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THOROUGHBRED RACING / BILL CHRISTINE : Not So Fast, Cigar: Actual Time of Breeders’ Cup Split Corrected

Cigar finally lost. He lost one second on the stopwatch while running from the quarter pole to the wire in last Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at Belmont Park.

The one-second mix-up, which negates Cigar’s Secretariat-like time for the last quarter-mile, is the result of a ridiculous situation: Two different companies compiled charts of the seven Breeders’ Cup races.

One set of charts prepared by the Equibase Co. was distributed to reporters in the Belmont press box. Another set, by the Daily Racing Form, appeared in most newspapers, including The Times.

Equibase’s chart of the 1 1/4-mile Classic said that Cigar ran the opening mile in 1:36 3/5 (actually, Equibase’s time was 1:36.67, because it times races down to hundredths of a second, but that’s another story). The Racing Form listed the time for the first mile as 1:35 3/5.

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Races are timed by an automatic track timer, and Cigar’s time for the race was 1:59 2/5, a record for the Classic. Working from the Equibase chart, many reporters wrote that Cigar ran the final quarter-mile, on a muddy track, in a spectacular 22 4/5 seconds. That seemed to put him in a league with 1973 Triple Crown champion Secretariat, whose estimated time for the last quarter-mile of the Kentucky Derby was also 22 4/5 seconds, on a fast track. Secretariat’s come-home time for the Derby is not exact because the time for the first mile was for Sham, who led Secretariat by 1 1/2 lengths at the quarter pole.

“What gives?” Dan Smith of Del Mar said Monday. “Your story said that Cigar ran like Secretariat, but the [Racing Form] chart said that he didn’t.”

Cigar’s correct time for the mile was 1:35 3/5, said an Equibase executive in Lexington, Ky. So the horse’s time for the last quarter-mile was 23 4/5 seconds, not 22 4/5. A time of 22 4/5 seconds would have been one of the fastest final quarter-miles ever run for a 1 1/4-mile race.

“The guy recording the Equibase charts for the press box took his times off the tote board,” said Jim Gluckson, a Breeders’ Cup spokesman. “Belmont’s tote board is hard to read. The fives look like sixes. So he wrote down 1:36.67 instead of 1:35.67.”

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The Racing Form has been in business for 100 years, while Equibase, an arm of the Thoroughbred Racing Assns., has been charting races since 1990. After 11 years of subscribing to Racing Form charts, it seemed strange that the Breeders’ Cup would distribute Equibase charts this time.

“Steve Crist [Belmont Park’s vice president of communications] wanted to use Equibase,” Gluckson said.

Crist was the editor of the now-defunct Racing Times, a short-lived rival of the Racing Form. The Racing Times used Equibase charts.

Even before the error on Cigar’s time, there were discrepancies between the Racing Form and Equibase on Breeders’ Cup day. Equibase listed the track condition for the first three dirt races as “good,” while “muddy” was the Racing Form’s designation for the entire day. What’s a turf writer to do in times like these?

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“The track was muddy,” said Chuck Scaravilli of Equibase. “But we were told to list what was on the tote board.”

There are more problems ahead for Equibase vis-a-vis the Racing Form. Both organizations have released their weekly lists of national money leaders, and many figures don’t jibe.

There are multiple discrepancies in the jockeys’ standings, which frequently determine the winner of the Eclipse Award. Jerry Bailey, Cigar’s jockey, has displaced Corey Nakatani in the top spot, and his total is $15.2 million according to the Form, only $15.1 million according to Equibase. Nakatani, in second place, is well over the $13-million mark on both lists, but the Form and Equibase are more than $200,000 apart on his total.

Racing should be thankful. With Bailey’s two-win splurge on Breeders’ Cup Day, the jockey race isn’t likely to go down to the wire. Otherwise, there would be the embarrassing potential for the sport to wind up with different riding champions--Equibase’s and the Racing Form’s.

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Del Mar has dropped out of the bidding for the 1997 Breeders’ Cup. The Breeders’ Cup directors are committed to running the event in California, and they may decide between Santa Anita and Hollywood Park at a meeting on Dec. 1.

To play host to the Breeders’ Cup, Del Mar needed to widen its turf course to accommodate 14-horse fields, and while that project will still be completed, Joe Harper, president of the seaside track, doesn’t feel comfortable about using the expanded surface for a Breeders’ Cup two years from now.

“As Santa Anita has found out, it can take a long time to grow grass,” Harper said. “We probably could have been ready by ’97, but the last thing I’d want to do is be second-guessed going into a Breeders’ Cup. If we can get a Breeders’ Cup, I’d want us to be 100% ready, rather than 90%.”

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The 1996 Breeders’ Cup will be on Nov. 2 at Woodbine in suburban Toronto, where the temperature Wednesday was 42 degrees. A typical November in Toronto calls for a high of 43 degrees and a low of 31, with a chance of 13 wet days.

The 1998 Breeders’ Cup probably will be held at Churchill Downs, with the 1999 event going to either Gulfstream Park or Belmont Park. Harper said that Del Mar might apply for the Breeders’ Cup for 2000.

Horse Racing Notes

The Breeders’ Cup crowd of 37,246 was smaller than Santa Anita drew on California Cup days in 1991 and ’92. . . . Five banks have given the Woodlands a six-month extension on a $27-million mortgage payment that’s due in January. Marje Everett, former chairman of Hollywood Park, is questioning Hollywood’s 1994 purchase of the Woodlands, a thoroughbred-greyhound facility near Kansas City, Kan. R.D. Hubbard, who replaced Everett as Hollywood Park’s chairman in 1991, was a 60% owner of the Woodlands before the sale of the track. Bruce Rimbo, president of the Woodlands, said that foreclosure by the banks is possible if the state legislature doesn’t legalize slot machines at the track. . . . Sandpit is still headed for the $4.4-million Japan Cup in Tokyo on Nov. 26, but Northern Spur, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf, will get a rest. Sandpit, fifth in the race last year, didn’t run in the Breeders’ Cup because it would have cost $400,000 to supplement him. Northern Spur and Sandpit ran 1-2 in the Oak Tree Invitational on Oct. 8.

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