CLASSIC VICTORY; SKIP AWAY HAS RECORD ROMP.
R.D. Hubbard may rue the day, before the Texas Mile at Lone Star Park in April, when he tipped cocktails with Sonny and Carolyn Hine and invited them and Skip Away to the Breeders' Cup.
As chairman of Hollywood Park, Hubbard was doing his hostly duty. As the majority owner of Gentlemen, he may have been blowing a Horse of the Year award.
The Hines and their boy Skippy came to Hubbard's party Saturday. And they ate all the nuts.
Skip Away, who needed a dominating victory in the $4.4 million Classic to have a chance in the Horse of the Year voting, delivered at least that when he won the world's richest thoroughbred race by a record 6 lengths in record time.
``That's the Horse of the Year right there, everybody,'' jockey Mike Smith crowed from the saddle as a circle of cameramen ushered them into the winner's circle. ``Ain't no doubt about it.''
Actually, there is plenty of doubt, but there will be time for that debate.
Just as there will be time, in the cold light of another day, to consider how strong this injury-depleted Breeders' Cup really was, how much the suped-up dirt and turf courses contributed to six record clockings, and other hard questions.
Saturday, on a warm and breezy morning and afternoon, the first Breeders' Cup at Hollywood Park in 10 years went like a dream. After a month that reminded us again and again of horses' fragility, the only injuries in the races were minor. Races were cleanly run. Winners were clearly best. Outstanding horses turned in inspired performances - unbeaten Favorite Trick winning the Juvenile, his Patrick Byrne stablemate Countess Diana winning the Juvenile Fillies, Europe's Spinning World winning the Mile.
And, in the event's climactic 1 minute and 59 seconds, Skip Away snatched the lead from eventual runner-up Deputy Commander and long shot Honor Glide on the backstretch - and then surpassed himself.
He simply widened his lead with each furlong and won under the mildest left-handed whipping by Smith.
Behind Deputy Commander came Whiskey Wisdom and Dowty (though the last pair's order was reversed by the stewards because of bumping in the stretch). Hot 3-year-old Behrens finished seventh, and Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold was the disappointment of the day when he trotted in ninth and last.
Before Skip Away ($5.60), the Classic records for a 1-1/4-mile clocking, 1:59 4/5, and for winning margin, 2-1/2 lengths, were set by the great Cigar at Belmont Park in 1995.
Nobody is comparing Skip Away to Cigar. But they will be comparing him to Gentlemen, the Horse of the Year favorite when a virus ended his Breeders' Cup training in October, and to Favorite Trick, who would be the first 2-year-old to win the award since Secretariat in '72.
Skippy Campaign Headquarters is the Hine residence in Hallandale, Fla.
``I just want to show the world how great the horse is,'' said Sonny Hine, 66, who trains the horse owned by Carolyn.
To get 4-year-old Skip Away into the Classic, the Hines not only had to overcome their aversion to shipping west, they also had to pay $480,000 to make him eligible; neither Skip Away nor his sire, Skip Trial, was nominated for the Breeders' Cup.
They got $2,402,400 back on the biggest gamble of this Breeders' Cup.
``If you know your product, you'll be successful in any business,'' Carolyn said. ``I know my horse. I know my trainer. I know my jockey. And I went out and kicked their butts.''
In a more demure moment, Carolyn kissed her big gray horse and cooed, ``Skippy, I love you!''
From the vanquished came grudging admiration.
``It was a monster effort,'' said Pat Day, who rode Whiskey Wisdom.
Skip Away is a flawed Horse of the Year candidate. With three victories in 11 starts in '97, he would be the first sub-.500 Horse of the Year since '87 Classic winner Ferdinand. Before winning the Jockey Club Gold Cup last month, he twice was crushed by Formal Gold, since sidelined by a fracture.
Said Smith: ``I don't know if there was a horse in the world who would have beat him today.''
The Formal Gold people might differ on that.
R.D. Hubbard would differ on that.
It was a great day for Hollywood Park, and for its boss in every way but one.
``Mr. Hubbard thanked us for coming,'' Sonny Hine said, recounting their brief conversation after the Classic, ``and he said, `Gentlemen should be Horse of the Year.''
BREEDERS' CUP WINNERS AT A GLANCE
Race Horse, Payoff Jockey Time, Distance Notable
Juvenile Fillies Countess Diana, $6.00 Shane Sellers 1:42(x), 1-1/16 8- 1/2-length margin is record for the race
Sprint Elmhurst, $35.20 Corey Nakatani 1:08(x), 6 furlongs Last to first, like Lit de Justice ('96)
Distaff Ajina, $11.60 Mike Smith 1:47 1/5, 1- 1/8 Paulson ($4.5M) widens Cup earnings lead
Mile Spinning World, $6.20 Cash Asmussen 1:32 3/5(xx), mile Favorite continues Europe's Mile dominance
Juvenile Favorite Trick, $4.40 Pat Day 1:41 2/5(x), 1-1/16 Colt is 8 for 8; trainer Byrne is 2 for 3
Turf Chief Bearhart, $5.80 Jose Santos 2:23 4/5(x), 1- 1/2 Santos rides his only mount to tactical win
Classic Skip Away, $5.60 Mike Smith 1:59(x), 1- 1/4 Hines get $2,288,000 for $480,000 ``bet''
(x) Time sets a record for the race.
(xx) Time equals the record for the race.
3 Photos, Chart
Photo: (1--color) Jockey Mike Smith signals where he believes Skip Away should finish in Horse of the Year voting.
(2) Skip Away, ridden by Mike Smith, left the rest of the field far behind in winning the Breeders' Cup Classic on Saturday at Hollywood Park.
(3--color) no caption (Breeders' Cup Mile)
Myung J. Chun / Daily News
Chart: BREEDERS' CUP WINNERS AT A GLANCE (see text)
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Nov 9, 1997|
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