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Weekend Racing at Santa Anita : Momentus Is Battling Momentum

Times Staff Writer

Miraculous, a 4-year-old filly, is running Sunday in the $150,000 La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita. By rights, that name should belong to Momentus, a 3-year-old colt running today in his first start since a bizarre and grisly accident at a Chicago track 4 1/2 months ago.

Momentus, one of 10 facing Hollywood Futurity winner Temperate Sil in today’s $75,000 San Vicente Stakes, appeared to be an easy winner in the Hawthorne Juvenile last Sept. 27, leading by about five lengths with an eighth of a mile to go.

Jockey Alex Solis had Momentus running well away from the rail--about 15 to 20 feet--because it had rained at Hawthorne the day before and horses were not grabbing the surface on the inside.

Suddenly, Momentus made a left-hand turn and headed for the fence. Dumping Solis, he cleared the rail with what his trainer, Wally Dollase, describes as an equine version of the Fosbury Flop.

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And Momentus still hadn’t lost his momentum. He ran head-on into the wooden eighth pole, shearing it in half, and then skidded into a mud bog in the infield. Momentus quickly got to his feet despite all that, but at least the quagmire prevented him from continuing.

A day later, Solis was in the office at trainer Charlie Whittingham’s barn at Santa Anita, getting kidded by the stable crew for not having shown up to work a few horses the day before. Then Solis described what had happened to him and Momentus at Hawthorne and told how stiff he felt. The jockey didn’t need a written excuse.

Momentus was a mess. He broke four ribs and part of one was removed because the bone was cracked in half. He had slid across a beam that supported the eighth pole and there was an eight-inch gash in his right front shin.

James Hume, a Chicago veterinarian, patched him up. Because Momentus was in shock, he could be given only a mild sedative while Hume worked on him. “His tolerance for pain was unreal,” Hume said.

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Momentus was brought back to Dollase’s barn at Hollywood Park. “He was never lame and I didn’t want to take the chance of sending him to the farm,” the trainer said. “He’s such a boisterous horse, so aggressive, that I was afraid he might reopen the wound if he went there.”

Eddie Arroyo, the former jockey who now works as a steward at Chicago tracks, feels that Momentus reacted to Solis’ whip, which had been switched from the left to the right hand. Dollase says that the sight of the starting gate, which was resting length-wise, parallel to the outside rail and just opposite the eighth pole, could have spooked his colt.

“The gate crew was standing on the gate,” Dollase said. “And the tractor that pulls it may have been going, with smoke coming out.”

The Hawthorne Juvenile was a $124,500 race and Momentus’ owners--Dollase, Sherwood Chillingworth, Fred Duckett and Verne Winchell own equal shares--at first considered a suit against the track.

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“They told me they’ve been putting that gate in the same place for more than 30 years,” Dollase said. “I have a hunch they’ll move it, maybe pulling it down past the finish line. But I don’t think they’ll do it right away. They’ll probably wait a year, because otherwise it would look too obvious.”

Dollase picked Momentus out of an auction for unraced 2-year-olds at Hollywood Park, paying $105,000. In the colt’s only start before Hawthorne, he won the Rancho Santa Fe Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths at Del Mar, running six furlongs in an excellent 1:09 3/5.

“I’m just lucky to have him back,” Dollase said. “Solis and (Eddie) Delahoussaye, the jockeys who’ve been on him in the mornings, think that he could be a real good one. We’ve got big hopes. He seems to have forgotten what happened in Chicago. We’ve schooled him a lot in the gate, and he walks in like he owns the place.”

What are the odds on this? Momentus had his first timed workout since the accident on Dec. 14 at Hollywood Park, with Solis aboard. That afternoon, Solis was unseated in a race, breaking a leg and a thumb. Having just returned to action a week ago, Solis will ride Momentus again today.

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Dec. 14 was also the day of the Hollywood Futurity, which was the last start for Temperate Sil. The Whittingham trainee was ranked among the top five 2-year-old colts in the country by the Eclipse Awards voters and was rated among the first four by the panel of racing secretaries who assess the young horses in an exercise known as the Experimental Handicap. Eclipse champion Capote was given 126 pounds in the Experimental, followed by Temperate Sil, Gulch and Polish Navy at 123 each.

“The main thing is that it’s a race for him,” Dollase said of this tough spot for Momentus’ comeback. “Even if he gets beat, the race should help him.

“There’s bigger game down the road.”

For the San Vicente, Dollase will put blinkers on Momentus. There will be no more flanking movements at the eighth pole if he and Solis can help it.

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Horse Racing Notes

The same day Momentus was injured at Hawthorne, Wally Dollase had planned to run Sudden Dance in the Cowden, a major race for 2-year-olds at Belmont Park. Sudden Dance got a fever and was scratched. Two weeks ago, he underwent surgery for a bone chip in his knee and now he’s sidelined indefinitely. . . . Dollase had another unfortunate experience with a horse he was going to run in Chicago in 1981. Boitron, scheduled to run in the Stars and Stripes Handicap at Arlington Park and then the Arlington Million, severely injured himself on the plane from California and never raced again. After surgery, Boitron was fitted with a partial artificial leg and now stands at stud at Old English Rancho in Ontario, Calif.


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