Even though Bien Bien had just given owners Trudy McCaffery and John Toffan their fourth stakes victory of the Hollywood Park meeting in the $213,400 Swaps Stakes, they weren't in the mood to celebrate.
McCaffery was in tears because John Elardi's Natural Nine, the 8-5 second choice in the Grade II race, had broken down near the eighth pole and had to be destroyed.
Happy with his position just off Treekster through an extremely slow pace, Laffit Pincay pulled up on Natural Nine when he sensed something was wrong with about a quarter of a mile to run. Slowed to a gallop, the Looie Cenicola-trained 3-year-old Mogambo colt, who had been plagued by physical problems throughout his seven-race career, fractured both sesamoids and dislocated the ankle in his left front leg and sent Pincay hard to the ground.
Pincay said his left foot was sore but was otherwise OK and said he should be able to ride today. He didn't ride the final race, and trainer Bill Spawr elected to scratch morning-line favorite Kernel Chris because Spawr wasn't satisfied with the jockeys available to ride.
"I feel fine right now," Pincay said. "I jammed my foot a little bit, but it's nothing serious. I'll put some ice on it (Saturday night) and be fine (today).
"He felt fine until about the three-eighths pole. When I asked him, all of a sudden he didn't respond and I started feeling something a little funny under me. I had him galloping, but he's such a big, strong horse, that maybe the bone didn't hold. It just went."
The Swaps was the second consecutive stakes victory for Bien Bien, but his first in five starts on the dirt.
Originally, the 3-year-old Manila colt was going to run in Saturday's $300,000 American Derby at Arlington International, but his owners and trainer Paco Gonzalez decided to stay home when it looked as if the Swaps was going to come up weak.
"I think Paco really wanted to find out if Bien Bien could run on the dirt, as well as the turf, and this seemed to be the natural race to try it," McCaffery said. "We thought, 'well, if he doesn't run well on the dirt, we can always go back to the grass.' "
In winning for the third time in eight starts, all under Chris McCarron, Bien Bien didn't have to run particularly fast in beating Treekster by a length. The final time of 2:02 4/5 for the 1 1/4 miles was the second slowest in the 19-year history of the Swaps.
Treekster, who got away with 24 2/5, 49 1/5 and 1:14 fractions, was 12 lengths ahead of the maiden and 53-1 shot Sevengreenpairs. Then came Crivasik and Natural Nine.
"I didn't know if I was going to catch (Treekster) or not," McCarron said. "He didn't run well on dirt early in his career because he was a goofball then. He's just matured a great deal in the last two months. It wasn't a stellar Grade II field, so it was the time to try him on dirt again."
The $266,100 Sunset Handicap today at Hollywood Park has much in common with the majority of the races run the latter portion of the meeting, which concludes Monday.
The 1 1/2-mile turf race has a small field and doesn't present much in the way of betting opportunities.
Only five horses were entered Friday morning for the Grade II Sunset, and Algenib will be heavily favored to make it three consecutive victories since he joined trainer Ron McAnally's barn in March.
A 5-year-old son of Oak Dancer, Algenib is 4-5 on the morning line to beat Stark South, Berillon, Qathif and Seven Rivers. Away a little more than two months after trailing in the Santa Anita Handicap, Algenib won a restricted handicap at Hollywood Park on May 16, then went north to win the Golden Gate Handicap by four lengths on June 13.
He has trained well since and will again be ridden by Pincay under high weight of 122 pounds.
Looking for his 11th victory in the Sunset, Charlie Whittingham will be represented by Seven Rivers, who won an expensive claimer July 9 for his first victory since 1989; and Qathif, a troubled fourth on July 3 but suspect at the Sunset distance.
Stark South hasn't won since taking a division of the Oceanside Stakes last year at Del Mar, and Berillon won the Jim Murray Handicap in his last start, but the field made that nothing more than a glorified allowance race.
Latin American, a recent $100,000 claim by trainer Robert Marshall, is the 5-2 favorite in the $162,400 Bel Air Handicap at 1 1/16 miles. The Bel Air will be run four races after the Sunset.
Marquetry was entered by trainer Bobby Frankel on Friday morning, but he was scratched Saturday and is expected to run in the $500,000 Philip H. Iselin Handicap Aug. 8 at Monmouth Park, the next-to-last stop in the American Championship Racing Series.
In Marquetry's absence, Frankel will send out Missionary Ridge and Digression. The only other likely starter is Renegotiable. Mujaazif and Music Prospect also were entered, but both are expected to scratch. Music Prospector is scheduled to run--and is the probable favorite--in the $50,000 Vallejo Day Handicap today at Solano.
Horse Racing Notes
Co-owner Eddie Nahem said it is unlikely Bertrando, who hasn't started since finishing second to A.P. Indy in the Santa Anita Derby, will run during the Del Mar meeting, which begins Wednesday. "He's had a few workouts, but he was sore behind," Nahem said. "With any other horse we might go on, but not with him. It's possible he could come back near the end of the meeting (Del Mar concludes Sept. 16), but I doubt it." . . . Trainer Jason Mamakos had two longshot winners Saturday at Hollywood Park. Acting Out broke her maiden in the first race under Paul Atkinson at $49.20, and Adalberto Lopez teamed with Burn And Turn for a $34.80 upset in the sixth. Acting Out was one of three winners for Atkinson. . . . Apprentice jockey Laurie Gulas won the first race of her career on 5-1 shot Lord Keys in the ninth. Gulas outfinished Chris McCarron and favored Party Excitement to win by a neck. "Amazing, I just won a race from one of the most famous riders in the world," Gulas said. "This horse came into this race really nice. I worked him a couple of times before it. It feels great."