Saratoga's 122nd season, which opened Wednesday, will have to make do without King Glorious, the star of last Saturday's Haskell Handicap at Monmouth Park.
Immediately after King Glorious' three-length victory--and his eighth victory in nine starts--the California-bred colt's owners left open the possibility that they might ship him to Saratoga to face Easy Goer in the $1-million Travers on Aug. 19.
But after King Glorious' trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, returned to Santa Rosa, Calif., where he is running a string at the Sonoma County Fair, it was decided to skip the Travers. King Glorious was flown to California Tuesday and is now back in Hollendorfer's barn at Golden Gate Fields.
Hollendorfer said that the decision was influenced more by New York's no-medication rules than anything else. Apparently, the presence of Easy Goer, the best 3-year-old in the country, and the Travers' distance of 1 1/4 miles were not considerations. King Glorious has never run farther than 1 1/8 miles; and in that race, the Haskell, he was coming back to his pursuers through the stretch.
In all nine starts, however, King Glorious has been treated with Lasix, the brand name for a diuretic commonly given to horses who bleed from the lungs, frequently because of stress. Horses are prohibited from running on Lasix in New York.
The New York media will undoubtedly be critical of King Glorious' connections for ducking the Travers. Hollendorfer and his owners can expect to get the same criticism that Alysheba's handlers received when they campaigned the horse outside of New York.
Eventually, Jack Van Berg, Alysheba's trainer, raced the colt without Lasix in New Jersey, even though the medication is legal there. Then last year, en route to the horse-of-the-year title, Alysheba silenced his critics by winning the Woodward Handicap at Belmont Park.
Hollendorfer is already sensitive to the criticism King Glorious got in New York-area newspapers when his winning time in the Haskell was the slowest since 1978.
"It was easy, but was it glorious?" wrote Jenny Kellner in the New York Post.
"Glorious a king, but slow at finish," headlined the Newark Star-Ledger.
"It's unfair what was written," Hollendorfer said. "I don't see how anybody can question the horse's ability to run a mile and a quarter until he's actually tried to do it. Until then, he should get the benefit of the doubt. Some of the things that were written were irresponsible."
The next goal for King Glorious is the $1-million, 1 1/4-mile Super Derby at Louisiana Downs on Sept. 24. Hollendorfer said that the colt will need a prep race before then.
On Saturday, Easy Goer might make his first start since winning the Belmont Stakes, facing older horses for the first time in the $250,000 Whitney Handicap here.
The forecast is for showers Saturday. An off-track probably would cause trainer Shug McGaughey to scratch Easy Goer, who has lost twice in the mud at Churchill Downs--in last year's Breeders' Cup and in this year's Kentucky Derby.
If he runs, Easy Goer will carry 119 pounds. Theoretically, Easy Goer was rated at 126 pounds by Bruce Lombardi, Saratoga's racing secretary, but 3-year-olds are allowed seven pounds when they face older horses at this time of year.
On a fast track, five other horses are expected to start. They are the entry of Cryptoclearance (122 pounds) and Lustra (107); Forever Silver (120); Homebuilder (116), and Triteamtri (114).
Easy Goer probably will go into the Travers off workouts if he is scratched from the Whitney.
Pat Day, who will be in from Chicago to ride Easy Goer, has picked up the mount on Houston for the A Phenomenon, another stake at Saratoga on Saturday. Day replaces Angel Cordero, who has won the Saratoga riding title 12 of the last 13 years.
Cordero's mount in the A Phenomenon will be Quick Call, the 5-year-old gelding who epitomizes the theory "horses for courses."
Quick Call is a son of Quack who has won every time he has run at this month-long meeting in the last two years.
In 1987, Quick Call won one of 15 starts at other tracks, but he won all three of his races at Saratoga. In 1988, Quick Call again won all three of his races at Saratoga, but won two of 14 the rest of the year.
Sidney Watters, Quick Call's trainer, doesn't say that Saratoga's mineral waters or any other local delicacies are responsible for Quick Call's quirky record. Watters says that Quick Call always seems to be peaking at the time he reaches Saratoga, adding that the horse, winless in three tries this year,
is again rounding into form.
A colt who has obviously danced too many dances is Mercedes Won, who finished seventh in the 10-horse Haskell.
Mercedes Won burst into prominence a year ago, winning the Sanford and the Hopeful at Saratoga. Then this March, he won the Florida Derby at 15-1 after the favorite, Dixieland Brass, was injured during the race.
The Haskell was the 23rd start for Mercedes Won, his 14th this year, and his fifth outing in as many weeks. Since the Florida Derby, Mercedes Won has raced nine times, and his only two victories have been at Finger Lakes, a minor track near Rochester, N.Y.
There is coast-to-coast mediocrity in the American grass division this year, which should have European horsemen drooling when they make their annual fall invasion for the Breeders' Cup and other top turf races.
El Senor, a 5-year-old, won two major races at the recently completed Belmont Park meeting, but he isn't considered special.
America's best grass candidate might turn out to be Blushing John, who won the Hollywood Gold Cup and has established himself as a solid runner on dirt.
Horse Racing Notes
The Daily Racing Form reportedly is looking at a price increase of 50 cents, from $2.50 to $3 a copy. . . . Last year, state-wide off-track horse betting in New York produced a profit of $45 million on bets of $1.03 billion. Without the 5% surcharge on payoffs, which can amount to much more when prices are rounded off at both the track and OTB, the system's profit shrank to $15 million. OTB employs more than 2,000 people; it takes fewer than 225 to run the state lottery.
Genuine Risk, the filly who won the Kentucky Derby in 1980, has never been able to produce a foal, but she's currently in foal to Cure the Blues. . . . Coach George, who will run in a stake at Atlantic City, N.J., on Saturday, is named after George Allen. . . . Easy Goer's stablemate, Awe Inspiring, is scheduled to run Saturday in the American Derby at Arlington International Racecourse near Chicago. . . . Before her death, Liz Whitney Tippett was one of the social heavyweights of Saratoga, arriving each summer on a 70-foot yacht, The Adventurer, to watch her horses run. Tippett's widower, Cloyce (Tip) Tippett, has sold the yacht and their farm in Virginia.