Hollywood Derby : Spellbound’s Upset Win Lights Up Tote Board

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

On a day when the gods were restless, Thrill Show tried to restore normalcy to Hollywood Park by predictably winning the first half of Sunday’s Hollywood Derby.

But Sunday was a day when normalcy was vastly overmatched. One power failure later, Spellbound, a 3-year-old colt who travels with a pet goat, won the second division of the Derby at 87-1 and just as he crossed the finish line, lighting on the track and on the tote board went out for the second time.

Nobody, including the peevish gods, was going to accept Spellbound’s victory without a protest.

When the lights came back on, about 15 minutes later, most of the bulbs on the tote board were needed to record Spellbound’s spellbinding win, for these were his payoffs: $176.00, $42.60 and $15.20.


“It’s a fairy tale,” said Edward Brennan, the New Orleans insurance agent who bought Spellbound for $14,000 as a yearling and saw him win $147,000 in 1:46 4/5. For Hollywood Park officials, the day was a horror story. In addition to the two power failures, the first of which delayed the start of Spellbound’s Derby by about 10 minutes, a crowd of 32,394 also saw:

--A giveaway of stadium blankets that wound up as rainchecks, because the blankets were delayed by United States Customs.

--A third race that was twice delayed, first when jockey Martin Pedroza was kicked in the ribs by his mount in the paddock and had to be replaced, then when another horse unseated Darrel McHargue near the starting gate and had to be captured by the outriders.

--A ninth race in which Bill Shoemaker, thinking the race was over at the old finish line, stood up on his mount with a sixteenth of a mile to go. The difference between Sunday and 1957, besides time, was that Shoemaker still won Sunday’s race, which was worth $26,000. Twenty-nine years ago, misjudging the finish line cost Shoemaker and Gallant Man the win in the Kentucky Derby.


Shoemaker’s other win on Sunday’s program had another kind of dramatics. In a ride that trainer Charlie Whittingham said “couldn’t have been done better,” Shoemaker survived early trouble to coax Thrill Show, the 9-10 favorite, to a rallying half-length win over Air Display in the Hollywood Derby opener.

But that was just another stakes win in the 55-year-old Shoemaker’s 38-year career. What is it now, two stakes in as many days, 958 lifetime and 226 in $100,000 races?

By contrast, Ray Sibille’s win aboard Spellbound in the second division of the Derby was more like manna for a starving jockey. Sibille had won a race earlier in the day, but going into Sunday he had scored with only 2 mounts out of 36 rides and was in danger of dropping off the standings list in the track program.

Although 26 horses--13 in each division--were entered for the Derby, trainers were not looking right and left for Sibille’s services. Shafy, Sibille’s mount in the first division, was scratched, and it looked for a time as if the 34-year-old rider wouldn’t have a horse to ride in the second half, either.


“I heard that (Jose) Santos wasn’t coming out to ride Double Feint,” Sibille said. “I really wanted to ride that horse. I asked the trainer (LeRoy Jolley Jr.), I practically got down on my knees.”

It was Double Feint, with Chris Antley riding, that Sibille and Spellbound held off by a head at the wire. Sibille had never ridden Spellbound before, and apparently was hired because he was born and had grown up in Louisiana, where Brennan and his trainer, Paul Murphy, usually run their horses.

Spellbound’s was the biggest winning payoff in the 46-year history of the Derby, shattering the record of $88 that Drill Site had set in 1962. Jolley couldn’t believe Sunday’s result, not because of Spellbound’s long odds, but because Antley had told him that Double Feint rallied to win by a half-length.

“I have to see the replay before I believe it,” Jolley said as he walked off the track. The trainer had to wait longer than usual, until power was restored, before they reran the race on a monitor just outside the jockeys’ room.


Jolley saw and believed while Sibille sat on a box next to the scale in the same room. Clerk of scales Dean Scarborough, after kidding Sibille that the race had been declared no contest because of the power failure, had already told the jockey that his winning 10% share was $14,750.

“You got it,” Jolley said to Sibille. “You won it.”

“I know,” Sibille said. “Thanks. I couldn’t have done it if you hadn’t turned me down on your horse.”

Sibille’s ride was the opposite of Shoemaker’s come-from-behind win on Thrill Show. Despite breaking from the outside post, Spellbound was able to grab the rail and the lead by the time the horses reached the first turn. Thrill Show, who broke from the inside, had been crowded into the fence at that point, Shoemaker saying that he was looking at the rail from the wrong side.


But Sibille and Spellbound had no problems. “When we turned for home nobody was coming and then my horse took off,” Sibille said. “That’s when I knew we were in business. The other horse came after us near the wire, but I thought we had won it.”

Still, with the power out, Brennan and Murphy had heard what Antley had said about winning, and owner and trainer walked about 1 1/8 miles, the distance of the race, while waiting in the winner’s circle.

Then the power went on and Spellbound’s number went up. There wasn’t anything the fickle gods could do about that.

Horse Racing Notes


The power failures were attributed to a motorist hitting a utility transformer near the track. . . . Bold Arrangement made a late move to finish third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Thrill Show, in the first half of the Hollywood Derby. . . . Thrill Show, bred by John Mabee, the president of Del Mar, was purchased in late summer by Dick Duchossois, the owner of Arlington Park, for a reported $1.5 million. Duchossois owns 80% of the Northern Baby-Splendid Girl colt, with Mary Bradley and trainer Charlie Whittingham each having 10%. Thrill Show was undefeated in France at the time Duchossois bought him, and since then ran second at Longchamp and was sixth, after a bad start, in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. . . . The Shoemaker-Whittingham combination was third, almost two lengths behind Spellbound, with Bruiser in the second division of the Derby. . . . Thrill Show and Spellbound had identical times of 1:46 4/5. . . . Glow, the favorite in the second division, was in contention for three-quarters of a mile, then finished seventh in the last race of his career. . . . Martin Pedroza, shaken up after being kicked prior to the third race, returned to ride later on the card. . . . Gary Stevens, who rode four winners apiece last Wednesday and Thursday, had another four Sunday.