Your choice. Their privilege.
Immediately inside the door to barn D7 _ the Irwel Stable end _ is a banner that reads: Hip 168, Albacore Bob, Stakes Placed, Consigned by Steve Irlando, Agent for Bob Bambauer for Irwel Stables.
The banner was used at Barrett’s 2-year-old sale. Steve Irlando and Larry Wells, the horse’s trainers _ and the fellows who will breed, break, train, pinhook or race a horse for you _ keep it around as a half joke-half reminder of what didn’t happen and what has happened since. They tried to sell Albacore Bob at the Barrett’s sale, got a high bid of $12,500 and took him back.
“We would have let him go for $50,000 or $60,000,” Larry said Friday morning when asked about the banner.
The horse didn’t sell, but the partners’ disappointment was assuaged by a statement from none other than Bob Baffert that they had a real runner in their barn.
Albacore Bob, a son of Dance Master, has gone on to make over $100,000 for Irlando and Wells, who own the horse in partnership with Bob and Sheila Bambauer of Peoria, Ariz.
After purchasing the colt for $12,500, Irlando invited the Bambauers to dinner one night to offer a stake in the new investment.
The dinner conversation revealed that Bob Bambauer had just returned from a fishing trip and had a freezer full of albacore tuna.
The colt had a name.
Wells was an assistant trainer to Crede Botts in 1986 during their first venture north from Phoenix to the year-old Canterbury Downs. Wells had hooked up with Botts after apprenticing in the business in his native Nebraska and then accompanying friends to Turf Paradise in Phoenix in 1981.
Wells was told upon arriving that Botts needed help so he approached him. “He hired me and said I was his assistant trainer,” Wells recalled.
A year after his first trip to Minnesota, Wells and Irlando, who had worked for trainer Hoss Inman at Centennial Race Track in Colorado, returned to Shakopee as partners and raced every meet until Canterbury closed in 1992.
They returned to Shakopee this summer for the first time since after urging from local HBPA president Tom Metzen, the organization’s executive officer in Phoenix.
A horse from the Wells-Irlando stable captured the fancy of Canterbury fans during the 1980s, a filly with the unforgettable name: Wave Her Bye Bye.
“She was a Minnesota-bred who won a lot of open company races for us,” said Wells. “We dropped in her cheap one time, and (three-time champion trainer) Pat Cuccurullo claimed her from us.”
Wells and Irlando spent a few years pinhooking in Florida and Wells left the business altogether after “we got wiped out” financially. He spent the next six to seven years as a cook and restaurant manager at the Mountain Shadows resort in Phoenix.
Racing was always within arm’s length, however, and Wells used a bonus check from the resort to invest in a horse named Rio Oro. The horse won eight out of 10 races, including the San Miguel at Santa Anita.
He wound up selling Rio Oro for $250,000 and _ just like that _ was back in the business.
Among the other horses in the Irwel Stable is one named Stormy Highland, an Al Ghazi son, who has earned just under $100,000, with seconds in six stakes races. He’s run everything from five furlongs to a mile and 1/16th on the turf.
On a chilly morning a few weeks ago, Wells was standing outside the stable talking about the unseasonable Minnesota weather. Irlando was inside the barn helping with chores. He stopped long enough to discuss his previous sojourn in Minnesota and what he thinks will help the Minnesota industry.
“Casino games, slots,” Irlando said. “This place should have them. They’re no reason they shouldn’t and they will help.”
Irlando is well spoken on the subject, knowledgeable enough that he was a frequent guest on KRGI radio in Nebraska during discussions on the topic in that state.
The Irwell Stable is still looking for it’s first win of the season at Canterbury. “It’s been pretty slow,” Wells said. “We have some horses just getting ready now and we’ve had some disappointments. But we’ll get by.”
Friday morning, Wells was seated in his office when one of the hands called to him. “Will you feed Bob?” he asked.
Wells approached Albacore Bob with a bucket of oats and made his way into the stall.
“He’s a biter and he gets more aggressive at feeding time,” the fellow said.
Wells didn’t have much trouble getting Albacore Bob to eat his breakfast.
Which raises a point. Perhaps Irwel Stable should add one more item to its list of specialties:
Will break, breed, pinhook, train, race or…feed a horse for you.