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Cream of Crop Going East

Times Staff Writer

In a perfect world, Rock Hard Ten, winner of the Santa Anita Handicap, Lava Man, winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup, and Borrego, winner of the Pacific Classic at Del Mar, would make for a juicy matchup a week from today at Santa Anita.

But racing is far from perfect, and instead of having that attraction in the Goodwood Handicap, the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita will have only Rock Hard Ten, who hasn’t run since he won the Big ‘Cap almost seven months ago. Belmont Park has shown the trainers of Lava Man and Borrego the money, and that’s where they’ll be on Oct. 1, running in the $1-million Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Besides the richer purse, it behooves horsemen to run their stock at Belmont, where the $4-million Breeders’ Cup Classic will be run on Oct. 29. To run in the Breeders’ Cup, the currently ineligible Lava Man would have to be supplemented with a payment of $360,000, and a good showing in New York next Saturday would help defray that cost.

Two other California-based horses, Roman Ruler and Imperialism, are also scheduled to run in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Roman Ruler is a 3-year-old, as is Flower Alley, the Travers Stakes winner, who is also expected to run at Belmont. This is the time of the year when 3-year-olds are mature enough to catch up with their elders. Seven of the 21 Classic winners have been 3-year-olds, though none since Tiznow in 2000.

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Rock Hard Ten, who worked seven furlongs Thursday at Santa Anita in 1:26 1/5 , will face Choctaw Nation, Total Impact and Gotaghostofachance in the Goodwood, in what may be a small field.

Another of the Goodwood nominees, Super Frolic, has left Santa Anita to run for $750,000 in the Hawthorne Gold Cup in Cicero, Ill. The Hawthorne favorite, Perfect Drift, won the Gold Cup two years ago and was second at 1-2 last year. Perfect Drift ran second, half a length behind Borrego, and Super Frolic, making his debut for trainer Vladimir Cerin, was fifth in the Pacific Classic. Freefourinternet, who upset Perfect Drift at 27-1 in last year’s Gold Cup, is running again today. Freefourinternet has lost 10 in a row since his Hawthorne win.

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Martin Pedroza is serving the last day of a three-day suspension at Fairplex Park today, but because of California’s designated-race rule he’ll be able to ride Dover Dere, the possible favorite, in the $100,000 Pomona Derby. Dover Dere is trying to end a nine-race losing streak.

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Under the same rule, Pedroza rode Brooke’s Halo to victory Friday in the $100,000 Las Madrinas Handicap. Pedroza, who won the Pomona Derby last year with Semi Lost, is still expected to lead the Fairplex standings for the seventh consecutive year. He leads Felipe Martinez, 23-16, with three days left.

Trainer Mike Mitchell, who’ll saddle Devil Badgett, is shooting for his third consecutive victory Sunday in the $100,000 Ralph M. Hinds Pomona Handicap.

One of the biggest win payoffs in Fairplex history came in Friday’s fifth race, which was won by Cisco’s Kite at 82-1. Cisco’s Kite, ridden by Antonio Castanon and paying $166.60 to win, won for the third time in 58 starts.

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In an era when even the established tracks are struggling, a new race place, Zia Park, opened Friday near Hobbs, N.M. The $50-million facility will run a 44-day thoroughbred-quarter horse meet.

Zia, named after a Native American tribe, is owned by a partnership that includes R.D. Hubbard, the principal investor, and Ed Allred. Hobbs, located in southeastern New Mexico, is a town of about 30,000, but there are 750,000 within 100 miles of the track.

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The final price on the sale of Hollywood Park was $257.5 million, a little less than the $260 million that was listed when Churchill Downs Inc. announced that it had sold the Inglewood track to the Bay Meadows Land Co. in July. Closing on the sale was completed Friday.

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Churchill bought Hollywood Park for $140 million in 1999. San Mateo-based Bay Meadows has said that it would conduct racing for three years at Hollywood, but beyond that the future of the 238 acres is contingent on an expansion of casino gambling in California. Should alternative gaming become a reality, Churchill Downs, under terms of the sale, could re-invest in Hollywood. Bay Meadows is hoping to commercially develop its racetrack in San Mateo, and might do the same with Hollywood.


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