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THOROUGHBRED RACING / BILL CHRISTINE : Precocious 2-Year-Old Bag Proves Well-Bred Bargain

Newspaper headline writers already love the name because it fits easily into one-column widths. And if all horses were named as simply, track announcers would never trip over their tongues.

But trainer Jerry Fanning’s regard for Bag has nothing to do with the shortness of the horse’s name. Bag can run fast, and even though his career consists of only three races, he already has stamped himself as one of the leading California candidates for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2.

In an unlikely place, Bag made his stakes debut Thursday at Fairplex Park in the Barretts Juvenile at 6 1/2 furlongs. Fanning figured that Bag needed a race to prepare for the Oak Tree season at Santa Anita in October. And besides, the winner’s share of the $150,000 Barretts was $82,500.

At 1-5 odds, Bag won by 2 1/2 lengths.

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“Not a bad purse for a non-winner of two,” Fanning said.

Bag comes by his name naturally. He is a son of Devil’s Bag, one of the fastest horses of the last decade. Devil’s Bag was the champion 2-year-old colt in 1983 but was injured and unable to run in the Kentucky Derby. He lost once in a nine-race career.

Bag’s dam, Allusion, is a stakes-winning daughter of Mr. Prospector, and with that breeding, Fanning couldn’t believe that David Kruse, one of his clients, was able to buy him for $67,000 at an auction for unraced 2-year-olds in March. Kruse made his purchase at the same place Bag ran Thursday.

Bag’s color might have discouraged potential buyers. He is listed as a chestnut, but his coat is speckled in a couple of places, almost like an Appaloosa’s.

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The first time Bag ran, at Hollywood Park on July 4, he was the 2-1 favorite in a field of 10 maidens but finished ahead of only one, losing by 15 3/4 lengths.

Several days after the race, it was discovered that Bag was suffering from an entrapped epiglottis, which impairs a horse’s breathing. Frequently this condition can be corrected by a delicate operation. Alysheba won the Kentucky Derby in 1987, a couple of months after having the surgery.

“It’s not an easy operation,” Fanning said. “It works with some horses, and with others it doesn’t. One of the aftereffects is that it can bruise a horse’s throat.”

Bag hasn’t needed the surgery yet, and medication has freed the epiglottis, Fanning said.

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“We don’t want to operate on him unless we have to,” he added. “There are some veterinarians who now do the surgery with a laser, which I understand is easier, but we’re hoping that won’t be necessary.”

In Bag’s second race, at Del Mar, he ran six furlongs in a sharp 1:08 4/5 and won by 16 lengths. Fanning said that his next start will be the Sunny Slope Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 2. Headline writers everywhere hope Bag goes all the way. Horses with only three letters in their names don’t come along that often.

With Corporate Report sidelined because of a bruised foot, Best Pal, Lite Light, Olympio and Lost Mountain will head the field in Sunday’s $1-million Super Derby at Louisiana Downs. Fairplex Park will take betting on the race between the fourth and fifth races on the Pomona track’s program.

Best Pal, returning to his own division after beating older horses in the $1-million Pacific Classic at Del Mar last month, is expected to be favored. Lite Light, still considered the best 3-year-old filly in the country despite her defeat at Del Mar, will be meeting colts for the first time. The Super Derby was first run in 1980 and only one filly has competed, Blush With Pride running fifth in 1982.

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The other starters Sunday are Far Out Wadleigh, Zeeruler and Free Spirit’s Joy.

Pat Valenzuela, who rides Best Pal, will keep the mount on Strike The Gold when the slumping Kentucky Derby winner runs in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on Oct. 5.

Valenzuela did trainer Nick Zito a favor by flying into New York from California to ride Strike The Gold in the Woodward last Sunday. Zito didn’t learn until the day before the race that Angel Cordero Jr. wouldn’t be able to ride after being hospitalized because of a virus.

Cordero has resumed riding, but Zito liked the way Valenzuela handled Strike The Gold as he finished fourth in the Woodward. Earlier, Chris Antley, who won the Derby with Strike The Gold, had been replaced by Cordero. Strike The Gold is winless in five races since the Derby.

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Two California-based horses, Algenib and Miss Iron Smoke, will try to win at Belmont Park this weekend.

Algenib, second to Tight Spot in the Arlington Million, will run Sunday in the Man o’ War Stakes. Today, Miss Iron Smoke, an upset winner of the Spinaway at Saratoga, will run in the Matron.

The race of most interest to New Yorkers this weekend is today’s Ruffian Handicap, with Meadow Star trying to end a two-race losing streak. Because she is a 3-year-old, Meadow Star will carry 117 pounds, but she will need the weight advantage against Queena and Brought To Mind. Queena, who has won three in a row, will carry 120 pounds and Brought To Mind has been assigned 122.

Horse Racing Notes

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Under new legislation, Hollywood Park and Los Alamitos will begin taking bets today on the races from the Los Angeles County Fair at Fairplex Park. At night, Fairplex and Hollywood Park will offer betting on the quarter horse races from Los Alamitos and Hollywood Park and Los Alamitos also will begin taking betting on Santa Anita’s races when the Oak Tree season opens there on Oct. 2.

Owner George Bunn says that he will pay the $360,000 supplemental fee to make Farma Way eligible for the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6. Farma Way, a candidate for horse of the year, earned a $750,000 bonus for piling up the most points in the 10-race American Championship Racing Series this year.

In Excess is the favorite for horse of the year, but another horse that will be taking a shot at him in the Classic is Festin. “Horse of the year is pretty mixed up right now,” said Ron McAnally, who trains Festin. “My horse comes from out of it, and pace is very important in any race he runs, but I believe that pace won’t hold up as well for the front-runners at Churchill Downs.” Festin will be able to use Lasix, the bleeders’ medication, at Churchill. Lasix is banned in New York, and Festin bled from the lungs while running third, behind In Excess and Farma Way, in the Woodward.


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