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Steinbrenner Seventh at Hollypark, Scratched in Minnesota

Times Staff Writer

George Steinbrenner’s New York Yankees might be playing good baseball, but on the racing front, the flamboyant sportsman has seen better weekends.

Friday, it was announced by the Minnesota Racing Commission that Steinbrenner had been denied a horse owner’s license because an illegal campaign contribution to Richard Nixon in 1972 is on his record. Saturday at Hollywood Park, Steinbrenner watched Image of Greatness, his 3-year-old colt, run seventh, 10 lengths behind the victorious Pancho Villa, in the $109,050 Silver Screen Handicap.

Steinbrenner is used to seeing Image of Greatness finish far back; the son of Secretariat has had several poor performances since he won the San Felipe Handicap at Santa Anita in March. But Steinbrenner couldn’t let his exclusion from Minnesota’s new racing program pass without a few pointed remarks.

“I only had two horses up there (at Canterbury Downs near Minneapolis), and one of them belonged to my wife,” Steinbrenner said. “It doesn’t bother me that they won’t be able to run; that’s a bush-league track and it will always be bush league. Their racing’s going to be like Custer and the Seventh Cavalry against the Indians.

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“The kind of horses that will run in Minnesota are the kind that run at Tampa Bay Downs, and I ought to know what kind they are, because Tampa Bay’s my track (Steinbrenner owns a controlling interest). Minnesota’s going to have nothing more than country-fair racing. But I’ll tell you this: There might be some horses in Minnesota that have trouble getting stall space at Tampa Bay after this.”

Steinbrenner said that Minnesota is the first state to deny him a license, adding that he was licensed in California shortly after he was fined $15,000 for the contribution to Nixon. Steinbrenner won the Hollywood Derby with Steve’s Friend in 1977.

“I’d give money tomorrow to Nixon--legally, this time--if he announced that he was running again,” Steinbrenner said. “I thought he was a great President.”

According to Steinbrenner, he had been advised by his attorneys that what he did to help Nixon was proper.

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“But there was a 57-year-old law that nobody knew about,” Steinbrenner said. “Where I got into trouble was telling my employees (in his shipbuilding business) that I’d triple whatever they raised. They raised $25,000, and I put in my $75,000. When they came to investigate, they found that I had $600,000 in my personal checking account. With that kind of money, I could have kicked in the other $25,000 if I had known it was going to get me in trouble.”

Image of Greatness was not the only 3-year-old that Steinbrenner had hopes for this year. Shortly before Eternal Prince won the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, Steinbrenner bought a minority interest in that colt for slightly less than $1 million. Steinbrenner had bred Eternal Prince before originally selling him as a 2-year-old for $17,500.

Eternal Prince ran 12th out of 13 horses in the Kentucky Derby, finished third in the Preakness and was next-to-last in the Belmont.

“I didn’t want to run him in the Belmont,” Steinbrenner said. “But Brian Hurst (the controlling partner in the colt) wanted to run, so what could I do? I told Brian that the horse would finish last, and the only reason he didn’t was because (trainer) Wayne Lukas’ horse (Tank’s Prospect) broke down.”

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Lukas, who trains Image of Greatness, also saddles Pancho Villa, and that son of Secretariat gave the country’s leading conditioner his first significant stakes win of the Hollywood season. Lukas had won the B. Thoughtful Stakes Friday with Le Slew.

Pancho Villa, part of Lukas’ bulging New York division, had been shipped in from Belmont Park for the Silver Screen, and he responded with his first stakes win since the March 23 Bay Shore at Aqueduct, a race that represents the last loss for Kentucky Derby winner Spend a Buck.

Pancho Villa, running as an entry with Image of Greatness, paid $9 to win, covering the mile in 1:33 4/5 and finishing a half-length ahead of Proudest Doon, who led until the turn for home. Pancho Villa earned $64,050 and increased his career purses to $250,578 for Lukas and Bob French, who bought him as a yearling for $1.8 million.

Laffit Pincay rode Pancho Villa, marking the jockey’s 11th stakes win of the meeting. Pincay made it No. 12 with Love Smitten in the next race, the It’s in the Air Stakes.

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Today, Pincay is scheduled to ride Adored in the $100,000 Beverly Hills Handicap, but there is reason to believe that trainer Laz Barrera might scratch the 5-year-old daughter of Seattle Slew. Adored has run on the grass only once in her life, and also entered in the Beverly Hills is Estrapade, a turf specialist who won the Gamely Handicap in her last start.

Barrera seemed to be leaning toward scratching Adored late Saturday, for his long-range plan for the horse is on dirt. If she runs today, it would mean having to switch her back to the main course again.

Horse Racing Notes

By Wayne Lukas’ count, the Silver Screen was his stable’s 31st stakes win of the year. . . . Turkoman, the favorite in the Silver Screen, had poor early position and rallied to finish fourth. . . . George Steinbrenner said that Eternal Prince is getting a rest at Saratoga and would be running strictly in sprints the rest of the year. . . . John Mabee, a member of the four-man committee that will recommend whether the Breeders’ Cup goes to Hollywood Park or Santa Anita in 1986, said that a meeting is likely before a full board meeting of the Breeders’ Cup on July 24. . . . Alexis Solis, a leading rider on the Florida circuit, will begin riding at Hollywood Wednesday. . . . John Henry, continuing to train for his first start this year, worked a mile on the main track Saturday in 1:38 3/5.

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