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Las Palmas Handicap : Annoconnor Finally Puts Together 2 Straight

<i> Times Staff Writer</i>

That broken record about Annoconnor not being able to win consistently can be filed away.

The on-again, off-again 4-year-old filly, who won the Ramona Handicap at Del Mar in her previous start, remembered how much she also liked Santa Anita Sunday, winning the $165,300 Las Palmas Handicap by 2 lengths in a wire-to-wire performance.

Goodbye Halo, who had won 7 of her last 9 starts, tried grass and Lasix, the anti-bleeder medication, for the first time and was unable to overhaul Annoconnor in the stretch. No Review, despite stumbling leaving the gate, came from next to last in the 7-horse field to take second, a half-length ahead of Goodbye Halo.

Before Sunday, Annoconnor had been a win-one, lose-one filly. She won an allowance race at Hollywood Park, then ran sixth 2 weeks later. She was a 42-1 upset winner of the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood, then ran second in the Chula Vista Handicap at Del Mar before her victory in the Ramona Sept. 11.

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Consistency may have come to Annoconnor at the opportune time. Both her assistant trainer, Rick Mettee, and her jockey, Corey Black, think she has earned consideration for the Eclipse Award for best grass female with her last two victories. The division is filled with other erratic horses such as Anka Germania, whose credentials include a victory over males.

Annoconnor, who is owned by Mort Fink and Roy Gottlieb of Chicago, is eligible for the Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5, but there is no race for distaffers on grass. Personal Ensign, who remained undefeated Sunday at Belmont Park, winning a 12th straight race, will be entered in the Distaff on dirt. It’s more likely that Annoconnor will run in Santa Anita’s $400,000 Yellow Ribbon, at 1 miles, on Nov. 7. No Review also is scheduled to run. Annoconnor’s time Sunday for 1 1/8 miles was 1:47, which made her the fastest winner of the Las Palmas since Ack’s Secret in 1981.

Annoconnor, carrying 120 pounds, the same as Goodbye Halo, is 3 for 5 on grass. She has not been favored in any of her 5 victories this year and in fact has been favored in just 1 of her 9 starts in 1988. She started the year with a 6 1/2-furlong grass victory at Santa Anita in January. On Sunday, the second choice in a crowd of 30,767, she paid $7.20, $3.60 and $2.80. No Review paid $6.20 and $3.40, and Goodbye Halo, the 8-5 favorite, paid $2.80. Annoconnor earned $97,800, leaving her just short of the half-million mark.

Black was able to place Annoconnor on the lead and she galloped around the track until it came time for the serious running at about the three-eighths pole. Goodbye Halo was second all the way, until No Review overtook her inside the 16th pole.

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As usual, trainer John Gosden was not present for the victory. Gosden, an Englishman who plans to return to his homeland at the end of the year, was in England Sunday, and Mettee took over. Gosden has missed Annoconnor’s last 4 races, having last seen her run--and win--at Hollywood Park in late May.

“She was moving so easy, I thought she went the first half-mile in :49 instead of :48,” Black said of Annoconnor. “They got to her throat latch at the five-eighths pole when the others started coming. I just had to ask her past the quarter pole when I set her down. She carried weight and she ran fast. She ran the last eighth in :11 2/5, and you can’t run much faster than that.”

Mettee talks to Gosden on the phone about race strategy, but the head trainer didn’t know how Sunday’s race was going to set up, because he was unaware that Short Sleeves, Choritzo and Jeanne Jones were scratched. Short Sleeves has sore feet.

“When this filly gets in front, she has a real will to win,” Mettee said of Annoconnor. “She used to be a bit nervous, but she’s settled down now. She went from non-winners of 3 (races) to being unplaced in a classified allowance and then--boom!--she won the Vanity and she’s been very good ever since.”

Eddie Delahoussaye was a new rider for Goodbye Halo, who has now lost two straight for the first time in her career. Overall, she’s 9 for 12.

“She ran good for a 3-year-old, but I think she’s better on the dirt,” Delahoussaye said. “She broke bad and I got shuffled back or I would have probably been on the lead. Then I just played it by ear. She did get a little tired after I moved with her.”

Goodbye Halo is scheduled to run in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

“I decided to run in this race instead of at Keeneland, because the track in Kentucky would have been very deep,” said Charlie Whittingham, Goodbye Halo’s trainer. “She didn’t handle the turns very well today.”

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The last time Goodbye Halo ran at Churchill Downs, last May, she won the Kentucky Oaks by almost 4 lengths, but she didn’t have Personal Ensign to beat then.

“There’s nothing we can do about Personal Ensign,” Whittingham said. “She’ll be there and we’ll be there, trying to beat her.”

Horse Racing Notes

Music Merci, who finished sixth as the 1-2 favorite in the Norfolk Saturday, “bled profusely” from the lungs, according to trainer Craig Lewis. As a result, Lewis is discounting the loss to Hawkster and is still considering the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs, where the 2-year- old gelding can be treated with Lasix for the bleeding problem. . . . Hawkster, who is not eligible for the Breeders’ Cup, may run in the Young America at the Meadowlands on Oct. 27. . . . Precisionst will run in the $500,000 New York Racing Assn. Mile next Saturday at Aqueduct. Chris McCarron will ride Precisionist, and Laffit Pincay will ride Forty Niner.

Bet on the Blurr, after running a quarter-mile in a blazing 21 seconds and a half in :44 2/5, hung on by a nose to win a 6-furlong allowance Sunday. Bet on the Blurr earned $17,050. In his only other start, the 2-year-old Idaho-bred colt won by 10 lengths at obscure Prescott Downs in Arizona, earning $372. Bet on the Blurr is trained by Bob Baffert, a leading quarter horse conditioner who is making the transition to thoroughbreds. . . . Olympic Prospect, a prospect for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, is entered to run Wednesday in the $75,000 Ancient Title Handicap, a 6-furlong race, at Santa Anita.


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