Van Berg Keeps Match Race Alive


For a few long hours Monday morning, Del Mar’s first match race in 56 years looked as if it might be no match at all.

Joe Harper, the thoroughbred track’s president, had learned that Cool Air, who was to race against Soviet Problem on Sunday, had been scratched by trainer Gary Jones because of an infection.

Greeted in the racing office by trainer Jack Van Berg, Harper replied glumly, “I was doing pretty well this morning until I found out Cool Air was out of our race Sunday.”

“Heck,” Van Berg said, “I’ve got a filly who can beat either one of them.”


Van Berg’s Mamselle Bebette, owned by actor John Forsythe, will replace Cool Air in the $100,000 match to be run between the fifth and sixth races Sunday.

“We were going to ship the filly to New York,” Van Berg said. “But I talked to Mr. Forsythe and we decided to go for this race instead. My filly hasn’t run against Soviet Problem, I don’t think, but she’s beaten Cool Air.”

The match race, the first at Del Mar since Seabiscuit beat Ligaroti in 1938, will match 4-year-old fillies over 5 1/2 furlongs on turf. Soviet Problem will be ridden by Chris McCarron, but Van Berg is undecided about a jockey for Mamselle Bebette.

“There’s plenty to pick from,” he said. “We only need two.”


Jones said he grew concerned about Cool Air after a sub-par five-furlong workout Saturday. An examination revealed an infection that can only be properly treated with penicillin. Procaine, a banned drug, is one of penicillin’s ingredients.

Mamselle Bebette appears to have the credentials to be a legitimate substitute against Soviet Problem. She has earned $411,175 in 19 starts, seven of them victories, to Cool Air’s $448,503 in 26 starts, 12 of them victories. She was a four-time stakes winner last winter at Santa Anita.

Soviet Problem, owned by Harris Farms and Donald Valpredo, worked six furlongs on the turf Monday morning in 1:14 1/5.

“We found out at 7 a.m. that the other horse wasn’t going to compete,” trainer Greg Gilchrist said. “But it was a work-day anyway, so we worked.”


Horse Racing Notes

El Trenzador held off Shandon Lake to win the $51,000 turf feature at Del Mar by a half-length over favored Shandon Lake. Ridden by Gary Stevens, El Trenzador covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:42 4/5 and paid $8.80, $4 and $2.80. The win was the fourth in 23 lifetime starts for El Trenzador and was worth $28,050, increasing the 6-year-old Argentine-bred gelding’s career earnings to $186,677.

The first- and second-place finishers in last Sunday’s La Jolla Handicap will use that race as a steppingstone to the Sept. 5 Del Mar Derby. Marvin’s Faith, the upset winner, will run in the Derby, according to trainer Ian Jory, as will Unfinished Symph, beaten in a near dead heat. Oceanside Stakes winners Powis Castle and Saltgrass are also expected in the Derby.