Bruce Pilkenton winced when he climbed off Refrigerator after Saturday’s Los Alamitos Championship.
Refrigerator’s victory had only momentarily dulled the pain of a shoulder injury Pilkenton suffered in a Friday night spill. But for all the pain, he at least had a victory to show for it.
Refrigerator was Pilkenton’s only mount Saturday night after the spill in Friday’s $20,000 Katella Handicap had sent him to the hospital with a slight tear of a shoulder ligament.
Two other riders, G.R. Carter and Carlos Aguilar, were injured in the spill and weren’t as fortunate as Pilkenton. Carter suffered a broken right hand; Aguilar, a broken collarbone.
Pilkenton’s shoulder was so sore on Saturday morning that he didn’t think he would be able to ride Refrigerator, the 1992 world champion, who is the favorite to retain the title this year.
He took off seven claimers and spent the day nursing the shoulder, then went to the track and climbed aboard a pony to see if he could get into a jockey’s crouch. It was painful, but he believed that he would be able to ride.
“The more I worked with (the shoulder), the better it got,” Pilkenton said. “He’s a hard horse to get off of. . . . I knew if I could get down in my crouch I could ride him because he’s not a hard horse to ride and I had my strength.”
Refrigerator, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Jim Helzer of Arlington, Tex., won the $100,000 Los Alamitos Championship by three-quarters of a length over Sound Dash. The victory was Refrigerator’s second consecutive in the Los Alamitos Championship and the seventh for trainer Blane Schvaneveldt.
Rare Form, the 1992 champion 3-year-old who was expected to be Refrigerator’s toughest competition, wasn’t entered. Trainer Bob Gilbert decided last week to skip Saturday’s race and possibly point for races later this year, including the $100,000 Breeders Championship Classic at Los Alamitos on Nov. 13. Gilbert said Rare Form needed another race before he would be ready to face Refrigerator over 440 yards.
With the $55,000 check for first-place, Refrigerator’s earnings increased to $1,770,507--only $98,899 behind Eastex, quarter horse racing’s richest horse.
Pilkenton had little to worry about in Saturday’s race. Starting from the inside post in the seven-horse field, Refrigerator broke to the lead and was never threatened. Sound Dash nosed out Sir Goldminer, who is also owned by Helzer, for second.
"(Refrigerator) couldn’t have run much better,” Schvaneveldt said. “Let (the other) horses come, we’ll be waiting. They have him to beat.”
Refrigerator has won all three of his starts this year and already had qualified for the $250,000 Champion of Champions on Dec. 11.
Deceptively, a 3-year-old filly, earned an automatic berth by winning the Rainbow Derby at Ruidoso, N.M., in July. The last automatic berth will be up for grabs in the Breeders Championship Classic.
Few will remember Speedy Lunch’s victory in Friday’s Katella Handicap. More likely, the race will be known as the 870-yard stake with the two-horse spill.
Entering the stretch of the one-turn race, favored Miss Frequent Flyer, who was ridden by Carter, was in tight behind the leaders and was forced to check. Carter couldn’t pull the filly up fast enough and Miss Frequent Flyer clipped heels with Rebs Sign Off and fell. Apprehend, who was ridden by Pilkenton and trailing the field, was directly behind Miss Frequent Flyer, and also fell.
Speedy Lunch was clear of all the trouble, having led from the start. He won by a neck over Rebs Sign Off.