No Rabbit, but Greinton, Pincay Dog Precisionist for a Victory in Gold Cup
When trainer Charlie Whittingham announced midway through Sunday afternoon that he was scratching Lord at War from the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup, Fred Hooper, despite his 87 years, must have been tempted to do a cartwheel or two.
Hooper’s brilliant Precisionist, one of the fastest horses in the country, appeared to be left without an early challenger with Lord at War out of the race.
Indeed, that’s the way the Gold Cup developed in front of 44,985 fans at Hollywood Park. Precisionist, breaking from the outside in the six-horse field, grabbed an easy early lead in the 1-mile race and still had two lengths on Greinton, the horse to beat, halfway through the final turn.
All day long, with lesser horses running extraordinarily fast times, the horses on the lead at the top of the stretch were holding on to win.
But none of those had Greinton to contend with. The 4-year-old English-bred had blown by Precisionist in the stretch of the mile Californian Stakes for a record-breaking 2 3/4-length win two weeks ago, and he repeated that effort in the more demanding Gold Cup, giving jockey Laffit Pincay a milestone win and justifying Whittingham’s contention that he didn’t need any help from stablemate Lord at War to pick up an unprecedented seventh win in this race.
Greinton’s margin over Precisionist was 1 3/4 lengths and his time was 1:58 2/5, easily the fastest at this distance since Hollywood Park became a 1 1/8-mile oval last fall and just missing the record of 1:58 1/5 that Quack, another Whittingham runner, set in the Gold Cup in 1972.
Kings Island finished third, 1 lengths behind Precisionist and after him the order was Semillero, Forzando II and Carocrest.
Greinton, a slight second choice behind Precisionist, paid $4.40, $2.20 and $2.10. Precisionist paid $2.20 and $2.10 and Kings Island returned $2.20.
The win, Greinton’s sixth to go with four seconds in 10 starts since he began racing in the United States last November, was worth $275,000 to his owners, who bought him last year for $550,000. Whittingham, who has trained five champions but seldom with an ownership interest, owns 25% of Greinton and the rest is shared by Mary Jones Bradley of Santa Monica and Howell Wynne of Dallas.
Greinton now gives the trio a shot at the $1-million bonus that Hollywood Park offers to any horse that sweeps the Californian, the Gold Cup and the Sunset Stakes, a 1 1/2-mile grass race scheduled for the season’s closing day, July 22.
The win for Pincay boosted his lifetime purses over the $100-million mark, a plateau previously reached only by Bill Shoemaker. With Derby Dawning, Pincay also won the race after the Gold Cup, the $75,000 Codex Stakes, giving him four winners for the day and a lifetime total of $100,095,534 at the end of the day. Shoemaker’s total is $101.6 million.
“It was a superb ride,” Bradley said of Pincay’s effort with Greinton. “He never hit the horse once. This is my biggest victory. I’ve started horses five times in the Gold Cup and never won one, not even with Cougar (who ran third in 1973).”
Whittingham listed several reasons for his scratch of Lord at War, but at least one horseman in the race wasn’t surprised.
“I knew Charlie wouldn’t run that horse the day he entered him (Friday),” said Jerry Fanning, who trains Kings Island. “I wouldn’t have entered if I thought Lord at War was going to run, because I was only hoping for third, behind Greinton and Precisionist.”
Whittingham has Eastern plans for Lord at War, who ran third to Greinton and Precisionist after setting the early pace in the Californian. The 5-year-old Argentine-bred has been nominated for the Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park on July 4, when he’ll meet a handicap field that Forzando had little trouble beating in the Metropolitan last month.
“Lord at War doesn’t like the Hollywood track as well as he does the one at Santa Anita,” Whittingham said. “And I didn’t like it when I heard people saying that I needed a rabbit for Greinton to win. I wanted to win this race without the rabbit.”
Greinton carried 120 pounds, five less than Precisionist, a difference that had soured Ross Fenstermaker, Precisionist’s trainer, in recent days. After the Gold Cup, however, Fenstermaker minimized the significance of the weights and applauded Greinton’s impressive performance.
“When a horse breaks the track record by four seconds (Princess Rooney was timed in 2:02 2/5 in winning on Breeders’ Cup day last November), he’s no slouch,” Fenstermaker said. “We just got outrun and I can’t use the weights as a big excuse. Maybe the next time, they’ll give us weight.”
Chris McCarron, Precisionist’s jockey, said Lord at War’s departure had no effect on his strategy.
“I was going to let my horse run his own race whether there was a rabbit in there or not,” McCarron said. “My horse accelerated when I hit him and he didn’t get tired, it was just that the other horse outran him. I thought when we got the lead early and were running in only :46 1/5, we’d be in good shape, because there were $20,000 horses running in 45 flat today. These two horses are genuine, they’ve got a lot of class.”
Pincay was apprehensive because of Greinton’s poor start, but in the early run down the backstretch he had his colt in second place, closer than he usually is. At the top of the turn, Precisionist still led by three lengths, but Greinton began inching up.
“I knew Precisionist was going to have a decent lead, no matter what,” Pincay said. “I couldn’t worry about him and I had a lot of confidence in my horse. He’s one of the best I’ve ridden and the way he ran last time, I knew he would be good today.”
Greinton was running outside Precisionist in the stretch, Pincay content to let his mount close the gap with just a hand ride. Meantime, McCarron was flailing away on Precisionist’s flanks, four times with the right hand, then three more times from the left side.
At the furlong pole, Greinton took the lead. He carried Pincay to his sixth win in the Gold Cup, a total exceeded only by Shoemaker with seven.
Pincay, who picked up 10% of a $2-million bonus earlier this year when he rode Spend a Buck to victory in the Jersey Derby at Garden State Park, is already sniffing at that $1-million bonus that comes with capturing the Sunset.
“I know this horse will go 1 1/2 miles,” Pincay said. He’ll ride with a whip in the Sunset, but he might not need it, just like on Sunday.
Polo Champ, a 3-year-old Argentine-bred, collapsed and died of internal bleeding during the fifth race Sunday at Hollywood Park.
Jockey Greg Childs was unhurt in the incident and walked away from the track without help.
Bringing up the rear in a field of nine, Polo Champ was being pulled up in the stretch of the one-mile race when he collapsed.