HOLLYWOOD PARK : It’s Rare Role for Twilight Agenda: Favorite in Native Diver Handicap


One of the ways Twilight Agenda has earned $1.5 million is to sneak up on the opposition. The 5-year-old son of Devil’s Bag won’t have that advantage Sunday in the $100,000 Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood Park.

Unaccustomed to being favored, Twilight Agenda is a cinch to be the public choice in the 1 1/8-mile Native Diver, which drew only four other horses--Stalwart Charger, Defensive Play, Ibero and Cobra Classic.

Twilight Agenda, coming off a second-place finish, 1 1/4 lengths behind Black Tie Affair, in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, will carry 124 pounds, with Stalwart Charger and Ibero next in the weights at 117 apiece.

The winner in five of 10 starts since leaving Europe midway through 1990, Twilight Agenda has been favored only twice, and his only victory as a favorite came in the Budweiser Breeders’ Cup Handicap at Del Mar last September.


Twilight Agenda also won the Bel Air Handicap at Hollywood, the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar and the Meadowlands Cup, but some of his biggest paydays came on second-place finishes in rich races. He earned $200,000 for running second to Best Pal in the $1-million Pacific Classic at Del Mar and picked up $600,000 for beating everyone but Black Tie Affair in the $3-million Breeders’ Cup Classic.

In Europe, where he raced only on grass, Twilight Agenda earned about $47,000. Trainer Wayne Lukas made a permanent change for the horse from grass to dirt at Hollywood Park in late June, a switch similar to the one made by another Irish horse, In Excess, who earned $1.3 million as a dirt runner in the United States this year.

Stalwart Charger was last in the Pacific Classic, bleeding from the lungs despite being treated with Lasix. Stalwart Charger prepped for Sunday’s race with a victory in an overnight handicap at Bay Meadows on Nov. 16, his first success in nine months.

“I beat them the last time and I’ll beat them this time, too,” Ralph Neves said when he went into the hospital for open-heart surgery in late August.


For Neves, “the last time” was May 8, 1936, when a horse threw the fiery jockey against a wooden fence at Bay Meadows. The unconscious Neves was pronounced dead by a track physician, an announcement was made to the crowd and he was shipped off to a morgue.

In one of the most bizarre stories in sports, Neves left the morgue, took a taxi back to the track and wanted to ride in the last race on the card. All Neves could think about was the $500 watch that Bing Crosby had promised to the jockey with the most victories at the end of the meeting.

Neves was allowed to ride the next day, after headlines as far away as Chicago had already told of his death. And he did win the watch from Crosby.

Now, the 75-year-old Hall of Fame jockey is looking at long odds again, and a report Friday from his sister, Hazel, wasn’t good. “He only weighs 78 pounds,” she said. “He got pneumonia after the surgery, and now they’ve moved him to a rehabilitation hospital in the San Diego area. He got mad when he heard that, because he thought he was going to be discharged, and he’s been fighting the seven doctors he has. This is Ralph. He was always feisty, sometimes too much for his own good. The doctors have been saying that there’s not much they can do.”


For several years, Neves and his sister had lived in the South San Francisco house that their father built in 1922.

What if Miss Alleged wins the $500,000 Hollywood Turf Cup a week from Sunday?

The 4-year-old filly would then have to merit consideration for the female grass championship, even though that would be only her second victory of the year. Miss Alleged was winless in six starts--and 16 months--before her upset as a mutuel-field horse in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs. Miss Alleged paid $86.20 to win.

After being saddled by her regular French trainer, Pascal Francois Bary, in the Breeders’ Cup, Miss Alleged is in the care of Charlie Whittingham. Flawlessly, another horse trained by Whittingham, entered the divisional title picture last Sunday by beating two other candidates, Kostroma and Fire The Groom, in the Matriarch at Hollywood. The Maryland-based mare, Miss Josh, also will get support in the Eclipse Awards election.


To win the Turf Cup, Miss Alleged will have to beat Itsallgreektome, who clinched the male grass title last year with a victory in the Hollywood stake. Itsallgreektome was run down in the stretch of the Breeders’ Cup Turf, losing by half a length.

Whittingham announced Friday that Chris McCarron would ride Miss Alleged in the Turf Cup. French rider Alain Lequeux rode her in the Breeders’ Cup.

Horse Racing Notes

Twilight Agenda could give jockey Chris McCarron his third consecutive victory in the Native Diver. McCarron won with Ruhlmann in 1989 and Warcraft last year. . . . Off a victory in the Keeneland Futurity, Dance Floor looked dangerous for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but he was no match for Arazi and Bertrando at Churchill Downs, finishing sixth. Dance Floor returned to the same track last Sunday to win the Brown & Williamson Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and is now a candidate for the Hollywood Futurity on Dec. 22. The colt is owned by rap performer Hammer and his family.


The Jockeys’ Guild, meeting in Las Vegas next week, will discuss a possible strike because of dissatisfaction with an accident and health insurance program that costs the tracks $5 million a year. The tracks’ current agreement with the jockeys expires at the end of this month.