HOLLYWOOD PARK LIMPS WITH CIGAR `ON HOLD'.
Cigar has a foot injury, and the sting is being felt at Hollywood Park, which is counting on a big crowd at the June 30 Hollywood Gold Cup to make up for some disappointing days of late.
Over the weekend, management announced an 8 percent reduction in nonstakes purses - beginning with today's races - citing a 10.8 percent decline in parimutuel handle at the Inglewood track compared to 1995 figures.
What Hollywood Park needs, clearly, is the Gold Cup crowd of 45,000 to 50,000 that an appearance by Cigar would be expected to generate.
``We're hoping that after Shoemaker Mile day (June 16) and Gold Cup day - knock on wood he comes - business will pick up and we can raise purses again,'' racing secretary Martin Panza said Tuesday.
But Cigar's scheduled trip to the Gold Cup is ``on hold,'' trainer Bill Mott said at Belmont Park, because the '95 Horse of the Year, a winner of 15 straight races, came out of his Massachusetts Handicap victory Saturday with a bruised right forefoot.
A bruise in a different spot on the same foot kept Cigar out of the March 2 Santa Anita Handicap.
``It's an inch to an inch and a half farther back than the problem (in February) was,'' Mott said. ``It's closer to the heel. It's right below the bulb of the heel.''
Mott said he saw signs of an emerging bruise before the Mass Cap, but decided to let Cigar race after he jogged Saturday morning without aggravating the condition.
``By running the horse, we didn't make anything any worse than it would have been anyway,'' Mott said.
The Daily Racing Form reported that Mott had a blacksmith make a half-inch incision to allow pus to come out of the foot, and that Cigar walked Monday morning, apparently without discomfort.
Mott indicated that if the 6-year-old misses 10 days of training, the $1 million race at Hollywood Park is out of the question.
``We don't want to be under the gun to go to Hollywood,'' Mott said. ``We don't want to go to Hollywood short on work or on a rescheduled training plan.''
If he misses the Gold Cup, the trainer said, Cigar's attempt to tie Citation's record for consecutive victories on the North American continent might come in the $500,000 Suburban Handicap at Belmont on July 4, or the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 10.
``In any case,'' Panza said at Hollywood Park, ``we won't know anything until the weekend. We'll keep our fingers crossed. If he can't make the race, it will be disappointing.''
With Cigar, attendance at the track could be double the recent Gold Cup average, and dwarf even the 27,003 who watched Cigar win the race in '95, when he was less well-known. Counting offtrack bettors, the '95 crowd totaled 52,888.
An increase in '96 would help to lift Hollywood Park out of its early-season doldrums, which have produced a $300,000 overpayment of purses based on an over-optimistic betting-revenue projection.
Thoroughbred Owners of California, the horsemen's negotiating body, has demanded that Hollywood Park reduce stakes purses as well as nonstakes purses. ``The pain has to be shared,'' said TOC president John Van de Kamp, the former California attorney general.
Track management worries, though, that slashing stakes purses would drive some big-name horses to other states.
Already, California is in a tug of war with Kentucky's improving thoroughbred circuit. In a worrisome coincidence, Churchill Downs announced last week that it is raising purses 16 percent.
Photo: Cigar, here shown winning the Massachusetts Handicap , may miss the Hollywood Gold Cup.