Eastern Tracks Are Profitable for Californians
Recently, California trainers Eddie Gregson, John Russell, Dick Mandella, Neil Drysdale and Bobby Frankel had some of their horses in the same barn.
There would be nothing unusual about that if the venue had been Hollywood Park or Santa Anita, but this was the stakes barn at Belmont Park, almost 3,000 miles from where these conditioners usually run their thoroughbreds.
The stakes barn at Belmont is getting to be known as California East, because one West Coast horse after another has been shipped in there this season. And when they ship out, it’s frequently with a piece of the purse money that’s offered by the New York track.
New York racing is so popular with Californians that trainer Wayne Lukas now operates a year-round division there and has bought a home on Long Island, not far from Belmont. Lukas is the leading trainer at Belmont, not only winning stakes races there but also adding the Preakness at Pimlico with Tank’s Prospect and the Regret at Monmouth Park in New Jersey with Lady’s Secret.
Frankel, who has stalls at Garden State Park, sent the Irish-bred Sharannpour to Belmont from Hollywood Park, and he won two stakes, prompting Harvey Pack, a New York broadcaster, to call owner Jerry Moss’ chestnut “the best grass horse in the country.”
That superlative might be hasty, because Pack hasn’t seen the grass runners in these parts. California horses have been traveling for two reasons--there are too many tough spots locally and several cushy opportunities in the East.
Sharannpour ran for a claiming price in California. “What odds do you think he would be against horses out here?” Gregson asked. “About 8-1 or 10-1? But in New York, he’s 3-2. You’ve got to go back there when you’ve got a chance like that.”
Gregson’s Tsunami Slew ran fifth at Belmont June 1, but he thought enough of the chances of Long Mick to run him virtually right off the plane from France in the Bowling Green Handicap, which was Sharannpour’s second New York victory. Long Mick ran third, earning more than $30,000 in purse money.
Frankel still knows where the money is. Sharannpour is back in the trainer’s barn at Hollywood Park, but not for long. He’ll return to New York for Belmont’s $200,000 Sword Dancer Handicap July 27.
Trainer Charlie Whittingham has Lord at War, whom he wisely scratched from last Sunday’s Hollywood Gold Cup, cranked up to run in the $250,000 Suburban Handicap a week from today. Whittingham has already found the East mildly rewarding this year: His Fact Finder recently finished second in a division of the Vineland Handicap at Garden State Park.
In the other division, trainer Richard Cross saddled Eastland, who had trouble winning in allowance company at Hollywood, and she chalked up a 1 1/2-length victory.
It can cost a minimum of $3,000 and upwards of $20,000 to fly a horse from coast to coast, depending on stops and how many horses occupy the plane, but California horsemen think the expense is justified.
Forzando ran at Belmont and easily won the Metropolitan Handicap last month. “We did it for pedigree purposes, to establish him as a stallion,” said Sherwood Chillingworth, one of Forzando’s owners. Back home was back down-to-earth for Forzando last Sunday. Running in the Hollywood Gold Cup, he finished fifth, more than 10 lengths behind the victorious Greinton.
As though California trainers needed more encouragement to ship East, New York’s demoralized handicap division received two more setbacks in the last few days:
--Dr. Carter, sent to the Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs for what appeared to be a soft assignment, finished second to Bounding Basque.
--Track Barron, the colt jockey Angel Cordero rode instead of Spend a Buck for the latter’s $2.6-million payday in the Jersey Derby, couldn’t beat a New York-bred named Mugatea at Belmont. This is the same Mugatea who has mainly been known as a pacesetter for stablemate Slew o’ Gold.
If there is a horse in the East that frightens California challengers, it is Mom’s Command, who has run big races in the Acorn and Mother Goose at Belmont. But Fran’s Valentine, the best 3-year-old filly in the West, will take aim at Mom’s Command later in the year.
Another talented Western distaffer, the 5-year-old Adored, has been responsible for some of the small stakes fields at Hollywood, and Mitterand, one of her persistent rivals, will be airborne soon, to run in the Molly Pitcher Handicap at Monmouth July 6.
“This will be the first time I’ve started a horse in the East in years,” said Arnold Winick, one of Mitterand’s owners. “Part of it is our dissatisfaction with the weight spread we’ve been getting in the Hollywood races. But there’s no sense knocking your brains out if you can go someplace else.”
Racing Notes When Greinton tries for Hollywood Park’s $1-million bonus by running in the Sunset Stakes July 22, it’s likely that trainer Charlie Whittingham will also start Dahar and Proud Truth. . . . Trainer Laz Barrera, who usually sends the majority of his horses to Saratoga each summer, will have a large contingent at Del Mar and a smaller group in upstate New York this year. “I’ve had two operations for open-heart surgery,” Barrera said. “I’m not looking for a third.” Barrera is planning a light campaign for Adored in getting her ready for Breeders’ Cup day at Aqueduct Nov. 2--probably one more race at Hollywood Park and one start in New York. . . . All Along, who was in foal to Cure the Blues, recently delivered, meaning that she was about four months pregnant when running second to Lashkari in last November’s Breeders’ Cup Turf takes at Hollywood Park. . . . Gary Stevens ended an 0-for-52 riding slump with a win last Sunday at Hollywood. . . . At Belmont this month, Wesley Ward, last year’s Eclipse Award-winning apprentice, went 83 races without a win. . . . Mary Jones Bradley, one of the owners of Gold Cup winner Greinton, won’t supplement him into this year’s Breeders’ Cup, which would cost $360,000 if the horse ran in the $3-million race. “That would be like going to the windows and betting $360,000,” Bradley said. “And I’ve never done that before, either.” . . . On Monday at Woodbine, near Toronto, Johnny Longden will receive the Avelino Gomez Memorial Trophy, given annually to a horseman who was born or reared, or has competed in Canada. The English-born Longden moved to Canada when he was 2. A group of local jockeys--Sandy Hawley, Bill Shoemaker, Ray Sibille, Eddie Delahoussaye and Laffit Pincay--will be at Woodbine to participate in a three-race riding competition against Canadian riders.