In Excess doesn't seem to have a chance to win the $500,000 Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park on Sunday. Being favored is 2 1/2 strikes against him.
The Woodward is the final stake in the 10-race American Championship Racing Series, which has surprised the skeptics, including this one, by putting together a year-long series for older horses that has been an excellent companion to the Triple Crown.
In Excess is the 8-5 favorite in the 1 1/8-mile race, which has brought together a field nearly as classy as the group that contested the Pacific Classic, race No. 8 in the series, at Del Mar a month ago.
Best Pal, a 3-year-old running against older horses for the first time, won the Del Mar race as favored Farma Way finished fifth. That has been the pattern throughout the championship series; the only favorite to win in the nine races has been Farma Way, when he won the Santa Anita Handicap in March.
Here is a rundown of the way favorites have performed in the series:
--Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park: Rhythm, at 8-5, ran eighth as Jolie's Halo won at 5-2.
--Santa Anita Handicap: Farma Way won at 9-10.
--Oaklawn Handicap at Oaklawn Park: Jolie's Halo, favored at 8-5, finished third in the slop as Festin paid $24.20 to win.
--Pimlico Special: Summer Squall, favored at 8-5 at the track where he had won the Preakness the year before, ran second, three lengths behind 6-1 Farma Way.
--Nassau County Handicap at Belmont: Farma Way, at even money, got caught in a speed duel with Jolie's Halo and Festin won again, paying $13.60.
--Hollywood Gold Cup: Marquetry, paying $56.80, held off the 7-5 Farma Way by a head at the wire.
--New England Classic at Rockingham Park: Festin was 1-2, but ran second, three lengths behind Marquetry at 3-2.
--Pacific Classic: Farma Way, the 3-2 choice, faded in the stretch as Best Pal scored a one-length victory.
--Iselin Handicap at Monmouth Park: Marquetry was the 2-1 favorite by a few dollars over Farma Way. Black Tie Affair won, paying $10.20, with Farma Way second and Marquetry fifth.
Besides the Woodward purse, $1.5 million in series bonus money will be on the line. The owner of the horse with the most points will get $750,000, with $375,000, $225,000 and $150,000 going to the next three finishers. Farma Way and Festin, who have two victories and two seconds and 40 points apiece, are both running in the Woodward. Marquetry (21) will not run; Jolie's Halo (20) will.
Here is the Woodward field, in post-position order, with jockeys and morning line odds:
Crackedbell, Jerry Bailey, 20-1; Strike The Gold, Angel Cordero Jr., 6-1; In Excess, Gary Stevens, 8-5; Jolie's Halo, Mike Smith, 6-1; Farma Way, Chris McCarron, 5-2; Killer Diller, Craig Perret, 15-1; and Festin, Eddie Delahoussaye, 4-1. Under weight-for-age conditions, Strike The Gold, the Kentucky Derby winner who is winless in four tries since then, will carry 121 pounds, five less than the other horses.
The postrace analyses of the Woodward are predictable, and fortunately there's a Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2 that will also help sort out the horse-of-the-year candidates. If In Excess wins on Sunday, his critics will say that he ducked the toughest races most of the season and caught horses worn out by running in the other races in the series. If In Excess runs well but loses, those same critics will say that his strong record is deceptive because it was compiled against second-rate opposition.
Other Breeders' Cup Classic hopefuls are running today in the $250,000 Washington Park Handicap at Arlington International. The 1 1/8-mile race brings together last year's Triple Crown winners--Unbridled from the Derby, Summer Squall from the Preakness and Go And Go from the Belmont Stakes.
All three have been overmatched by this year's handicap group, and the winner today in the six-horse field could well be Black Tie Affair, winner of the Iselin Handicap two weeks ago. Arlington's morning line has Summer Squall at 8-5 and Black Tie Affair at 2-1. Black Tie Affair and Unbridled are the high weights at 120 pounds, one more than Summer Squall and four more than Go And Go.
The 1982 Travers at Saratoga brought together the three Triple Crown winners of that year--Gato Del Sol, Aloma's Ruler and Conquistador Cielo. The winner in the five-horse field was Runaway Groom, at 12-1.
The Molson Million, for 3-year-olds, will be run Sunday at Woodbine, and the 10-horse field includes Fly So Free, Jackie Wackie, Tung Po and General Meeting.
Dolly Green, the Bel-Air oil heiress, spent millions on horses in the 1980s and raced one champion, Brave Raj, who won the Eclipse Award for best 2-year-old filly in 1986.
Green died last year, and according to George Hartstone, administrator of the Southern California Equine Foundation, she left an estate of $300 million, $1.6 million of which was designated for horse research.
"Taxes gobbled up about $90 million of Dolly's money," Hartstone said. "She left about $60 million to relatives and employees. The rest, about $150 million, was to go to charitable and worthy causes, and the foundation was supposed to get about 1 1/2% of that."
However, Hartstone said, the foundation has received only $83,000 because of a legal challenge to the Green estate.
"Everybody thought that Dolly didn't have any children," Hartstone said. "But now a woman has come forth saying that she is Dolly's daughter. We still expect to get the money Dolly wanted us to have, but the payment has been delayed because of this development."
The equine foundation would like to do more research on nuclear medicine for horses.
"Much is being done with humans in this area, but not much for horses," Hartstone said. "We've got a horse now who's been confined to his stall for six weeks. There's something wrong with him--he's off in the way he walks--but we can't find out what it is. Once we get started with this research, maybe horses like this one will be helped."
Horse Racing Notes
There will be betting on the Woodward at Fairplex Park Sunday, necessitating an early first post of noon. The Woodward will be run between the first and second races. . . . Bruce Rimbo, former marketing director at Los Alamitos, has been named president of R. D. Hubbard Enterprises, the umbrella organization responsible for the Hollywood Park president's many racing interests. Besides his investment in Hollywood, Hubbard is also involved in Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico and the Woodlands in Kansas City, Kan. Hubbard is also connected with a greyhound track in Portland, Ore., and has applied for a license to build a track in the Seattle area. Rimbo, 41, will continue to be based in Kansas City.