The Intangibles

- -

Carl Grether went to visit his dad, longtime horse owner C.T. Grether, last summer. It was a Thursday. The younger Grether brought his retriever to the house, they threw a ball for the dog and told stories. Right before he left, his father handed him $400 and told him to bet it on his son’s first-time starter at Hollywood Park on the weekend.

C.T. Grether never bet his son’s horses.

“Across the board, Dad?”

“No, bet it all to win.”

The next day, Carl and his wife drove to Las Vegas for the weekend, $400 in his pocket to bet on Intangaroo in the 11th, still wondering why his dad wanted to put that kind of money on a first-time filly.

“Friday, we were driving to Vegas and he collapses, goes into a coma,” Grether said. “We were blown away. I bet $400 to win on her, she won going away.”

Intangaroo broke from the 10 hole, rallied from last to nail Look Deep and Screen Giant. She won by a length.

C.T. Grether died a day later.

They buried him with the tickets.

She was 11-1.

Grether probably parlayed the money because Intangaroo has climbed the ranks to become the leading distaff sprinter in the country. Trained by Gary Sherlock, Intangaroo owns three Grade I victories and takes aim at the second running of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint Oct. 24. Somebody’s doing something right.

“I think sometimes things are driven by divine things we have no control over. This was the plan, it’s unbelievable,” Grether said. “My dad’s ranch was always Tom Grether Farm, I always worked for him. I bought the company and ran it under Tom Grether Farm. I bought it before he passed away.”

Intangaroo runs for Tom Grether Farm.

Grether calls himself a lemon-and-avocado farmer based in Somis, Cal., with horses designated to 30 acres of the farm. They breed some horses, break yearlings, buy yearlings at the sales and run a niche stable of homebreds and sales purchases.

“We’re not like the big owners,” Grether said. “We’ve always been below the radar screen, I like being the underdogs. Maybe we still will be.”

Hardly. Grether has about 30 racehorses of all ages, Sherlock has around 15. Sherlock decided to make a comeback to training after an illness had forced him to shut down his stable about 10 years earlier. He sold equine insurance in the interim, focusing on workman’s compensation for the California-based trainers, and sold a few horses on the side. But he missed the horses.

“I got real sick about 10 years ago and had to quit training. I came to the track every day, it didn’t change much, I just didn’t have a barn. But that’s what I started missing, the barn,” Sherlock said. “Two years ago, I bought a couple of yearlings and she’s one of them. She just made my list, I liked her. She wasn’t the one. I bought one for myself, I paid more money for that one, you know how it goes.”

Grether would call it divine intervention. Sherlock’s not so sure.

“The next time I’m buying her for me,” Sherlock joked after the race.

“Did you meet my ex-trainer Gary,” Grether said in return.

Yeah, they were getting punchy after their first Saratoga starter won their first Saratoga stakes. Intangaroo increased her earnings to $623,231.

“Pretty awesome,” Sherlock said. “She’s got the best mind of any horse I’ve ever trained. She’s bomb-proof.”

Carl Grether made a business decision earlier this year and will sell Intangaroo this fall. His dad worked for UBS PaineWebber and taught him about investments.

“It’s a business,” Grether said. “I’m a realist, when it’s time to sell, it’s time to sell. When your stock’s on the rise, that’s when you sell.”

Funny game. A man buries his father with a $400 win ticket – crediting divine intervention – and then decides to sell the winning filly – relying on business savvy.

C.T. Grether campaigned the stakeswinner Crafty C.T., who finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint behind Orientate (sire of Intangaroo) in 2002.

“Oh, my dad would be . . . he’d be competitive because we were really competitive, me and my dad,” Grether said. “But he’d be happy. He’d be right here next to us.”