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60th Anniversary Brought Out the Best

With five days left in Hollywood Park’s 60th-anniversary season, here’s one observer’s choices for the bests of the meet:

Horse of the meet and handicap horse: Skip Away. The horse of the year through the first 6 1/2 months of 1998, the 5-year-old son of Skip Trial showed why he has not lost since Sept. 20 with a convincing victory in the Hollywood Gold Cup. He took the best Gentlemen had to offer, put him away and was never seriously menaced by Puerto Madero in the final yards.

For the record:

12:00 AM, Jul. 17, 1998 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday July 17, 1998 Home Edition Sports Part C Page 14 Sports Desk 1 inches; 23 words Type of Material: Correction
Horse racing--Thursday’s column in which the bests of the Hollywood Park meeting were selected was written by Bob Mieszerski. The author’s name was incorrect.

Owner Carolyn Hine and trainer Sonny Hine, her husband, said last year after winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic that they would return to Hollywood Park and they kept their word. They had reasons to back out in the days leading up to the Gold Cup but did not, and Skip Away, the world’s best horse, continued his march toward Cigar’s money record.

Older filly/mare: Escena. She continued a roll begun in Florida and Kentucky with a victory in the Vanity Handicap, repelling a surprise challenge by longshot Housa Dancer. This was her second Grade I win in California; she had taken the Ramona Handicap on turf last year at Del Mar.

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3-year-old male--Swaps winner. The Swaps Stakes, the richest of five stakes being offered on Hollywood Park’s so-called Super Sunday this weekend, doesn’t appear exceptionally strong and Affirmed Handicap winner Old Trieste is the probable favorite.

3-year-old, 3-year-old filly--Manistique. An unraced maiden when the meeting began, the imposing--she stands 17 hands and weighs 1,150 pounds--daughter of Unbridled and the Nureyev mare Astaire Step won her three starts by a combined 31 lengths. She capped her season with a 10-length victory in the Hollywood Oaks four days ago. Her future is unlimited.

2-year-old--Hollywood Juvenile winner. The six-furlong race will be run on Sunday and if Irrelevant is able to get his third victory in a row, the California-bred deserves the honor.

2-year-old filly--Hookedonthefeelin. Trainer Bob Baffert is said to have a lot of talented 2-year-olds ready to roll for Del Mar, which begins in six days, but he didn’t wait for the beach to unveil this talented daughter of Citidancer. She toyed with maidens in her debut, then had an even easier time in the Landaluce, winning by four lengths in 1:09 3/5 without really being asked. After the race, jockey Gary Stevens compared her to Serena’s Song, and that is high praise indeed. Before she was done, Serena’s Song became the richest female in North America with earnings of nearly $3.3 million.

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Turf horse--Labeeb. He ran only once here but defeated a quality field that included Fantastic Fellow and stablemate Hawksley Hill in the Shoemaker Breeders’ Cup Mile. He was a head case last year for trainer Neil Drysdale but has made no mistakes in two ’98 starts and is still unbeaten on the Hollywood Park turf course.

Sprinter--Son Of A Pistol. This 6-year-old has made only 11 starts in his career, but he has won seven of them and he was successful in his first race in Inglewood, beating a good field in the Triple Bend Breeders’ Cup Handicap shortly before Skip Away did his thing in the Gold Cup.

Claiming horse--Mr Peter P. Other horses won more races here, but what better way to honor the recently retired 7-year-old son of Aloha Prospector. He easily won both his starts at the meeting and finished his career with 11 victories in 46 starts and earnings of more than $304,000.

Trainer--Neil Drysdale. He is one of several bunched at the top of the trainer standings going into the final week, but he gets the edge because he followed a tremendous meeting at Santa Anita with another excellent one in Inglewood. He has four stakes victories, tying him with Ron Ellis for the lead among trainers in that department, and has won major grass races with Storm Trooper, Fiji and Labeeb.

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Jockey--Chris McCarron. Before Wednesday’s races, he and Corey Nakatani were tied for the lead in the standings, but McCarron has won at a higher percentage and has 10 stakes wins to four for Nakatani. Six of those victories have come in graded stakes, and Nakatani has only one graded stakes win. If McCarron wins the title, it would be his first at Hollywood Park’s spring-summer meet since 1984. The last time he led at the shorter fall season was 1990.

Race of the meet--Hollywood Gold Cup. It was billed as a showdown between the top two handicap horses in the country, and the 59th Gold Cup did not disappoint. When Skip Away and Gentlemen were racing together down the backside, around the turn and into the stretch, it’s doubtful anyone was thinking about a certain gray colt who was missing. Even without Silver Charm, the event was very entertaining.


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