The expected battle between Lord at War and Gate Dancer materialized Saturday in the $143,900 Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood Park.
However, the two heavily-bet horses were battling for last place instead of first.
In a pattern that has prevailed at Hollywood since the season began, the favorites fell as Innamorato, sore-footed, cheaply bought and supposedly weak of heart, stole the show. Jockey Sandy Hawley hustled the 4-year-old Blushing Groom colt to an early lead, and Innamorato was still there one mile and 1:33 2/5 later, winning the Native Diver by 1 1/2 lengths over Beldale Lear before 24,459 fans.
With the field reduced to four starters by the scratches of Nostalgia's Star and French Legionaire, Lord at War and Gate Dancer finished third and fourth, or second to last and last. Lord at War, the even-money betting choice in his last start before being sent to stud, missed second place by a head and was 2 1/2 lengths better than Gate Dancer.
Innamorato paid $29.20 and $6.80, with no show betting. In a larger field, there's no telling how high his price might have been.
Going into the race, Innamorato had earned $23,234 in a 12-race career marked by only three wins. He had been bypassed at the claiming box in his last two starts at prices of $32,000 and $57,500. His owners, Fred Duckett and Sherwood Chillingworth, had bought him in England in a two-horse package, with Matafao, for only $60,000.
If these weren't enough reasons to dismiss Innamorato as he ran against major winners Lord at War and Gate Dancer, who combined have earned $3 million, consider the winner's problem with his right front foot.
Innamorato has had a quarter crack since he arrived here from Europe late last year. Underneath the crack was an infection, which had been aggravated in his last start, a claiming-race win that was his first victory in seven American races.
At least one blacksmith and one veterinarian couldn't correct the problem. But trainer Jay Robbins said that blacksmith Albert Halliburton stepped in and patched the foot so Innamorato could run in the Native Diver.
All those up-the-track finishes--at Santa Anita this fall, Innamorato didn't beat a horse in two straight races--had Robbins just about as close as a trainer could get to quitting on a horse.
"I never gave this horse much credit," Robbins said. "I didn't think he had much heart. I remember one day I worked him a half-mile against another horse, and with a quarter of a mile to go, he was already buried."
But Robbins scratched Nostalgia's Star Saturday and ran Innamorato. The weights had something to do with the decision. With an overweight Eddie Delahoussaye, Nostalgia's Star would have carried 116 pounds, the same as Beldale Lear, a horse Robbins feared. Also, Robbins thought he had a better spot for Nostalgia's Star in the Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita on opening day next Thursday.
Innamorato was assigned only 107 pounds for the Native Diver, 18 pounds less than both Lord at War and Gate Dancer, and Hawley hasn't had trouble making 107 lately.
"You can imagine how the horse felt with Sandy on him," Chillingworth said. "The other morning, he worked at Santa Anita (in the good time of 1:11 for six furlongs) with a 135-pound exercise boy on his back."
Robbins originally had intentions of trying to steal the race, but then, after analyzing the other horses, he realized that the race had more pace than he thought.
"My instructions," Hawley said, "were to let him run out of the gate, and if he makes the lead, let him go."
Bill Shoemaker, riding Lord at War, knew the pace was slow, but he had tactical problems. "I had the inside post and I couldn't get out," Shoemaker said. "(Alex) Solis (riding Beldale Lear) had me covered up pretty well. That set it up for the winner."
Beldale Lear paid $4.20 to place. Innamorato earned $87,900, and his named should be changed to The Tin Woodman. Somewhere, he found himself a heart.
Horse Racing Notes
Drumalis scored an upset win at 9-1 Saturday in the $300,000 Bay Meadows Handicap. Ridden by Rafael Meza, Drumalis finished 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Silveyville, who was a head better than Talakeno. Barberstown ran seventh. . . . In a secondary stake on Saturday's card at Hollywood, Eddie Delahoussaye rode Sharp Ascent to a half-length victory over Affirmance. . . . Fighting Marietta's win in Saturday's third race gave the brothers Mel and Warren Stute four straight victories. Mel saddled the winner of the last race Friday, Warren won the first race Saturday, and Mel scored in the second and third. The streak ended for the Stutes in the fifth race when starters saddled by Warren and his son, Steve, failed to win. Mel Stute once saddled winners eight straight days at Hollywood. . . . Ray Sibille rode Espontaneo and More Thrust, winners of Saturday's $16.80 daily double. . . . Apprentice Corry Black's win aboard Police Pursuit gave him 13 this season and a tie for sixth place in the standings. . . . Hollywood Park's last three days of racing will include the Dahlia Handicap today and the Seabiscuit Stakes on closing day Tuesday, when admission to the grandstand is free. Santa Anita opens Thursday with the Malibu Stakes. . . . Trainer Dick Mandella said that undefeated Phone Trick will skip the Malibu and run instead in the Palos Verdes Handicap next Saturday. . . . Pancho Villa is scheduled to run in the Malibu, and Lady's Secret will probably run in the La Brea Stakes Friday. . . . Chris McCarron, who has virtually sewed up the Hollywood riding title--his 10th in the last 11 meetings--will ride today, then skip the last two days of the season. . . . Darrell McHargue, sidelined since Nov. 1 with a back injury suffered in a spill at Santa Anita, returned to the winner's circle Saturday aboard Double Deficit in the fifth race. . . . Trainer Woody Stephens will be at Hollywood today to autograph copies of his book, "I've Been Lucky." . . . Stephens' 3-year-old colt, Stephan's Odyssey, is fighting for his life after a training injury in Florida.
The California Horse Racing Board has authorized racing dates for 1986. Besides the Santa Anita meeting that ends April 21, the rest of the thoroughbred schedule calls for racing at Hollywood Park April 23-July 21, at Del Mar July 23-Sept. 10, the Los Angeles County Fair at Pomona Sept. 11-29, Oak Tree at Santa Anita Oct. 1-Nov. 3 and Hollywood Nov. 5-Dec. 24. . . . The harness and quarter-horse schedules are expanded as the result of additional days at Hollywood and Pomona. The harness dates are at Los Alamitos Feb. 4-April 19, at Pomona April 22-June 21, at Los Alamitos Aug. 11-Oct. 11 and at Pomona Nov. 4-Dec. 13. . . . A harness meeting at Sacramento is scheduled June 24-Aug. 12. . . . The quarter-horse dates are at Los Alamitos today through Jan. 14, at Los Alamitos April 25-July 5, the Orange County Fair at Los Alamitos July 7-20, at Hollywood Park July 25-Oct. 4 and at Los Alamitos Oct. 13-Dec. 20. Another quarter-horse meeting at Bay Meadows is scheduled Feb. 13-April 20. . . . Eclipse Awards for television coverage of racing in 1985 have gone to CBS and the "Racing at Oak Tree" program from Santa Anita. CBS won for its split coverage of the Travers Stakes and the Monmouth Handicap on the same day; the Oak Tree winner was a six-minute music video, shown on Channel 56 and produced by Mark Wolfson, Scott Wyskocil and Mike Williams. . . . Au Bon Marche, a locally owned colt who ran fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, is scheduled to run in the Tropical Park Derby at Calder Jan. 4. . . . Tsunami Slew, another California-based horse, will run in the McKnight Invitational at Calder Jan. 7.