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LOS ALAMITOS : Spill Doesn’t Spoil the Weekend as Freeman Rides Three Winners

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Debbie Freeman had already ridden two winners when she entered the gate for Saturday night’s ninth race aboard Courageous Venture.

The gelding was running slightly behind the leaders on the turn of the 870-yard race when he was cut off by a rival.

Courageous Venture stumbled, forcing Freeman, 31, out of the saddle to the gelding’s left. She managed to pull her right leg back over the horse’s back, but the momentum pushed her too far. She fell to the track, but clear of the trailing horses. After a few minutes on the ground, she stood and got into an ambulance for a ride back to the jockey’s room. Aside from a sore neck, she was not injured. Nor was Courageous Venture.

“I got back on, but my right foot came out of the stirrup and threw my momentum to the other side,” she said of the mishap.

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“I didn’t get stepped on, and I’m thankful for that. It was rough landing. I’m happy that (the horse) is all right and I’m all right.”

Freeman came back on Sunday and won at distances of 350 yards, 870 yards and seven furlongs, the last in a race for Arabians.

This is Freeman’s first season at Los Alamitos, after racing in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico, where she rides during the summer.

“It’s a little bit tougher here,” she said. “The races are more competitive. I sure like it, but the night racing is different.”

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Freeman was 32nd last year in money won by quarter horse jockeys with $309,261, only two spots below Tami Purcell, the leading woman. Purcell suffered a broken collarbone Saturday at Delta Downs in Louisiana and is expected to be out six weeks.

Jockey John Hoak, who died of injuries suffered in a spill Sunday at Sun Downs in Kennewick, Wash., rode at Los Alamitos in November and December. Hoak, 32, won seven consecutive riding titles at Les Bois Park in Boise, Idaho.

Hoak is the third North American jockey to die on the race track this year. Rodney Dickens, a 19-year-old apprentice, died at Sportsman’s Park in Chicago on April 7 and Lute Proctor, 22, died on June 15 at Bay Meadows in San Mateo, Calif. Proctor, who also rode at Los Alamitos, was one of the leading quarter horse jockeys of recent years.

Saturday’s $227,000 Governor’s Cup Derby has presented jockey Jim Lewis with a pleasant problem. Lewis, 34, qualified three horses in the Sept. 6 trials--two for trainer Bret Layne and one for Daryn Charlton--but decided on second-fastest qualifier My Escalon, who is trained by Layne.

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My Escalon won the Wine Country Derby in track record time this summer at Santa Rosa in Northern California, and, according to Layne, “Is his own worst enemy. He’s kind of inconsistent. He’s made $90,000, but it should be more like $190,000.

In two starts this meeting, My Escalon was seventh in the Vandy’s Flash Handicap and second to top qualifier Tolls Touch in the trials. “If he stands well and breaks, he’ll be tough,” Lewis said. “He can get a little fractious.”

In Tolls Touch, My Escalon has probably seen his toughest competition. Tolls Touch won the California Sires Cup Derby for owner Ed Lisenby and trainer Dennis Ekins in August. The 3-1 favorite that night, he beat some of the same horses he will face Saturday night.

“I think if he can run the same kind of race, he’ll be tough,” Ekins said.

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Layne also qualified Miningman and White Ice. Charlton, with Pouvoir and Sable Select, and Charles Bloomquist, with Resolutions and First Installment, each have two in the derby.

Senate Bill 944, which is await the signature of Gov. Pete Wilson, would make a noticeable change in the day-to-day operations at Los Alamitos. The bill would allow the track to be open for daytime satellite wagering on thoroughbred tracks.

Los Alamitos officials expect the bill to become law in time for the track to accept daytime wagers for the Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita beginning Oct. 2.

Los Alamitos accepted wagers for the last three weeks of the Del Mar meeting on Sundays during that period, moving the quarter horse program to 6 p.m. and giving the track eight continuous hours.

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“When we went to 6 p.m. post, people thought we were trying to rent a crowd, but they forgot it works both ways,” said Brad McKinzie, vice-president and general manager of the Horsemen’s Quarter Horse Racing Assn.

“By overlapping those races, it helped us, but it also helped Del Mar. Our percentage of the total (Del Mar) handle in the last race jumped dramatically.”

Baychaino, the 1990 champion distance horse, will make his third start of the year Thursday night in the $15,000-added Pap Stakes at 870 yards.

Baychaino drew the No. 4 post position in the five-horse field and is a leading contender along with No. 3, Shake Six--a winner of three 870-yard stakes this year, including the Aug. 9 Calyx Invitational Handicap at Los Alamitos.

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Tonight’s program is highlighted by the Ed Burke Memorial Futurity trials, which has attracted 61 2-year-olds, including some of the best in the nation.

The the fastest qualifiers from the seven trials will advance to the $300,000 final Sept. 28.

Some of the leading contenders in the 350-yard trials are Ed Grimley, who will race in the second division, the program’s fourth race. The gelding was recently second in the All-American Futurity behind Royal Quick Dash, who will be rested for the rest of the year.

Corona Chick, the Governor’s Cup Futurity winner here last month, will be a strong favorite in the sixth race, while California Sires Cup Futurity winner Rush Fora Firstdown will have the same role in the seventh race.

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Other notable contenders include IM Sizzlin (first division), second in the California Sires Cup; and Beyond Beduino, who won the 350-yard Leo Handicap on Aug. 31.


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