SANTA ANITA : Absence Simply Makes Backers of Gray Slewpy Grow Fonder

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gray Slewpy is one predictable 5-year-old.

Every time owner Ed Friendly's ridgling returns from a vacation, he wins.

Making his first start since Dec. 12, Gray Slewpy scored a five-length victory over Cardmania and six others in the $109,700 Potrero Grande Handicap at Santa Anita on Saturday.

Stalking the pace being set by longshots Apollo and Honor The Hero for the first half-mile, the 2-1 second choice took over early in the stretch under Kent Desormeaux. He was timed in 1:14 4/5 for the 6 1/2 furlongs.

This was the eighth victory in 15 starts for Gray Slewpy and his sixth in seven starts at Santa Anita.

"He loves this type of track and he had worked on it before and done very well," trainer Dan Hendricks said. "I was a little concerned about the track, but every time he needed to work, it was in good condition. (Track superintendent) Steve (Wood) did a great job with it. Everything worked out well.

"I'm not sure where we'll go next. I'm not in any hurry. We'll look at the Oaklawn race (the $150,000 Count Fleet Handicap on April 15), but nothing is definite right now."

Desormeaux, who along with Gary Stevens had returned after a 25-hour trip from Dubai, was happy to be back in time to ride Gray Slewpy.

"All you've got to do with him is not rattle his cage," he said. "He got off decent today and was in a good spot.

"He just galloped. That sure was one of the quickest rides I've had today, by about a thousand lengths."

Cardmania, the defending champion in the Potrero Grande, finished 2 1/2 lengths ahead of 17-10 favorite Star Of The Crop, who was a length better than Honor The Hero. Apollo, Regal Groom, Music Merci and Bag completed the order of finish.

"The winner just ran out of his mind," said Stevens, who rode the favorite. "We had a good trip and no excuses. He broke well, was going comfortably . . . I dropped to the inside to save some ground, and he fired when I asked him and the other horse just spurted away."

Although starting to feel the effects of jet lag, Stevens said he enjoyed his trip to Dubai, where he won three of four races in an international jockey competition.

"It was nice," he said. "It was real western. It was a like a resort, very touristy. There were a lot of water sports. I didn't know what to expect, but it was totally different than what I imagined."

The sale of Devoted Brass fell through Saturday when the 3-year-old failed to pass a veterinarian's examination for reasons that were not disclosed.

Owner Don W. Jordens had sold the San Rafael Stakes winner to David Milch for a price estimated between $800,000 and $900,000, pending examination. Such an examination is standard procedure before such a sale is final.

A Kentucky-bred son of Dixieland Band who won his first two starts in Canada before coming to California, Devoted Brass would have been trained by Darrell Vienna if the sale had been completed. Instead, he will remain with Noble Threewitt, who said the gelding will run in Saturday's $500,000 Santa Anita Derby.

Santa Anita will not make up the two cards that were canceled because of poor weather in January.

Speaking at the California Horse Racing Board meeting on Friday, Santa Anita President Cliff Goodrich cited a law that requires tracks to pay higher state taxes when a season's on-track handle exceeds $250 million. Santa Anita expects to end its season April 18 with a handle of slightly less than $250 million.

"We find ourselves in the unenviable position of not wanting the dates and not even wanting to go all out to close our meeting with a bang," Goodrich was quoted as saying.

Horse Racing Notes

Jockey Corey Nakatani won three times Saturday. . . . Barry Irwin and Jeff Siegel's Team Valor has purchased Icy Warning, a 3-year-old Caveat filly, and will ship her to Santa Anita for the $75,000 Providencia Stakes on April 7. Icy Warning has won three of four starts on grass and beat colts, including Champagne Stakes winner Sea Hero, in a Feb. 25 allowance race at Gulfstream Park.

Race The Wild Wind, a multiple-stakes winner, has been retired. The 4-year-old Sunny's Halo filly suffered a knee injury coming out of anesthesia after a recent operation to remove bone chips from an ankle. Owned by Marianne and Brandon Chase, Race The Wild Wind beat Paseana and Southern Truce in her final start, the Santa Maria Handicap on Feb. 6.

Paseana, preparing for a rematch with Southern Truce in the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 16, worked seven furlongs in 1:26 2/5 Saturday morning. . . . Never Black is the 7-5 morning line favorite for today's feature, the $80,550 Miramontes Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

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