HOLLYWOOD PARK : Filly Hot Novel Is in Tough Again
Trainer Fabio Nor found himself between a rock and a hard race while shopping around for a place to run his fast filly, Hot Novel, this weekend. He had two choices, and neither left time for much sleep:
--Option No. 1. Ship Hot Novel 3,000 miles to run against champion sprinter Safely Kept in a $150,000 Breeders’ Cup-sponsored race at Pimlico on Saturday’s Preakness program.
--Option No. 2. Stay home and run against champion older mare Bayakoa in the $100,000 Hawthorne Handicap Saturday at Hollywood Park.
“That’s been the story of her life,” said Nor, a native of Brazil. “There’s only so many races that fit her, and so often they come up very hard. Who would have thought Bayakoa would come right back on Saturday?”
Who indeed? Nor and several other trainers were hoping to get in some open-field running while Bayakoa sat on the sidelines after two consecutive defeats.
However, Ron McAnally has been satisfied with Bayakoa’s training since she returned from Hot Springs, Ark., after being beaten by 2 3/4 lengths by Gorgeous in the April 18 Apple Blossom.
“Her work the other day was very good,” said McAnally, referring to Bayakoa’s seven-furlong exercise in 1:24 4/5 last Saturday. ‘We’ve got her on the same schedule as last year, and the one-turn mile is perfect.”
Bayakoa won the 1989 Hawthorne by 4 1/2 lengths in 1:32 4/5, which equaled the fastest mile run by a filly or mare on the main track. She must carry 125 pounds in Saturday’s race, 10 more than Hot Novel.
Weighing in at a substantial 1,160 pounds, Hot Novel has been a paragon of consistency since making her debut at Del Mar in July 1988. She won four of her first six races, including two stakes, and since then has finished worse than third only twice, in spite of her tendency to run too fast too soon.
Patient work by Nor and jockey Eddie Delahoussaye has turned Hot Novel’s sizzle into a slow burn. The trainer believes she deserves a shot in the Hawthorne, even though she has run as far as a mile only once in her 15-race career.
That race, however, was the 1989 Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park. It might have been her personal best.
“She was as good as she’s ever been in her life that day,” Nor recalled. “She came up to the Acorn perfect. So, who does she run into? Open Mind.”
Another champion. Hot Novel emptied her tank giving chase that day and settled for second, 4 1/2 lengths behind Open Mind and four lengths clear of the third horse.
After going to the barn last June with a tender knee, Hot Novel came back this season bigger, stronger and as headstrong as ever. In her last race, the A Gleam Handicap on April 28, she ran a breakneck opening half-mile in less than 44 seconds before cracking under outside pressure by Stormy but Valid, who went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths.
Hot Novel was bred by and races in the name of Joanne Nor, the wife of the trainer and an accomplished equestrienne. The Nors work side by side in running their racing stable and their Norfields breeding operation in Kentucky.
“We met at a horse show--where else?” said Joanne Nor, who was born in Dallas. “Fabio had been a member of the Brazilian Olympic equestrian team, and I was competing in some Phoenix shows after going to school at Arizona State.
“I was working a lot with quarter horses, then I just made the move to thoroughbreds. Most quarter horses are seven-eighths thoroughbred anyway, so I figured why not go to the real thing.”
Fabio Nor turned to training thoroughbreds after his amateur show-riding days ended not with an Olympic bang, but with a relative whimper that was none of his doing.
“I had qualified for the Brazilian team to go to Munich (in 1972),” said Nor, who was 18 at the time. “Then, just three weeks before we were set to leave, they pulled the money out from under us.”
Joanne Nor takes her involvement with thoroughbreds to new ecological levels. She is a passionate advocate of pesticide-free grain and hay for her horses, insisting that equine athletes should be treated no differently than their human counterparts.
“You wouldn’t ask Florence Joyner to drink a bottle of malathion before running, so why subject horses to chemically tainted food?” Joanne Nor said.
“About a year and a half ago, I was suspicious about the condition of a couple of our horses and decided to have their feed tested. They came up with two chemicals that had been banned for as long as five years.
“Now we use nothing but organically grown alfalfa, and we regularly test the grain using the toughest USDA standards. Does it help? Well, it’s only logical that a steady diet of improperly treated hay and grain can have a weakening effect on an animal over a period of time. Maybe that’s why we see so much (internal) bleeding in older horses.”
There are 14 organically fed thoroughbreds under the Nors’ care at Hollywood, almost all of them owned by Norfields.
“It’s great when you can get along so well with the owner,” Fabio Nor said with a grin. “But it can be a little hard on the pocketbook. Fortunately, we’ve got a few stakes-class fillies who can pay the way for the rest of them.”
Hollywood Park serves. Los Alamitos volleys.
In response to Hollywood’s latest push for Friday night thoroughbred racing, the group operating the quarter horse meeting at Los Alamitos is asking the California Horse Racing Board to approve five consecutive Sunday afternoon cards in June and July.
Quarter horse officials believe that they would come out on the losing end of a head-to-head Friday night battle with the thoroughbreds. But rather than fight the power, Los Alamitos will try to offset any losses with daytime programs. Currently, the quarter horses run Tuesday through Saturday nights.
In addition, questions have been raised about the mail-in ballots Hollywood Park has sent to more than 12,000 owners and trainers to gauge support for the Friday night cards. The deadline for the ballots is May 22, one day before the board is scheduled to consider the Hollywood and Los Alamitos requests.
The ballots call for a “yes” or “no” vote on the night racing proposal, with the stipulation that the “ballot must be signed to be valid.”
A number of trainers who oppose night racing are not comfortable with the lack of anonymity.
“No way I’ll vote no and then sign it,” said one trainer, whose Hollywood stable numbers about 20. “It’s hard enough getting stalls around here without making them mad at you.”
Don Robbins, Hollywood Park’s general manager, said the ballots needed to be signed to prevent any appearance of ballot-box stuffing, on either side of the issue.
“The idea of retribution for a ‘no’ vote is ludicrous,” Robbins said. “I guarantee that if the proposal is voted down, we will pull the agenda item from the racing board meeting, and that’s the last you’ll hear of it this year.
“But I also promise that we’ll bring it back next year, because night racing is something the Hollywood board of directors is absolutely committed to.”
Horse Racing Notes
Sunday Silence sailed through seven furlongs Friday morning in 1:25 2/5 under Chris McCarron to remain on schedule for the June 3 Californian. The reigning horse of the year reeled off consecutive quarters of :23 2/5, :25 and :25 before running the final furlong in :12 1/5, then galloped out the mile in 1:39 1/5. . . . Bill Shoemaker will make his competitive debut as a trainer Friday when he saddles the English filly, Star Child, in the fifth race at one mile on the turf. Eddie Delahoussaye, who won Shoemaker’s farewell race at Santa Anita last February, will ride Star Child.