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SANTA ANITA : He Isn’t Taking Weights Lightly

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Even though Bien Bien would carry one of the lightest highweights in the 57-year history of the Santa Anita Handicap, his trainer is dissatisfied with the weight assignment and might skip Saturday’s $1-million race.

“The weights are not fair,” trainer Paco Gonzalez said Sunday. “Bien Bien’s a grass horse and this is a dirt race. Take a look at his record on dirt. It’s not very good.

“We might keep the horse in the barn. I don’t know. I’ll have to talk to John (Toffan), who’s been out of town.”

Bien Bien, owned by Toffan and Trudy McCaffery, was assigned 120 pounds by the Santa Anita racing department for the 1 1/4-mile Big ‘Cap. The lightest highweight for the Big ‘Cap was that for Terrang, who won while carrying 116 pounds in 1959. Three horses led the weight list with only 120 pounds, with Cravat finishing seventh in 1939, Great Circle running fifth in 1951 and Farma Way winning the race in 1991.

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Twenty-four horses were weighted for this Big ‘Cap, but only 11 may run. These are the weights for the probables:

Bien Bien, 120; Kissin Kris, 119; Slew Of Damascus, 119; Diazo, 118; The Wicked North, 118; Nonproductiveasset, 116; Region, 116; Hill Pass, 115; Megan’s Interco, 115; Stuka, 115, and Myrakalu, 113.

Although Bien Bien has earned $1.6 million with seven victories in 22 starts, his only victory in seven dirt races came in the Swaps Stakes, a weak five-horse race at Hollywood Park in July of 1992. Bien Bien frequently trains on dirt, but he hasn’t raced on that surface since a last-place finish in the Super Derby at Louisiana Downs two months after the Swaps.

“We weren’t even planning on running the year we won the Swaps,” Gonzalez said. “The plan was to go to Arlington for the Secretariat. But when we saw how light the Swaps came up, it was a chance to win a race without having to ship.”

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In Bien Bien’s last race, on Feb. 21, the 5-year-old carried 124 pounds while finishing second to Fanmore in the San Luis Obispo Handicap.

Gonzalez, who had estimated Saturday that Bien Bien’s weight for the Big ‘Cap would be 117 pounds, was also puzzled about the weights of some of the other horses.

“Kissin Kris drops five pounds and Slew Of Damascus drops a pound,” he said. “Kissin Kris didn’t win his last race, but he’s still the horse that ran third in the Breeders’ Cup (Classic). Slew Of Damascus dropped a pound without running. I guess I don’t understand handicappers.”

Kissin Kris ran sixth in the Strub Stakes, finishing about four lengths behind the winner, Diazo. Slew Of Damascus took a four-race winning streak into the San Antonio Handicap, but broke through the starting gate and was scratched. Trainer Bill Shoemaker deferred a decision on running Diazo in the Big ‘Cap after the 4-year-old colt worked a mile Sunday in a slow 1:44 2/5.

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The status of Bien Bien will affect the riding assignments for the Big ‘Cap. Gonzalez said that he felt Chris McCarron would ride if Bien Bien runs. Without Bien Bien in the race, McCarron probably would get the mount on Hill Pass, who finished second behind The Wicked North in the San Antonio before being disqualified to third place.

Gonzalez said that if Bien Bien didn’t run in the Big ‘Cap, he would keep him on the grass for the $250,000 San Luis Rey Stakes on March 27.

Horse Racing Notes

The stewards suspended Pat Valenzuela for five racing days, starting Thursday, after his mount, Salmino, was disqualified from second to third place in a race Saturday. . . . Chris McCarron will be at Golden Gate Fields Wednesday to ride trainer Neil Drysdale’s Laabity, who ran second to Fly’n J. Bryan in a maiden race at Santa Anita on Jan. 22. . . . Gracious Ghost, second to Flyin’ J. Bryan in the San Vicente Stakes, drew the inside post in a six-horse field of 3-year-olds for Wednesday’s $75,000 Bolsa Chica Stakes at Santa Anita. Others entered are Jabbawat, Troyalty, King’s Blade, Meritation’s Sword and Subtle Trouble.

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