Pick a Winner? Here Are Several


With only four racing days remaining in a meeting that seemingly just started, here are one reporter's opinions on the bests of the season:

* Horse of the meeting--Gentlemen. He did what he was supposed to do in the Pacific Classic, but the effort certainly wasn't his best. Still, he struggled over a surface a lot of horses had trouble handling from one day to the next, so there's no need for his connections to fret over his less-than-scintillating performance. Besides, the $4-million Breeders' Cup Classic will be run at Hollywood Park, Gentlemen's favorite main track.

* Grass horse--Rainbow Dancer. The temperamental son of Rainbow Quest had one of his good days in the Del Mar Handicap a week ago and won a thriller over Dowty. Trainer Jenine Sahadi's veteran, who is owned by C.N. and Carol Ray's Evergreen Farm, needs pace to run at and he got plenty in the 11-furlong Handicap after Mufattish and longshot Perim set ridiculous fractions.

* Older Filly/Mare--Radu Cool. Although she wasn't facing the top members of the division, she won both of her starts at the meeting, one of them the $300,000 Chula Vista Handicap six days ago. She's now four for four on this main track.

* 3-year-old male--Anet. Those who doubted his ability to run on turf got smacked in the face when he won the Del Mar Derby last Monday, beating favored Worldly Ways and Fantastic Fellow, who was trying to follow up victories in the Oceanside Stakes and La Jolla Handicap with another in the Derby. Given the same kind of ride by Gary Stevens the Hall of Fame jockey gave Marlin in the Arlington Million, Anet proved he belongs near the top of his class and the best could be yet to come.

* 3-year-old filly--Famous Digger. The one-time $40,000 claim by trainer Barry Abrams ran her winning streak to four with victories in the San Clemente and Del Mar Oaks. She will wait until Nov. 4 and the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., to see if she can win five in a row because Abrams decided to pass on today's Palomar Handicap. He was unhappy with Famous Digger's weight assignment.

* Sprinter--Lakota Brave. The lightly raced 8-year-old won both of his starts at the meeting, beating a couple of pros named Criollito and Letthebighossroll in an allowance race last month, then coming back and beating Gold Land in the Crazy Kid two days ago. He is now a remarkable six for eight at Del Mar for trainer Bruce Headley. In a wide-open division, Lakota Brave could very well win the Breeders' Cup Sprint Nov. 8.

* 2-year-old filly--Vivid Angel. An unraced maiden when the meeting began on July 23, owner Ed and Natalie Friendly's filly graduated in her first race, then returned two weeks later to win an ugly Del Mar Debutante. Despite her accomplishments, the top 2-year-old filly in trainer Bob Baffert's barn could very well be Eastside Westside, who toyed with maidens on Thursday, winning a mile race by 12 lengths. The Eastern Echo miss looks like another star for owners Bob and Beverly Lewis.

* 2-year-old male--We'll reserve judgment until after Wednesday's $250,000 Del Mar Futurity, which figures to bring out Old Topper, King Of The Wild, Yarrow Brae, Double Honor and Commitisize, among others.

* Trainer--Baffert. He's had another big meeting and, through Friday, had won with 12 of the 19 2-year-olds he had started.

* Jockey--Take your pick among Alex Solis, Kent Desormeaux and Eddie Delahoussaye. All three have a shot to be leading rider. Solis is going for for a seventh consecutive title, Desormeaux has been rejuvenated after a subpar Hollywood Park meeting, and Delahoussaye is in the hunt although he has ridden in fewer races than have the two others.

Horse Racing Notes

The Breeders' Cup will return to Lexington's Churchill Downs in 1998, making the picturesque home of the Kentucky Derby the only track to stage the event four times. This year's Breeders Cup, Nov. 8, will be at Hollywood Park. . . . The Rocking Chair Derby, a no-betting exhibition featuring eight former jockeys, will be run between the sixth and seventh races today. The 5 1/2-furlong race, restricted to $32,000 maiden claimers, features Bill Harmatz, Rudy Campas, Jack Leonard, Alex Maese, Ray York, Rudy Rosales, Danny Velasquez and Frank Olivares.

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