Silveyville's Victory Is Followed by Outcry : Whittingham Says Runner-Up Strawberry Road Is Bumped at Start

Times Staff Writer

The record shows that Sunday's $108,200 San Marcos Handicap at Santa Anita was won by Silveyville over Strawberry Road in the last sixteenth of a mile.

Talk to trainer Charlie Whittingham, though, and he'll tell you that his horse, Strawberry Road, was beaten just as he left the starting gate.

To say that Whittingham was beside himself after the San Marcos would be an understatement. When a reporter said that he hadn't seen the bumping incident, Whittingham said: "What's the matter with you guys? Don't you watch the races up there (in the press box)? Well, I guess the stewards don't, either."

The San Marcos was especially bitter for Whittingham and his jockey, Gary Stevens, who got Strawberry Road about a half-length ahead of Silveyville near the eighth pole, only to have Silveyville come back for a neck victory.

Chris McCarron, riding Silveyville for the jockey's sixth stake win of the meeting, his second in as many days and his fourth out of the last seven contested, admitted that his mount, starting from the outside in a seven-horse field, broke inward and bumped Rivlia and Strawberry Road. Rivlia, also trained by Whittingham, started from the stall inside Silveyville and Strawberry Road was inside Rivlia.

"My horse got annihilated leaving the gate," Stevens said of Strawberry Road. "The horse on the outside got knocked into me. It had to cost me six or seven lengths and kept me from being closer in the early going."

So why didn't Stevens claim foul? A fourth of the way inside the tunnel that leads from the track back to the jockeys' room, Stevens was seen leaving Whittingham and retreating to the phone to the stewards just outside the winner's circle. But the stewards had posted the "official" sign before the jockey got to the phone.

"It was too late to claim foul and it probably wouldn't have done any good, anyhow," Whittingham said. "Silveyville hit both my horses coming out of the gate. We got crucified. But they never call gate fouls here, but they do in New York. You could shoot a guy out of the saddle coming out of the gate here and it wouldn't be counted against you."

After he got straightened out, Silveyville established an easy, early lead. On the turn for home, Strawberry Road, who had been running fourth, started passing horses.

Halfway through the stretch, Strawberry Road started to pass Silveyville, and McCarron thought he was beat.

"I figured I'd get second money at that point," McCarron said. "But he kept fighting."

According to Stevens, Strawberry Road didn't quit after he got the lead. "At the eighth pole," Stevens said, "I thought he had another gear. The weight he was carrying (125 pounds, five more than Silveyville) might have been a factor. He didn't click into that other gear when I asked him."

Silveyville, an 8-year-old owned by Kjell Qvale of San Francisco, covered 1 miles in 2:00 4/5 and earned $63,200 to lift his career total to $1,183,330, moving him past the retired Flying Paster and into second place on the purse list of California-breds. Ancient Title, who was retired in 1978, heads the list with $1,252,791.

Silveyville, winning for the 18th time and the 15th time on the grass, is going back to stud at Old English Rancho in Ontario, where he got 32 mares in foal last year. Bruce Headley, his trainer, hopes to bring him back to the races in October, just as he did last fall.

"Before the race, I told Chris (McCarron) not to show the horse any mercy--he's going to greener pastures," Headley said.

Sent off as the 3-2 favorite in the crowd of 32,155, Silveyville paid $5, $2.80 and $2.80. Strawberry Road, the second choice, paid $3.20 and $3.20, and Nasib, who finished third, more than 4 1/2 lengths behind the winner, returned $4.20.

Strawberry Road, a 7-year-old Australian-bred, has won 16 races while running at home and in England, France, West Germany and Japan, but he's never won in the United States. Sunday's second place added to his frustrations here, which include losing by a neck to Pebbles in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf Stakes last November at Aqueduct.

While winning only $20,000 Sunday, Strawberry Road still increased his career figures to more than $1,520,000, which puts him in exclusive company among European runners, behind only All Along, Exceller and Dahlia. All Along, retired after crossing the Atlantic and winning Horse-of-the-Year honors in 1983, is the leader with $3 million.

For Charlie Whittingham, though, this is all scant consolation. Saddling the horse for the first time, he wanted the whole thing.

Horse Racing Notes Yashgan, the Aga Khan-bred 5-year-old who won last year's Oak Tree Invitational and this year's San Gabriel Handicap at Santa Anita, has been sold to the Irish National Stud, reportedly for $1.5 million. Yashgan was bought for an estimated $350,000 by seven Californians last June and earned more than $300,000 in the United States. Jack Liebau and Tom Capehart, two of the local men who raced the horse here, reportedly will retain lifetime breeding shares in the horse. . . . The Kjell Qvale-Bruce Headley owner-trainer team also won Sunday's sixth race with Violin Melody. Headley leads Santa Anita's trainer standings with 12 wins, three more than Charlie Whittingham. . . . Santa Anita drew 6,000 more people Sunday than it did on Super Bowl Sunday a year ago, perhaps because of a radio promotion. Mailing-list fans who picked the team leading the Super Bowl at halftime received radios. Of almost 12,400 fans who participated, about 8,400 correctly picked the Bears.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World