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LOS ALAMITOS : Romantic Music Overcomes Trouble to Win Sires Stakes

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Doug and Eaurette Odney have long raced thoroughbreds and quarter horses at Southland tracks, but it’s their standardbred stable that’s taking them to the winner’s circle these days.

Although the Granada Hills couple still has a few thoroughbreds under the care of trainer Caesar Dominguez at Hollywood Park and once had a quarter horse that raced at Los Alamitos, the Odneys are paying most of their attention to the standardbreds, some of whom they own in partnership.

The Odneys own Romantic Music, a 3-year-old filly pacer, who overcame numerous obstacles to win the $15,000 California Sires Stakes on Friday. It was the filly’s first victory since she raced at Sacramento last June, when she won four of six starts. She was sidelined, however, because of a knee injury.

After surgery last summer, Ross Croghan, who trains the filly, told the Odneys she had a 70% chance of returning to racing. Romantic Music came back on March 19, finishing a fast-closing second during a qualifying leg for the stake.

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Friday’s start was only her second of the year. Not only was it the fastest mile of her career, but she won despite a poor post position.

“This is the biggest thrill we’ve had in racing,” Doug Odney said. “I couldn’t believe it, and I don’t think Ross could believe it, either. I thought the (fractional) times were too fast. If she can beat them from the (No. 9 post position), then she’ll be all right.”

Romantic Music, driven by Steve Warrington, started the farthest from the rail. Warrington sent the filly into the lead after the first quarter-mile and never relinquished it, holding off challenges by Nuevo Yank and Sinali.

He also had to deal with a 20-m.p.h. headwind down the backstretch and a fast half-mile time of :56 1/5 seconds. The final time of 1:57 2/5 was the fastest of her eight-race career.

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“She was a tired filly,” Warrington said. “The 9 hole was bad. You have to give her credit and give Ross credit--that was a brutal mile for her. I hate to race that hard in her second start back, but I didn’t have any choice.”

The Odneys bought Romantic Music at a 1991 yearling sale for $19,000 on the advice of Croghan, who at the time was also driving. Croghan was impressed with Romantic Music’s family, having raced three of her siblings, including Quiet As A Mouse and Fairy Godmother, both multiple stakes winners.

Croghan said Romantic Music will be given this week off and will start April 9 in a qualifying leg for the spring season’s final Sires Stakes on April 23.

Romantic Music made her debut last June and won four consecutive races, including three stakes, but didn’t race after July. Her injury coincided with two other racing misfortunes for the Odneys--the injury of Rockhopper and the death of Happy Time Boy, both of whom raced at Sacramento.

The Odneys no longer campaign quarter horses, but are still active with their thoroughbreds. They owned a 6-year-old gelding named Indian Legend until Saturday, when he was claimed for $10,000 out of the first race at Santa Anita. They also have four 2-year-olds in training at Hollywood Park with Dominguez.

Saturday night at Los Alamitos, the Odneys were second in an open handicap with Life’s A Gamble, a 3-year-old colt owned in partnership with Croghan, Don Gressman and Michael Schwartz. Life’s A Gamble has won four of seven starts this year.

On March 13, Life’s A Gamble won a conditioned race in 1:54 3/5, the fastest time by a 3-year-old colt on a five-eighths-mile track in the United States this year.

Croghan said Life’s A Gamble will be pointed toward stakes at Lexington, Ky., and Detroit this summer.

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Warrington also drove Cal-Aurium to victory in Thursday’s $15,000 Sires Stakes for 3-year-old trotting colts. Cal-Aurium, who won six of nine starts in 1992, has two victories in seven starts this year.

By contrast, Eggwhite, a 3-year-old trotting filly, has been almost unbeatable. She won the 13th race of her 16-race career Thursday, earning her third stake of the year despite a rainstorm and a sloppy track. The time of 2:08 3/5 was her slowest of the year.

“She doesn’t like the mud, so I was scared when it started raining,” driver Frank Sherren said. “She seems to have to work harder (in the rain).”

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Pip’s Fonzo extended his winning streak to five races with an easy victory in Friday’s $15,000 Sires Stakes for 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings. Owner Gary Budahn said the colt will take this week off before returning on April 9.

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The California Harness Racing Assn. received permission from the California Horse Racing Board Friday to begin simulcasting two races nightly from the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J.

The CHRA is leasing Los Alamitos this spring. Association officials had hoped to simulcast six races from the Meadowlands before the live program, but ran into resistance from track co-owner Edward Allred. He heads the Horsemen’s Quarter Horse Racing Assn., which conducts quarter horse racing at Los Alamitos.

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“We talked to (Allred on March 23) and came to the agreement of two races,” said Perry De Luna, secretary-treasurer of the CHRA. “For now, two is fine.”

The simulcast races will start tonight at 7:10 and will be in addition to the usual number of live races. Thirteen races will be offered Wednesday and Thursday and 15 Friday and Saturday. De Luna estimated that the simulcasting will increase the mutuel handle by $50,000 to $75,000.

The added revenue will be split among the horsemen, the CHRA and the state. For the CHRA, it could be the difference between making or losing money at this meeting.

“It’s too early to tell (if we’ll make money),” De Luna said. “It’ll depend on the last 30 days.”


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