on a shoestring in the San Francisco Bay Area while caring for a couple of his dad's horses, when Luthier Fever joined the West barn here in time to finish second to Mr Purple in the 1996 Santa Anita Handicap at 64-1 odds.

``That's the horse who got me out of the tack room at Bay Meadows,'' said the son, who had been bedding down in the barn to save money.

After Luthier Fever's unlikely performance in the Big 'Cap, and the younger Ted's success training those cheap horses up north, things turned around for the struggling West barn, which grew from eight horses to its present 30-something.

Which brings the Wests to this week and the family's next encounter with the Big 'Cap, the $1 million race that's been pivotal in the lives of Edward Kenneth ``Ted'' West, 63, Edward Harry ``Ted'' West, 26, and Mary Ellen West, the wife, mother and barn bookkeeper.

A victory by Jeffrey Sengara's Budroyale would give the 7-year-old gelding his first Grade I win - after tenacious seconds at generous odds in the 1999 Hollywood Gold Cup and Breeders' Cup Classic - and establish the former $32,000 claimer the nation's leading older horse.

``That might be the victory that kind of puts him over the top with the fans,'' Ted. H. said. ``They can start to compare him to (popular geldings) John Henry and Best Pal.''

Also, a victory over horses trained by D. Wayne Lukas (Cat Thief), Bob Baffert (General Challenge), Paco Gonzalez (Bagshot) and Richard Mandella (Malek, Puerto Madero) would be a feather in the cap of young Ted H., the titular head of the barn since last summer.

``There's not much that helps a trainer more than winning a race like that,'' said his father, himself the son of a trainer, the old Caliente fixture Harry West.

Ted H. took over as trainer of record while his dad served a 90-day suspension after eight horses, including Budroyale, tested positive for clenbuterol in 1998. The barn continued to win, and so the horses have remained in his name.

The two men say they actually share an equal training partnership - ``two Teds are better than one,'' Ted H. deadpanned - and say Mary Ellen, responsible for the barn's unusually intricate feeding, vitamin and supplement program, is the unsung heroine.

To some it appears the son had a free pass to the winner's circle, becoming trainer of record for a ready-made barn. Mary Ellen answers that, saying that when he was living in the tack room, she told her boy: ``Nobody will ever be able to say it was easy (for you).''

It hasn't been easy for the senior West either.

--After foot problems forced Interco's retirement in 1984, West didn't win another major race until Stocks Up won the 1988 Hollywood Starlet. The deaths of owners George Warwick and George Shahood shrank his barn.

--After the 1992 death of Interwit, a promising son of Interco whom West trained and co-owned, an arbitrator ordered West and the other owners to pay $60,000 to the owners of another horse who died in the same grisly accident at Hollywood Park. It included $45,000 that Pat Valenzuela would have had to pay if the jockey hadn't declared bankruptcy.

--After the arrival of Luthier Fever, whose Mexico City-based owners had a falling out with trainer Gary Jones, the barn's savior turned into a headache when the owners moved him to Eduardo Inda's barn in order to run in the Pacific Classic against West's advice. When Luthier Fever became the only horse to start in the Big 'Cap, Hollywood Gold Cup and Pacific Classic that year and earned a $500,000 bonus, West had to take the owners to the track stewards to collect his $43,000 share.

Whether the 90-day suspension last year was the result of bad luck or misbehavior is subject to interpretation.

Possession of clenbuterol in the United States had recently been approved. The bronchial dilator was OK'd for use in training but not in racing. West maintained his horses - and nearly a dozen other trainers' - tested positive because California authorities failed to tell them how close to race day the drug could be administered without risking detection.

Sengara is fighting to hold onto the purse for Budroyale's tainted victory in the June 13, 1998 Super Diamond Handicap at Hollywood Park.

Now, the elder West said, the family doesn't use clenbuterol because ``I don't want to take a chance of having another positive.''

In another sense of the word, a positive came out of the suspension. Ted and Mary Ellen traveled extensively for the first time in their 28-year marriage. And Ted H. proved himself a good fit in his father's footsteps.

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Photo: Ted H. West
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 2, 2000
Words:916
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