If Lakerball’s name and her purple and yellow silks make you think of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, that’s not surprising. The California-bred 2-year-old filly is from the first crop of the stallion Lakerville, and one of her owners is Janie Buss of the family that runs the famed sports franchise.
It all came together at Santa Anita in the $100,345 Surfer Girl Stakes, when Lakerball surprised five other 2-year-old fillies to win as the longest shot on the board.
The Lakers connection began with trainer Barry Abrams, a lifelong Lakers fan. Abrams bred Lakerville, a son of California superstar sire Unusual Heat, with Team Green, raced him with Madeline Auerbach, and trained the horse. Lakerville won the 2014 Clocker’s Corner Stakes and earned $318,910 before going to stud. He stands at John Harris’ Harris Farms in Coalinga.
Rancho de Los Aviadores bred Lakerball, a daughter of the Capsized mare Category Ten, and consigned her to the 2017 CaliforniaThoroughbred Breeders Association Northern California yearling sale, where she was a buy-back. Today Doug O’Neill trains Lakerball for Buss’ Purple Rein Racing, Greg Pappas’ Pappas Racing, and Clint Roberts.
Even before Buss bought into her, Lakerball was already popular through Instagram. Co-owner Clint Roberts regularly posts behind- the-scenes photos of the filly on the Lakervillesire Instagram account.
Buss serves as president of the Lakers Youth Foundation, the Lakers’ official team charity, as part of her association with the Lakers franchise. She has combined her charity work with her love of horses in Purple Rein, which donates 100% of its proceeds to charity under the slogan “giving back one stride at a time.”
“I’ve been around racehorses since I was about 7 years old,” said Buss. “My parents had a summer house in Del Mar. I used to take the little orange tram to the backstretch, and I would ask people if I could help them or see the horses.”
A year ago Buss created Purple Rein. She currently owns all or part of six horses, all trained by O’Neill. This past summer, when she discovered that O’Neill trained a filly named Lakerball, Buss jumped at the chance to buy a 25% interest.
When Lakerball runs, not only does she sport the Purple Rein silks, but O’Neill outfits her with actual purple reins, says Sharla Sanders, operations manager for the O’Neill stable.
Lakerball broke her maiden in her second start, Aug. 8 at Del Mar, to become Lakerville’s first winner. She went into the Surfer Girl after a fourth in a starter optional claimer and thus went off at 33-1 against the likes of stakes winner Summering and stakes-placed Lady Prancealot.
With Mario Gutierrez aboard, Lakerball sped to the front from her outside post and led throughout, posting fractions of :23.14 and :47.44. That gave her enough reserves to hold off the late rush of Lady Prancealot, the Cal-bred winning by a head in 1:35.23, with Summering third.
“She is one tough filly,” said Buss. “I keep looking at the race again and again. I think Mario knew what he had left in the tank. When she came down the stretch, she put on some fire.”