For the $2 plugger, La Prevoyante isn't much of an investment. But for the high roller, the unbeaten 2-year-old daughter of Buckpasser is as good as a license to use doctored dice in Las Vegas. Nothing but sevens, Agnes. Take last Saturday afternoon in the goo at Laurel; in just a minute and 46[2/5]ths seconds, the fabulous French-Canadian filly converted $10,000 investments into $11,000 returns, and at about the same risk rate as defense bonds. For the cautious there was place betting, but that was only good for a nickel on a dollar. Yet there were enough faint hearts to create a $7,920 minus pool and to send Laurel President John D. Schapiro climbing walls. Schapiro doesn't like sevens, not when the payoff is coming out of his pocket.
Earlier in the week Schapiro had asked the Maryland Racing Commission to make the filly's race, the $121,990 Selima Stakes, a nonbetting exhibition. Because of the size of the field—from 1,154 original nominations, only four were entered to run against La Prevoyante and only three actually made it to the post—the commissioners ruled out show betting, but other than that Laurel was on its own. "We are being stiffed," roared Schapiro. From his point of view, his argument couldn't have been more sound. Or, as Jockey Ron Turcotte said after finishing second 14 lengths back on Naive, "It was like matching a Cadillac with a bunch of Volkswagens."
Since she began her assault on May 31 in Canada, the Jean Louis Levesque-owned filly has romped over every horse thrown against her at distances from five furlongs to 1[1/16] miles, on tracks of every description, even on the grass. The Selima was her 11th victory in as many starts. She has won her races by an amazing total of 58½ lengths, and it could be twice that if Jockey John LeBlanc, who hasn't missed a ride, had so chosen. Usually La Prevoyante crosses the finish line at a pace reserved for strolls in Central Park. In the Selima she slowed so much it appeared she might stop before she hit the wire.
"She probably saw a camera and was going to stop to pose," said Emilio Davison, the groom who has been with the filly since she went into training last January. "She's a ham."
La Prevoyante's next start, and her last as a 2-year-old, will be in the Gardenia Stakes at Garden State on Nov. 11, which means her unbeaten string won't be tested by Secretariat, at least not for some time. Trainer Johnny Starr is in no hurry to send his filly, already Canadian Horse of the Year, against the best of the 2-year-old colts. And if Starr wasn't convinced of that before last Saturday, he is now. Secretariat appeared shortly after La Prevoyante's performance and was even more impressive, winning the Laurel Futurity by eight lengths in 1:42⅘ just a fifth of a second off the track record. It was the Meadow Stable colt's sixth victory in eight starts, and you can forget about the two losses. The first was in his debut, when anything can happen to a 2-year-old, and the other came last month when he won the Champagne by two lengths only to be disqualified.
"They all have to get beaten sometime," said Starr. "But this year we'd like our filly to finish undefeated. I'll have to find out what the record for 2-year-olds is." Among American stakes horses, it is 12, set by James R. Keene's Colin in 1907. The next season he won his only three starts and retired undefeated. No American horse has bowed out unbeaten since. The closest to joining Colin were Man o'War, winner of 20 of 21, and Native Dancer, who won 21 of 22, losing by a head in the 1953 Kentucky Derby.
As for La Prevoyante, well, it's doubtful that she'll be defeated in the 1973 Derby. Most likely she won't be there. Only one filly, Regret, ever won the Run for the Roses, only 29 have started since 1875 and Starr isn't about to let his ace lose in the Derby just to say he's been there. "We're not overlooking that race," Starr said, "but you don't have to nominate until February and I want to take a long look at all the colts. There's Secretariat, of course, and he's a great one, and there could be two or three good horses that haven't run as 2-year-olds. And some real fine fillies may come along."
There are those who think that Starr isn't half as afraid of taking on Secretariat as he lets on. While running her winnings to $302,557, La Prevoyante has knocked off, and easily, some of the top colts in Canada. Zaca Spirit, for instance, won the Coronation Futurity by 11 lengths. In the Colin Stakes the filly spotted him seven pounds and breezed by five. In the same race she met Queen's Splendour, winner of the Winnipeg Futurity. La Prevoyante gave him a four-pound advantage and beat him even farther. Neither is a Secretariat, of course, but they don't bark either.
For the moment Starr and Owner Levesque, a millionaire investment broker in Montreal, seem content to let any future plans center on the Queen's Plate in June. That's the Triple Crown of Canadian racing wrapped into one and no self-respecting Canadian owner would trade it for an ocean full of mint juleps. In the last five years Levesque has entered some good animals in the race, including Fanfreluche, the 1970 Canadian Horse of the Year; so far he has three seconds and a third.
In the fall of 1964 Levesque, who doubles as the chancellor of the University of Moncton, bought Arctic Dancer, a full sister to Northern Dancer, from E.P. Taylor for $100,000. After two starts, she retired winless. Levesque sent her to Kentucky to be bred to Victoria Park. That mating gave him Cerf Volant, who finally won three races—as a 4-year-old.
Arctic Dancer's next colt, Maringouin, by Turn-to, never got to the post. Enough of this nonsense, said Levesque. When Arctic Dancer made her next trip to Kentucky, she was bred to Buckpasser, a winner of 25 races and $1,462,014 in three seasons. Voil√†!
La Prevoyante means a lady who foresees, unless you ask Groom Davison, who grins and says it means the provider. For Levesque, the oil well was in. Except he didn't get to see it. When she won her first race on the last day of May, he was in the hospital having a kidney operation. He missed La Prevoyante's second race, too. "That's it," he told his doctors. "Recuperating time is over. I've got to see her now."
"You can't blame him," said Davison. "She's something out of this world to watch. I love this horse as much as I do my mother. She's like a daughter to me. When she does something wrong, I give her a smack on the rear end. When she's good, I reward her."
Davison laughed and ran a hand through his wavy red hair. "I try to be as nice to her as I can. But at times I have to put her in her place. She begins fooling around. And when I smack her, does she get mad! She'll whirl around and just stare at me. But then I slip her a couple of pieces of sugar and she isn't angry anymore. You don't have any trouble with good horses. They eat well, they take to training well. A good horse is a little more intelligent. They seem to know what they have to do and do it."
A news photographer came to the barn and asked if he could take some pictures of the horse. For an hour she had been dozing inside her stall. Now she stuck her head through the open upper door and checked out the stranger. When she spotted the camera, she began to pose. Her ears leaped to attention. She turned her head one way and held; then the other way and held.
"You ham," said Davison. "She loves to have her picture taken. The other day there was a movie crew here and all the other horses were trying to tear the barn apart. Not her. She just stood there posing. She knows. And she loves strangers. And really loves Johnny Starr. She'll start moving around in her stall and I'll look out and here's the trainer coming, a long way off. I don't know how she knows. He's just got a great way with fillies. Sometimes I have to tell him to get lost. I'll have work to do and she won't stand still when he's around."
In racing for 44 years and a trainer for more than 20, Starr has had his share of good horses, and most of them have been fillies. "That's just the way they came," he said. "It's not any special skill, it's just plain luck. La Prevoyante could have been a colt. A fellow the other day asked me which I'd rather have: a great filly or a great colt." He stopped and laughed. "I told him all I wanted was a great horse." Which, of course, is what he has.