The family curse surrounding Hollywood Wildcat subsided for at least a day Sunday as the Florida shipper outran Fit To Lead in a stretch duel to win the $220,000 Hollywood Oaks by 1 3/4 lengths.
Hollywood Wildcat's luck had been bad enough--a broken leg as a 2-year-old and sore teeth this year--and this spring her dam, Miss Wildcatter, died from complications while in foal to Phone Trick.
Despite her name, Hollywood Wildcat was one of only two fillies in the nine-horse Oaks that had never raced at Hollywood Park, and the daughter of Kris S. came by her 16-1 odds legitimately. After winning her first four races last year, she was injured in September, and this year she had been winless in four starts. The Oaks was also the first time Hollywood Wildcat had run as far as 1 1/8 miles.
The Oaks, worth $130,400 to owners Irving and Marge Cowan of Hollywood, Fla., gave Hollywood Wildcat her first victory since she won the Sorority at Monmouth Park last August. Previously trained by Manny Tortora, the filly arrived at trainer Neil Drysdale's barn less than two weeks ago, and although he expected to try her on grass for the first time, the Oaks was too much to pass up.
"This race came up fairly light, and the filly had a nice six-furlong workout and that's when we decided to run her," Drysdale said.
Despite Drysdale's reference to a work, the last workout listed for Hollywood Wildcat in Sunday's Daily Racing Form was about seven weeks ago. Apparently Hollywood Wildcat's workout early last week was missed by the clockers.
"Maybe they missed it, maybe they didn't," Hollywood Park steward Tom Ward said. "We'll look into it further this week."
Hollywood Wildcat paid $35.20 after running the Oaks in 1:48 2/5. Fit To Lead finished 6 1/2 lengths ahead of Adorydar, who was a nose better than Passing Vice. Running fifth, beaten by almost nine lengths, was Likeable Style, the 7-10 favorite who started the day with five victories in six starts.
"No excuses," said Gary Stevens, who rode Likeable Style. "She never got comfortable with me at all, and she hit herself a few times around there. She probably wasn't comfortable with the dirt hitting her in the face."
Eddie Delahoussaye has won the Oaks three times in alternate years. His first victory came with another Drysdale filly, Gorgeous in 1989 and he won again aboard Fowda in 1991.
"Neil gave me some films to look at, and I watched her run when she was a 2-year-old," Delahoussaye said. "After I analyzed her films real well, I knew exactly what to do."
Before the race, Drysdale and Delahoussaye hadn't expected to be as close to the front as Hollywood Wildcat was.
"We thought she would be toward the back, but when she broke well, Eddie didn't want to take the chance of that other filly (Fit To Lead) stealing the race," Drysdale said.
Hollywood Wildcat passed Fit To Lead with less than a sixteenth of a mile to run. "She gave me all she had," said Chris McCarron, who rode Fit To Lead. "She didn't leave anything on the race track. She didn't bring anything back to the barn."
Hollywood Park plans to appeal a $1,000 fine that it received Sunday from the stewards, who ruled that the track violated a California Horse Racing Board rule with a "premature announcement of a potential pick-six payoff."
On June 5, shortly before the horses were loaded for the final pick-six race, track announcer Trevor Denman was directed by Hollywood Park chairman R.D. Hubbard to tell the crowd that if Momonymomonymomony won the race, the holder of a ticket on the winning combination would receive a $500,000 bonus from Hollywood in addition to the parimutuel payoff. Momonymomonymomony finished fourth.
Rick Baedeker, Hollywood Park's vice president for marketing and public relations, conceded that the track broke a rule, but objected to the fine. Baedeker, who suggested that the rule should be changed, said that Hollywood will ask for a hearing before the racing board.
"There was not a single dollar lost or any harm done," Baedeker said. "We didn't get any negative feedback about what we did from anyone. We were surprised that there would be a fine. Another association (Santa Anita) conducted a protracted negative campaign that resulted in the loss (to the state) of thousands of dollars. We feel that the stewards have acted inconsistently in fining us."
At the end of its last season, Santa Anita backed off marketing its races because if its handle had gone over the $250-million mark, a higher tax rate would have applied, costing the track and horsemen an estimated $2 million. After Santa Anita president Cliff Goodrich explained his track's rationale at a racing board meeting in May, the board took no action.
Horse Racing Notes
Jockey Kent Desormeaux is in an 0-for-21 slump. . . . Corey Nakatani rode three winners Sunday and missed a fourth victory when the stewards disqualified his mount in the last race. Nakatani's third winner, Chain of Life in the ninth race, paid $101.20 for $2 in ending a nine-race losing streak. . . . In a race that was televised for betting at Hollywood, Peteski, a first-time Lasix user, won the Queen's Plate at Woodbine by six lengths over his favored stablemate, Cheery Night. Peteski paid $8 to win at Hollywood and $10.30 at Woodbine. . . . Hollywood Wildcat will stay in California, for grass races at Del Mar. . . . Paseana, winner of the Vanity Handicap last year under 127 pounds, has been assigned high weight of 126 for next Sunday's running. . . . Sky Beauty became the eighth horse to sweep the New York triple for 3- year-old fillies with a half-length win over Future Pretense in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont Park. Sky Beauty's across-the-board prices were $2.20, $2.20 and $2.10, with $323,168 being bet on her to show and only $66,524 to win. . . . With Jose Velez Jr. riding, Delta Lady won the $50,000 Melaleuca Stakes for 2-year-old fillies on a sloppy track at Calder Race Course, running the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:05 4/5 and paying $3.60.