On a perilous afternoon marked by horses and riders going in a lot of weird directions, Temerity Prince and jockey Wesley Ward raced wide to avoid trouble Wednesday. They also won the $65,300 Hollywood Turf Championship by two lengths before 21,360 fans on the opening day of the fall season at Hollywood Park.
Before the stake, which was run on the dirt because the week's rains had saturated Hollywood's new turf course, Ward himself had been one of the jockeys separated from his mount. Near the finish of the sixth race, Inshalla, a 2-year-old filly making her first start, went down while well behind the leaders, sending Ward sprawling.
In the same race, Coded Letters clipped the heels of a filly in front of her on the turn, unseating Alex Solis. Solis was not as fortunate as the uninjured Ward. He suffered a mild concussion and bruised legs, and was sent to a nearby hospital for X-rays. The estimate was that he would miss a couple of days of action.
The day's craziness actually started in the fourth race, when the winner, Cody's Chance, was pulled up lame just past the finish line and was unable to return to the winner's circle. Running Debonair, another horse in the race, had gone lame after running about a quarter of a mile.
The six-furlong stake was reduced to five starters after 10 had entered. Having the race taken off the grass was a factor for some trainers, but Unreal Zeal was scratched because he had cut his head in a van accident on the trip from Santa Anita to Hollywood. Even if Unreal Zeal had made it to the track in one piece, he would have needed a substitute jockey, because Solis was scheduled to ride.
It was obviously not a day to be foolhardy, which may be why trainer Charlie Whittingham told Ward to take the safe, overland route with Temerity Prince, a 5-year-old who won the 22nd race of his career and his third straight in California since leaving Louisiana.
Temerity Prince wanted to go to the lead, but Ward took him back and allowed French Legionaire and favored Debonaire Junior to set the early pace. On the turn for home, Temerity Prince circled the leaders in the middle of the track and had plenty of time to wear down French Legionaire and Debonaire Junior in the 1,321-foot run to the wire.
Temerity Prince, timed in 1:11 2/5 on a track that was rated good, paid $6.40 in earning $38,300 for his owner, J.R. Querbes III, of Shreveport, La. Temerity Prince had beaten Debonaire Junior by a head last month in the Ancient Title Handicap at Santa Anita. Wednesday, Debonaire Junior finished third, a neck behind French Legionaire.
"Of the three races I've ridden him, this was his best," Ward said of Temerity Prince. "He did it so easy. I didn't have to rush him. He just moved up there all by himself."
Ward, 17, the leading apprentice in the country last year, got no indication that Inshalla was in distress prior to her collapse in the sixth race.
"She raced with her head down all the way," Ward said. "She was awful green. I guess she just got tired and might have taken a bad step."
After a couple of minutes on the ground, Inshalla got up and left the track in seemingly good condition. She had survived a day that was a lot tougher on some others.
Horse Racing Notes Attendance was about 17,000 on opening day a year ago. . . . Laffit Pincay rode three winners, two for trainer Riley Cofer. . . . Temerity Prince, who has been either first or second in his last eight starts, has lifetime earnings of $563,000. He has 22 wins, 11 seconds and 2 thirds in 48 starts. . . . Temerity Prince's owner, J.R. Querbes III, has a French-raced horse ready to run in Sunday's Hollywood Derby.