HOLLYWOOD PARK : Steinlen Will Try to End His Jinx
The 1 1/8-mile John Henry Handicap on the turf at Hollywood Park has not been kind to Steinlen.
Victorious in 18 of his 37 starts, the 1989 Eclipse Award winner has encountered only frustration in this Grade II race.
After being beaten by two lengths by Deputy Governor in the 1988 John Henry, Steinlen ran second again last year, finishing three-quarters of a length behind course specialist Peace.
If Steinlen is going to win Sunday’s race, he will have to hustle. He will carry high weight of 126 pounds--from six to 14 pounds more than his opposition, including talented imports Golden Pheasant, Shining Steel and Classic Fame.
Although unimpressive in his 1990 debut in the Arcadia Handicap at Santa Anita, Steinlen was an even-money favorite when he beat Bruho in the El Rincon early last month at Arcadia.
Afterward, regular rider Jose Santos thought that the 7-year-old hadn’t run his best race and would improve off the effort. But after being set to go in the Shoemaker Handicap two weeks ago, Steinlen was scratched--primarily, according to his connections, because Santos wasn’t available to ride him. Santos was involved in a spill at Aqueduct the previous Friday and decided not to come to California for the race.
Since then, Steinlen has a couple of solid workouts, including five furlongs in 1:01 2/5 last Tuesday. “He worked well, and everything’s good,” assistant trainer Jeff Lukas said.
Trainer Charlie Whittingham, who has won this race three of the last five years, will be well represented again Sunday. He trains both Golden Pheasant and Shining Steel, who are owned by Bruce McNall, owner of the Kings, and Wayne Gretzky, the Kings’ captain.
First or second in five of his six starts in Europe, Golden Pheasant was impressive in his American debut April 22 at Santa Anita. The odds-on favorite against an allowance field, he trailed early after breaking slowly but won by nearly two lengths.
Golden Pheasant won a Group II race and was second, beaten by a head, in a Group I race at St. Cloud, France, last July.
Best from off the pace, Shining Steel was strong-armed by Chris McCarron out of the gate in the Shoemaker. Initially reluctant to cooperate with his rider, the 4-year-old colt eventually settled down, then ran past Super May and Brave Capade. With McCarron deciding to ride Golden Pheasant, Robbie Davis will be back on Shining Steel.
Like Golden Pheasant, Classic Fame dominated a lesser field in his first American appearance. After running second to Sabulose early in the April 12 race, the Nijinsky II colt drew away to win what was only his sixth start.
After winning all three starts as a 2-year-old in Ireland, Classic Fame was fifth and seventh in his two races as a 3-year-old.
“He had a bad attack of colic,” trainer Gary Jones said. “They had to operate on him and they took out part of his intestine. That would probably explain his 3-year-old year. He was brilliant at 2. They had a lot of problems with his health, and it took a long time for him to heal.”
Sent to California in the hope that the warm weather would agree with him, Classic Fame arrived at Jones’ barn last December.
“He was kind of sick when he got there,” the trainer said. “We tried him on every antibiotic imaginable and were finally able to get rid of whatever bug was bothering him.
“I was quite impressed with his race; otherwise, I wouldn’t be running him against Golden Pheasant, Steinlen and those other sonofaguns. He’s good right now, and we’ll see if the ability’s there.”
Classic Fame hasn’t worked out on the Hollywood Park grass, but that doesn’t worry Jones.
“Santa Anita is a little bit more forgiving a course, but they’re probably pretty similar,” he said. “It’s not that much of a concern to me. But you never know. I thought Happy Toss (fourth as the 2-1 favorite in Thursday’s feature) would like (this course), too.”
The other John Henry entrants are Nediym, who was fourth in the Shoemaker; Hello Calder, idle since finishing fifth in the Hollywood Turf Cup last December, and Just As Lucky, runner-up in the San Jacinto Handicap on the final day of the Santa Anita meeting.
Continuing to prepare for his 1990 debut, Sunday Silence worked six furlongs in 1:12 2/5 Friday morning.
With McCarron aboard, 1989’s horse of the year was clocked in :23 4/5, :35 3/5, :47 1/5 and :59 4/5, then galloped out seven furlongs in 1:26 1/5. “He worked well,” McCarron said before departing for Maryland to ride Opening Verse in the Pimlico Special today. “He felt good and he’s doing great. I talked to Charlie (Whittingham) on the phone, and he was very happy with the move. It was about what he was looking for, and he told me the horse looks to be right on schedule.”
Sunday Silence is expected to run in either the Californian June 3 or the Hollywood Gold Cup three weeks later.
Horse Racing Notes
Eight 3-year-old fillies are scheduled to run in the $107,600 Senorita Breeders’ Cup Stakes today at Hollywood Park. Dominant Dancer, second in her first start as a 3-year-old in the Miss California Stakes at Golden Gate Fields, will make her turf debut in the mile race. Others in the lineup include For My Mom, winner of the Miss California; Nijinsky’s Lover; Brought to Mind; Bimbo; Nasers Pride; She’s A V.P., and Tasteful T.V. . . . The Pimlico Special will be simulcast between the first and second races at Hollywood Park today. . . . ABC sportscaster Al Michaels has a 2-year-old with trainer Gary Jones--Ultimate Fantasy, a son of Phone Trick, who probably won’t make his debut until Del Mar.