Californian Stakes : Precisionist Won’t Let Super Diamond Come Close Enough to Win
Super Diamond reached Precisionist’s right flank halfway through Hollywood Park’s long stretch Sunday.
Ross Fenstermaker, who trains Precisionist, said Super Diamond’s move reminded him of the way Greinton unsuccessfully tried to overtake his horse in the San Bernardino Stakes at Santa Anita in April. At the wire, Greinton missed by only a neck that day.
But Super Diamond is not Greinton, the horse who missed Sunday’s $323,400 Californian Stakes because of a career-threatening tendon injury that he suffered last week. Chris McCarron, riding Precisionist for the 26th time in the 5-year-old chestnut’s 30-race career, gave Super Diamond a shoo-fly glance.
In fact, McCarron wasn’t even sure of the identity of his pursuer until Precisionist reached the finish line. They wound up a deceptively comfortable half-length ahead of Super Diamond, winning the Californian that got away a year ago when Greinton beat them by almost three lengths and set a track record doing it.
In front of 32,004 fans, Precisionist’s time for the mile Sunday was 1:33 3/5, a second slower than Greinton a year ago, but Hollywood Park is playing slower this year and nobody in the winner’s camp was apologizing for the effort in the absence of the horse’s chief rival.
Even Eddie Gregson, who trains Super Diamond, would have been surprised had his 6-year-old gelding sustained his rally to the wire.
“We needed Herat to soften up Precisionist a little more early,” Gregson said. “At the sixteenth pole, Precisionist was asked to move and he responded. That’s the reason he’s a champion.”
Precisionist, because of sore feet, was only ready to run in the $1-million Breeders’ Cup Sprint Stakes at Aqueduct last year. He won that race, clinching the national sprint championship, but Fenstermaker and Fred Hooper, the horse’s breeder and owner, have richer ambitions this year. They would like to have Precisionist ready to run in the $3-million Breeders’ Cup Classic, at 1 miles, when it is held at Santa Anita on Nov. 1.
In earning $188,400 and increasing his career total to $2.2 million, Precisionist paid $3, $3 and $2.40 as the heavy favorite. Super Diamond, who went off at 16-1 and was a doubtful starter until Greinton was forced to the sidelines, paid $7.20 and $3.80. Skywalker, who finished 3 1/2 lengths behind Super Diamond, returned $2.80. Herat, overtaken by Precisionist on the turn for home, finished fifth in the field of seven.
The win was Precisionist’s 15th overall, his 13th in a stake and his third in four starts this year. The only loss was a sixth-place finish in the Santa Anita Handicap, won by Greinton. That was a defeat McCarron blamed on himself for a blistering workout a few days before the race, but Fenstermaker says persistent rains, which prevented him from training the horse as much as he wanted, were also a factor.
As for Sunday, Fenstermaker, like McCarron, wasn’t worried by Super Diamond’s rush from fourth place.
“We were spotting the other horse nine pounds (126 to 117),” Fenstermaker said. “And any time you’re against a horse carrying light weight, there’s a chance he might hurt you. But my horse was just loafing along. When you come to my horse, it’s hard to get by. I could see at the sixteenth pole that we still had something left.”
That left Laffit Pincay, Super Diamond’s jockey, as one of the few people in the race who thought he could win it.
“I thought I had it,” said Pincay, who has ridden eight winners in the last three days. “I thought my horse would run good, but not this good. When I asked him, he really responded. For a while, I thought he was really going by.”
Fenstermaker had given McCarron no plan--after 26 rides, the trainer figures the jockey knows best--so when Herat broke quickly, Precisionist settled into second place going down the backstretch, about two lengths back.
That started McCarron thinking. Herat had gone to the lead in the Santa Anita Handicap and, at 157-1, almost stole the race, losing by three-fourths of a length to Greinton in the final yards.
“I didn’t want Herat to get an easy lead like he did at Santa Anita,” McCarron said. “But by the same token, I didn’t want to be out there by myself, either.”
Precisionist himself solved McCarron’s dilemma. “On the turn, he picked it up on his own,” the jockey said. “Then when I passed Herat, I tried to open up as much of a lead as I could, and have them come and catch me. I wasn’t worried about the horse that got close (Super Diamond), because I felt my horse accelerate at that point.”
The plan is to run Precisionist next in the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 20. That’s another win that eluded him last year, because Greinton was around to beat Precisionist by 1 3/4 lengths. After splitting eight races, the two horses may never meet again. Too bad for racing, but easier pickings for Precisionist.
Horse Racing Notes
Bill Shoemaker will not ride in Wednesday’s English Derby at Epsom Downs, after all. Shoemaker said that his probable mount, Faraway Dancer, suffered a minor training injury over the weekend and now only has a 50-50 chance to run. “It’s too far to go under the circumstances,” Shoemaker said. . . . Chris McCarron will ride Bold Arrangement in the English Derby. . . . Hollywood Park’s crowd was about 9,000 less than what watched the Californian last year. . . . In another stake on Sunday’s program, Fernando Toro rode favored Park Appeal to a half-length win over Zaide in the Country Queen. John Gosden, who trains Park Appeal, said that Zabaleta came up with a bone chip after finishing far back in this year’s Kentucky Derby and will be sidelined until December. . . . Tanks Brigade, first in Sunday’s fourth race, which was for $16,000 claimers, is a former stakes horse who hadn’t won since August of 1983. The 6-year-old gelding won three stakes, including the Del Mar Derby, and earned almost $300,000 in 1983. . . . Joe Manzi, who saddled Tanks Brigade, also won the ninth race with Koshare. . . . Because of a slow workout over the weekend, undefeated Phone Trick probably won’t run again until the True North Handicap at Belmont Park on June 22. Trainer Dick Mandella had been considering Phone Trick for the Roseben Handicap this Saturday at Belmont.