There wasn't much to look at in the $76,800 Los Feliz Stakes Wednesday at Santa Anita.
After the scratches of Robyn Dancer and Apprised, only four 3-year-olds were left to contest the mile and, because of the coupling of Top Cash and Land Rush, there were just three betting interests for the 16,143 witnesses.
What it lacked in quantity, though, the Los Feliz made up in the most exciting finish of the meeting.
Three-fourths of the field hit the line together and, after a lengthy study of the photo, the picture showed Balla Cove and Land Rush in a dead heat, with Top Cash a nose behind.
The only horse not involved in the finish was Farma Way. Fitted with front bandages for the first time and hindered by a stumble at the start, the 4-5 favorite trailed the entire way and was beaten by eight lengths.
An impressive maiden winner in his second start at Hollywood Park and runner-up to Grand Canyon in the Hollywood Futurity, Farma Way never ran as if he would validate his short price.
"He stumbled leaving the gate, but I still wasn't worried," said jockey Ray Sibille. "He's got no excuses.
"I don't know what the hell to say. I thought he was one of the best colts I've ever been on and he still might be. I'm just dumbfounded. I thought he was much better than these horses."
Gary Stevens, who has been unlucky in close finishes in Arcadia, thought he was going to come up short again Wednesday aboard Land Rush.
"Five jumps before the wire, I thought I was going to be third," he said. "At the wire, I thought Laffit (Pincay on Balla Cove) had won it, but I'd knew I'd beaten (Top Cash).
"This colt is really improving. He was jumping all over before, but he's going to the post now knowing what it's all about. He doesn't want any part of a mile. The further he goes, the better he's going to be. He's got a great future. I like him."
Making his second start on dirt after finishing seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Balla Cove, the longshot at 5-2, didn't help himself in the final furlongs.
"Into the stretch, I tried to make him switch leads, but he wouldn't," Pincay said of the Ron McAnally-trained son of Ballad Rock. "There were some nice horses in there and he hung on pretty well."
Land Rush, the 3-2 second choice in tandem with Top Cash, gave trainer Wayne Lukas his third Los Feliz victory in the last five years and also capped a good day for his 3-year-olds. Lukas' Richard R. had won the With Pleasure Stakes at Aqueduct by eight lengths earlier.
Grass and grass alone is in Prized's immediate future.
The son of Kris S., who has been idle since his upset in the Breeders' Cup Turf, won't try the main track again until the scene shifts to Hollywood Park in the spring.
"The horse is perfectly fine," said Jeff Siegel, part of the brain trust of Clover Racing Stable, which owns the colt in partnership. "The feeling basically is the track at Santa Anita is too hard.
"It may not be too hard for some horses, but it is too hard for Prized. If we ran the horse, we'd be at a disadvantage. It's strictly a situation where we're doing what's best for the horse.
"He doesn't have to stop training. We'll just go back to the dirt with him at Hollywood Park."
Last year, Prized did win the Bradbury at Santa Anita, but went on the shelf immediately afterward, then showed his fondness for the Hollywood Park main track by surprising Sunday Silence in the Swaps.
Successful in his only start on turf last November in Florida, Prized could surface in the 1 1/2-mile San Luis Obispo Handicap on Feb. 19. The San Luis Rey at the same distance March 25 and the San Juan Capistrano April 22 are other possibilities.
"He could run in one of those races, two or all three," Siegel said.
In Prized's absence, a field of at least eight is certain for the $200,000 San Fernando Sunday. The probable favorite is Music Merci, who won the Malibu Stakes opening day and now will stretch out from seven furlongs to 1 1/8 miles.
The other likely entrants Friday morning are Flying Continental, Exploding Prospect, Opening Verse, Splurger, Exemplary Leader, Secret Slew and River Master. Live The Dream is a possibility if it rains.
Candi's Gold, who spent 1989 at stud in Kentucky, will make his first start in 17 months Saturday in the $100,000 San Carlos Handicap at seven furlongs.
Best remembered for his second-place finish behind Alysheba in the 1988 Strub, Candi's Gold was retired because of a circulation problem after a poor try in the Longacres Mile later in '88.
"It was a circulation problem caused by articular thrombosis, a blood clot in a major artery," said trainer Ed Gregson. "He stood last year at North Ridge Farm and got 30-some mares in foal. He came back to me in September.
"He hasn't changed much. He's a very happy, playful horse. We'll break him out of the gate (today) and remind him of that."
Now 6, Candi's Gold has placed in 16 of 19 outings while earning nearly $876,000 and he worked five furlongs in :58 3/5 last Saturday in preparation for the San Carlos.
Horse Racing Notes
Grand Canyon, who lost out to Rhythm in the Eclipse Award voting for top 2-year-old colt, did indeed receive more first-place votes. He had 84, two more than Rhythm. Summer Squall was next with 67.
Sandy Hawley, far and away the leading rider at Woodbine in his native Canada, will begin riding at Santa Anita next week. The 40-year-old jockey has spent the last several winters in California and his agent will be Jimmy Jones.
Goodbye Halo, the stakes-winning mare, was sold for $2.1 million earlier this week in Kentucky to Japanese businessman Yoshio Asakawa and she'll be shipped to his farm on Hokkaido. At the same sale, Sunday's Silence's dam, Wishing Well, was bought for $525,000 by a partnership headed by Houston's Stephen Way.