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Clever Song Gives Hollypark a Fast Start : Course Record Set in Opener Before 25,662

Times Staff Writer

Clever Song, ridden by Fernando Toro, won the 44th running of the Premiere Handicap in course-record time Wednesday afternoon as Hollywood Park opened its 47th spring-summer meeting before a crowd of 25,662.

The 4-year-old colt by Clever Trick out of Garden Song covered the mile and a sixteenth on a firm turf course in a blazing 1:38 4/5. It was two seconds faster than the track record and just 4/5 of a second off the world record set by Told in the Penn National at Grantville, Pa., in September 1980.

“Did you know you could ride that fast?” Chris McCarron jokingly asked Toro as the two jockeys dismounted. McCarron finished second aboard Poly Test, while Both Ends Burning, with Laffit Pincay up, came in third.

“The way he went by horses, it looked like everybody was stopping,” Toro said afterward in the jockeys’ room. “It’s amazing. He’s not a very big horse but he’s got a long stride. His action reminds me a lot of Royal Heroine, the way he strides out.”

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Onyxly, ridden by Gary Stevens, and Vulnerability, with Rafael Meza up, did most of the early running, with Poly Test third in the seven-horse field.

Clever Song, who had stayed off the pace, moved into contention on the far turn and then left the field behind in the stretch, winning the $75,000-added race by 3 1/2 lengths.

“He sure is a nice horse to ride,” Toro said. “As soon as I asked him to go, he responded right away. The owners told me to keep him in the clear. He doesn’t like to be on the inside or between horses.”

The victory, Clever Song’s eighth in 11 grass outings and his 10th in 15 starts overall, earned $45,733 for his owners, Henry Brilliant and William Mackey of Houston and John Jones Jr. of Lexington, Ky.

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Trained by John Gosden, Clever Song went off as the favorite and paid $4.60, $3.00 and $2.40. Poly Test paid $4.20 and $2.80, while Both Ends Burning, three-quarters of a length back, paid $2.80 to show.

The Premiere was run at a mile last year but was increased to 1 1/16 miles this time. The added distance did not bother Clever Song in the least.

It was the second Premiere Handicap victory for both Toro and Gosden. The jockey had won the race aboard Sporting Goods in 1976, while the trainer’s earlier victory came with Capture Him in a division of last year’s race.

“I was very pleased with the way he ran,” Gosden said. “I might look at the ($150,000-added) John Henry Handicap for him next. But that (May 4) might be a bit close.”

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Horse Racing Notes A wire-to-wire run by Gregson gave the first race of the meeting to apprentice Corey Black, who also won the third race aboard Chucklecator and then had Kraemer bolt on him in the fifth. Black finished seventh in the jockey standings at the just-concluded Santa Anita meet with 41 victories. . . . Kentucky Derby favorite Snow Chief will leave Santa Anita on Monday and will run his final pre-Derby prep on Friday, May 2, trainer Mel Stute said. “We’ll breeze him the day before the Derby and just hold our breath,” Stute said. Snow Chief’s jockey, Alex Solis, will leave for Churchill Downs next Thursday. . . . Despite grandstand admission being free, Wednesday’s crowd came nowhere close to the track’s all-time opening-day record of 44,487 set in 1947. The handle of $4,384,757 also was lower than any of the last five years. . . . No progress was reported in talks between Hollywood Park and the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Assn. over a new contract. The sides met Wednesday morning but failed to reach an agreement. The HBPA’s call for trainers not to enter horses until a contract is signed appears to be receiving very limited support. Ten of the last spring-summer meeting’s top 11 trainers had horses running Wednesday, for example. . . . There was only one ticket with all six winners in Wednesday’s Pick Six, the winner collecting $91,388.40. . . . Trainer Ron McAnally has nominated two horses, Rich Earth and Le Solaret, for the inaugural running of the John Henry Handicap May 4. The John Henry, formerly the Century Handicap, is named in honor of thoroughbred racing’s all-time money winner who was trained by McAnally. . . . Zoffany, who has not raced since winning the Hollywood Turf Cup on Dec. 8, worked six furlongs on the main track in 1:15 4/5 Wednesday, but trainer John Gosden has yet to determine when the turf specialist will make his 1986 debut. . . . Trainer Gary Jones is pointing Turkoman, winner of the Widener and Oaklawn handicaps, for the June 1 Californian, where his opposition is likely to include Precisionist and Greinton. . . . Chris McCarron rode three winners Wednesday.


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