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Exotic Wood Out to Win This Vote

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Serena’s Song outpolled Exotic Wood, 301-1, in the 1995 Eclipse Awards voting for best 3-year-old filly. The issue figures to be much closer today when a champion filly faces an undefeated one in the $150,000 Santa Monica Handicap at Santa Anita.

Exotic Wood has led from start to finish in all five of her races and won them by a combined 21 lengths. She would appear to have the edge in the seven-furlong Santa Monica, because of the distance, the weights and a recent race over the track; Serena’s Song hasn’t run in three months, the longest break in a 23-race career that started at Churchill Downs in May 1994.

Of concern to Exotic Wood’s trainer, Ron Ellis, is the additional speed his filly will have to face. Serena’s Song has speed--she led last year’s Kentucky Derby for a mile before fading to 16th--and trainer Mel Stute has entered Klassy Kim, who won the Monrovia Handicap on grass in her last start and who has run fast opening half-miles in many of her races.

While Exotic Wood’s last three wins, including a victory in the La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 30, have come at seven furlongs, Serena’s Song was a two-turn horse most of last year and hasn’t run less than a mile since she won the Santa Ynez Stakes at Santa Anita last January.

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Serena’s Song, trained by Wayne Lukas and owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis, has won 13 races and earned $2.1 million. Last year, starting at Santa Anita and traveling to tracks in Kentucky, Maryland, New York and New Jersey, the filly rolled up nine wins and two seconds in 13 starts. Besides the Derby, Lukas has run her against males three times, and she beat them twice last year, in the Jim Beam at Turfway Park and the Haskell Invitational Handicap at Monmouth Park. The voters forgave Serena’s Song her fifth-place finish, in the mud, in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Belmont Park and awarded the Lewises an Eclipse Award by a 301-5 margin, with only three horses besides the lightly raced Exotic Wood getting votes.

Serena’s Song and Exotic Wood are daughters of Rahy, an 11-year-old stallion who stands at Robert Clay’s Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Ky. Rahy, whose advertised breeding fee is $50,000 per mare this year, won stakes in England and the United States and in 1989, while trained by Neil Drysdale, won the Bel Air Handicap at Hollywood Park.

The Lewises bought five horses at Keeneland’s high-profile yearling sale in July 1993 and one of them, later named Serena’s Song, cost $150,000. A couple of months later, Marty and Pam Wygod bought Exotic Wood at Keeneland for $75,000. The Wygods won their first Grade I race last year when Key Phrase captured the Santa Monica.

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Horse Racing Notes

Before jockey Pat Valenzuela, who left Santa Anita to ride at Gulfstream Park earlier this month, will be permitted to ride in Florida, he must submit to another drug test and sign himself into a track-related rehabilitation program. Valenzuela, 33, has ridden horses that have earned about $90 million, but his career has been punctuated by drug-related problems, and he ran afoul of the stewards at Gulfstream when he didn’t show up to ride for several days. Then, when Valenzuela submitted to a drug test a week ago, a state laboratory questioned whether the sample was human urine. The test was inconclusive. . . . There may be life for the proposed California bonus series after all. There were reports Friday that the bonus committee has turned a corner in getting an insurance underwriter, and a bonus of $1.8 million may be offered for a sweep of this year’s Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup and Pacific Classic at Del Mar. Allen Paulson, who owns Cigar, the best horse in North America last year, said this week that his horse wouldn’t run in the Santa Anita Handicap if a series bonus wasn’t available. An announcement about the bonus could come next week. . . . Trainer Wayne Lukas has won the Santa Monica Handicap five times, most recently when Pine Tree Lane won the stake in 1987-88. . . . With Goncalino Almeida recuperating at home from broken legs he suffered in a spill last Sunday, Eddie Delahoussaye has the mount on Klassy Kim. . . . Softshoe Sure Shot, a 10-year-old old gelding who was a stakes winner at Santa Anita last year, has been retired. Trainer Bruce Headley’s horse earned $581,242.


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