LOS ALAMITOS : Refrigerator, Rare Form to Race Saturday
Delayed almost nine months, the long-awaited matchup between Refrigerator, the 1992 world champion quarter horse, and Rare Form, the 1992 champion 3-year-old, will finally happen Saturday in the $100,000 Los Alamitos Championship.
At stake is not only the winner’s share of $55,000, but a commanding role in the yearlong race for the world championship.
Both horses have been lightly raced this year in preparation for arduous fall campaigns. Refrigerator, the 5-year-old gelding who won the All American Futurity in 1990, has won both of his starts this year, including a victory in the World’s Championship Classic, the leading race for older horses at Ruidoso Downs. With earnings of $1,715,507, Refrigerator not only leads the active money earnings list, but is only $153,899 behind Eastex, the all-time leader with $1,869,406.
Rare Form and Refrigerator were supposed to meet in the Champion of Champions last year, but a leg injury in the trials two weeks before the finals ended Rare Form’s season.
In early July, he returned to trainer Bob Gilbert’s barn at Los Alamitos and made his first start on Sept. 4, winning a 350-yard allowance by a head. Gilbert admits that a matchup with Refrigerator is asking a lot from Rare Form in only his second start of the year.
“He came out of the allowance good, but he got a little tired going 350 so I’m a little concerned,” Gilbert said. “I’d just like to have a little more time.”
In the last three months of 1992, Rare Form, owned by Bob Moore of Norman, Okla., and ridden by Steve Treasure, won all four of his starts, including the Breeders Sophomore Classic and the California Derby, setting a Hollywood Park track record of 19.35 seconds for 400 yards in the latter.
At the time of the injury, he was the top-ranked quarter horse in the nation and was given the best chance of defeating Refrigerator in the Champion of Champions.
Without Rare Form, Refrigerator ran away from the Champion of Champions field, giving jockey Kip Didericksen a victory on his last mount.
In the World’s Championship Classic at Ruidoso Downs, Refrigerator was ridden by Bruce Pilkenton, who will ride the gelding for trainer Blane Schvaneveldt on Saturday. “I’m ready to go fast,” Pilkenton said. “The trial (in Ruidoso) was a learning experience for me and the final was more of what I expected of him.”
The two horses could meet as many as three times this fall: in the Los Alamitos Championship, in the Breeders Championship Classic on Nov. 13 and the Champion of Champions on Dec. 11. Because of his victory in last year’s Champion of Champions, Refrigerator has earned an automatic berth into this year’s race.
Four other races--the World’s Championship Classic, the Rainbow Derby at Ruidoso, the Los Alamitos Championship and the Breeders Championship Classic--also carry automatic berths. The other berths will come from trials in late November. Because Refrigerator also won the World’s Championship Classic, that position will revert to the trials. The same scenario could develop on Saturday.
“I think he’s awfully strong,” owner Jim Helzer said of Refrigerator. “He’s just training good and not having any problems at all.”
One gelding that may meet Refrigerator and Rare Form later this year is Four Forty Blast, who edged Secret Ways on Saturday to win the Governor’s Cup Derby.
The victory was his seventh in eight starts this year and strengthened his role as the leading 3-year-old in the nation.
In Saturday’s race, he wore a goggle over his right eye to protect an injury suffered in August that has since been diagnosed as a puncture wound to the cornea and a secondary fungal infection. Trainer Carlos Lopez said the eye is responding slowly and hasn’t affected his ability to race. The biggest disruption, according to Lopez, is the treatment every two hours.
“I didn’t want to make a big deal out of this eye, but it is a big deal,” co-owner James Streelman said. “For the past six weeks, he hasn’t had more than two hours of rest without someone treating his eye.”
Streelman and co-owner Denny Boer said Four Forty Blast would start again in the California Derby, which has trials on Sept. 25 and finals on Oct. 8. He’s also tentatively scheduled to start in the Breeders Championship Classic.
A Classic Dash, the All American Futurity winner, returned to California last week after winning quarter horse racing’s richest race on Labor Day.
Owned by Abigail Kawananakoa and trained by Connie Hall, A Classic Dash upset previously undefeated Treacherously in the All American Futurity and now tops the national list of 2-year-olds. As a result of his victory, A Classic Dash will probably be awarded year-end honors for champion 2-year-old and champion 2-year-old colt.
A Classic Dash’s victory helped disprove a theory that California-based horses couldn’t win the All American Futurity. Before this year, it had been nine years--Eastex in 1984--since a 2-year-old from California had won the race.
Hall said A Classic Dash will undergo arthroscopic ankle surgery this week to remove a bone chip and will not start again this year.
In 1993, A Classic Dash won seven of eight starts and earned $1,078,617, including $1 million from the All American. His only loss was a second to Jumping Tac Flash in the California Sires Cup Futurity in May at Los Alamitos.
Jockey Manuel Loza, who was critically injured in a spill on Aug. 29 at Los Alamitos, was transferred to a hospital in Pomona on Saturday and is listed in stable condition.
Loza was involved in a spill in an 870-yard race after the horse he was aboard, Ajo Easy, was unable to avoid a fallen horse. Loza was thrown to the ground in front of Ajo Easy, who apparently fell on the rider.
His brother Fernando said Manuel is “feeling better and walking around. He’s still a little sore on the left side (of his head). He’s real, real lucky.”