Mervyn LeRoy Handicap : Precisionist Wins in a Track-Record Mile

Times Staff Writer

Trainer Melvin Stute, a casual observer, called the horse awesome. The horse's own trainer, Ross Fenstermaker, said he's a freak.

But trainer Charlie Whittingham, who watched Precisionist turn Sunday's $150,000-added Mervyn LeRoy Handicap into a one-horse race, had a more salty comment.

"At a mile, that is one tough s.o.b.," Whittingham said. "There was no speed to go with him, and he just ran away.'

Precisionist, owned by Fred W. Hooper, literally did run away, sprinting the mile on dirt in 1:32 4/5, a course record. The lightning-quick effort, which returned $3.20, $2.40 and $2.20, equaled the third fastest mile on one turn, recorded by Bold Bidder at Arlington Park in 1966.

This isn't the first time the 4-year-old son of Crozier out of Excellently has been in such lofty company. Earlier this year, Precisionist became only the fifth horse in history to win the demanding three-race Strub Series at Santa Anita.

However, Precisionist's recent history had been somewhat disappointing, including a sixth-place finish in the Potrero Grande Handicap and then a close second to Whittingham's Greinton in the San Bernardino Handicap.

Sunday, Greinton, toting 121 pounds with Laffit Pincay up, was the second choice of the crowd of 35,601, who no doubt expected Fifty Six Ina Row to lock horns with Precisionist early, setting the stage for a strong finish by the French-bred son of Green Dancer.

Fifty Six Ina Row joined Precisionist up front in the five-horse field, but at the far turn Fifty Six Ina Row seemed to decide that the fast lane was a little too precarious and quickly fell back. Precisionist, ridden by Chris McCarron and carrying 126 pounds, rolled on, however, opening distance with every stride to cross the wire four lengths in front.

Greinton held off Al Mamoon for second and returned $2.40 and $2.20. Al Mamoon, ridden by Eddie Delahoussaye, paid $2.60 to show.

Fenstermaker had an explanation for Precisionist's brief loss of form in February and believes the colt is definitely back.

"We were prepping for the San Bernardino and he developed a cough," Fenstermaker said. "But even with a cold he was stone winner in the Bernardino until the weight got him in the stretch. And then he barely got beat.

"This colt is kind of a freak. He's capable of anything. He really is awesome in the mornings, too. In workouts, he'll breeze to track records. He amazes you."

Hooper, who is 87 and has seen great horses in all shapes and sizes, compares Precisionist, who has career earnings of $1.2 million, to Susan's Girl, a stakes winner of a different era. But he says he's too old to get excited.

"I made millions in the construction business when I was younger," he said. "And I'd work like crazy and spend hours trying to submit the lowest bid. And you'd live and die with it. That was when I would get excited. I don't get too worked up anymore. But this is a real nice horse, and he ran a great race today."

Stute said Precisionist was "awesome at a mile, one of the best in the country, no doubt about it."

But McCarron, who will probably draw the mount again in the June 9 Californian, a $300,000 test at a mile, wouldn't qualify the statement at all.

"This colt is awesome at any distance,' McCarron said. "He can go a mile and a quarter if he has too. This is some colt.'

Racing Notes

Precisionist's sire, the legendary Crozier, was put to sleep last week in Florida at the age of 26. . . . Dr. Fager recorded the fastest mile ever on one turn, clocked in 1:32 1/5 at Arlington Park in 1968. The fastest mile on two turns was a 1:33 1/5 by Swaps at Hollywood Park in 1956. . . . Saturday's Hollywood patrons wagered $710,665 on the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico, down from $778,225 in 1984. . . . The expected six-horse field for the Mervyn LeRoy shriveled to five after Retsina Run was withdrawn. . . . The Memorial Day weekend will provide a bonanza for turf lovers with three stakes races, highlighted by the $300,000 Hollywood Invitational next Monday. . . . Laffit Pincay rode two winners Sunday to take over the lead in the jockey standings, one win ahead of Rafael Meza. . . . There was a single Perfect Six ticket worth $219,298.40. . . . Angel broadcaster Joe Torre was in attendance Sunday, scouting some longshots.

For the Record Los Angeles Times Tuesday May 21, 1985 Home Edition Sports Part 3 Page 8 Column 2 Sports Desk 1 inches; 24 words Type of Material: Correction It was incorrectly reported in Monday's Hollywood Park story on the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap that Al Mamoon had finished third. The third-place finisher was My Habitony.
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