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Horse Racing / Bill Christine : Merv Griffin Buys Hollywood Park Stock

At Hollywood Park’s annual shareholders’ meeting last November, a small investor found it unusual that Merv Griffin would be on the track’s board of directors and yet not own any stock.

“Mr. Griffin, when are you going to buy some stock?” she asked.

Griffin has always been good on his feet, whether in front of fidgety shareholders or a national television audience.

“Have you got any on you?” he asked. The resulting laughter defused a potentially nettlesome matter.

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Recently, Griffin did more than joke about his interest in the financially troubled track. He reportedly bought about $800,000 in stock from Marje Everett, Hollywood Park’s largest shareholder and its beleaguered board chairman and chief executive officer.

Griffin and three others on Hollywood Park’s 10-member board combined to buy more than $3 million of Everett’s stock. Those who increased their holdings were Marvin Davis, Dan W. Lufkin and Aaron Spelling.

All are allies of Everett, who appears to be circling the wagons to meet a power play from Tom Gamel, the dissatisfied Hollywood Park shareholder who recently increased his investment in the track to more than $4.5 million. Gamel has asked for Everett’s resignation.

Asked what this stock shift will do to his plans for wholesale changes at Hollywood Park, Gamel said: “It might help. There are some board members who are more capable of changing their minds than Mrs. Everett is.”

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Chris McCarron is the only new name on the jockeys’ ballot in this year’s Hall of Fame election. Holdovers from last year, when Angel Cordero was elected, are Don Brumfield, Sandy Hawley, Jacinto Vasquez and Jorge Velasquez.

Trainers on this year’s ballot are Dale Baird, Jimmy Conway Jim Maloney, Jonathan Sheppard, and Mesh Tenney.

Modern horses being considered by about 100 voters are Alydar, Arts and Letters, Bald Eagle, Bimelech and Riva Ridge in the male category and Affectionately, Big Brush, Bold n’ Determined, Bowl of Flowers and Vagrancy among the females.

In the pre-1930 category, the nominees are Harry Bassett, Black Gold, Crusader, Fitz Herbert and Mollie McCarty.

In 1982, The Times’ Triple Crown Ratings were just about the only national poll in existence that evaluated the country’s best 3-year-olds.

Now, there are numerous polls. The Louisville Courier-Journal has one, as do the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, USA Today and Triple Crown Productions.

These polls may cancel each other out, because many of the same turf writers vote in them. The Times’ poll uses racing secretaries rather than writers. There apparently is no poll using trainers, but trainer Wayne Lukas thinks that would be a good idea.

Would a group of trainers, assessing each others’ horses, be any more biased than the coaches who vote in the collegiate football and basketball polls?

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Lukas does not believe so.

On Route Sixtysix, the 3-year-old pacing filly, continues to win races after being saved from a Texas slaughterhouse by Mel and Sue Boyce of Hacienda Heights.

On Route Sixtysix recently registered her third victory in six starts at Los Alamitos. Three years ago, the Boyces intervened after Fern’s Baby had been shipped to a slaughterhouse while in foal with On Route Sixtysix. They thought of a natural name for the filly, who was foaled during a water stop off Route 66 in Kingman, Ariz., en route back to California.

Sue Boyce, 38, has driven On Route Sixtysix in all of her races.

Horse Racing Notes

Hollywood Park’s Marje Everett, hopping on the bandwagon trying to replace Truesdail Laboratories as California racing’s drug-testing facility, said recently that Truesdail “couldn’t find an elephant in the snow.” Everett used the same line years ago to characterize the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, which currently supplies security at Santa Anita and Del Mar, but not Hollywood Park.

Trainer Charlie Whittingham, who has won the Santa Barbara Handicap six times and the San Bernardino Handicap nine times, has two horses running in each race this weekend at Santa Anita. On Saturday, in the $200,000 Santa Barbara at 1 1/4 miles on the grass for fillies and mares, Whittingham will start Galunpe and Delighter. His entrants in Sunday’s $300,000 San Bernardino, at 1 1/8 miles on dirt for 4-year-olds and up, are Lively One and Ruhlmann. The latter broke the track record for a mile earlier in the meeting. Annoconnor and Delighter carry top weight of 121 pounds apiece Saturday, and Lively One, with 120 pounds, is Sunday’s high weight.

With Laffit Pincay committed to Houston, Eddie Delahoussaye will take over aboard Flying Continental and Chris McCarron will ride Hawkster in the Santa Anita Derby a week from Saturday. . . . Double Quick, a disappointment in the Remington Derby, runs Saturday in the Rebel Handicap at Oaklawn Park. . . . Imaginary Lady, winner of the Santa Anita Oaks, also is headed for Oaklawn. . . . Winning Colors, winner of last year’s Kentucky Derby and unraced since her second-place finish to Personal Ensign in the Breeders’ Cup, is at Hollywood Park and about a month away from a start.

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Gene, the $150 bargain who won 16 races last year, more than any horse in the country, has been sidelined indefinitely in Florida with a leg injury. . . . Martial Law, winner of the Santa Anita Handicap, is expected to run next in the $400,000 Oaklawn Handicap April 15 and the $700,000 Pimlico Special May 13. . . . Notable matings this breeding season include Very Subtle with Snow Chief and Top Corsage with Alysheba. . . . Arlington Park has been renamed Arlington International Racecourse. . . . Kauai King, winner of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness in 1966 and fourth in the Belmont after leading with a quarter-mile to run, died at age 26 in Japan.

Rick Baedeker, local telecaster, handicapper and newsletter editor, has become the track announcer and director of marketing for The Woodlands, a new complex that will race horses and greyhounds in Kansas City, Kan. . . . Doyle Rice, the owner of Elaina Rae, the second-place finisher in the 1987 $2-million All-American Futurity for quarter horses, has filed a $4.6-million lawsuit against the owner and trainer of Elans Special, who won the race. About four months after the race, the New Mexico Racing Commission, responding to a test of Elans Special’s frozen post-race urine sample, ruled that the horse ran with an illegal medication, but did not disqualify the winner or order a redistribution of the purse. Elans Special’s trainer, John Buchanan, later was suspended by the commission.


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