Filly Turf Triple borrows from Triple Crown

HORSE RACING

May 26, 1991|By MARTY McGEE

The Kentucky Oaks and Black Eyed Susan Stakes are run the day before the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, respectively. Although those filly races are important events, they are overshadowed so much by the Triple Crown races that they're relegated to small stories in the back of sports sections.

Ever wonder why they're run when they're run? And then did you wonder why the Early Times distillery this year began sponsoring the Early Times Turf Triple, a trio of rich turf races run the day before the Triple Crown events at the host tracks?

It seems that if you wanted publicity for a racing series, you wouldn't run smack up against the Triple Crown. That's like seeking recognition for a Be Nice to Kids Day, then deciding to have it Dec. 24.

But Dominic Scianna, a promoter for the Turf Triple, said "simply being grouped with the things going on [on those weekends] is enough for us, at least for our first year."

In other words, when many writers are gathered in one spot, it's an opportunity. The thinking is that it's better than running the Turf Triple at another time of the year -- and then having just a beat writer or two at each track covering them. Those clever publicity folks would rather get a few precious inches of space from a lot of turf writers than a lot of space from a few precious turf writers.

' Or something like that.

*

The first of three 1991 Fairhill race programs will be conducted tomorrow at the northern Cecil County track.

Until Dueling Grounds in southern Kentucky opened last year, Fairhill was the only steeplechase track in the country to offer pari-mutuel wagering.

Tomorrow's program includes three flat races, five hurdle races, and one over timber. The $25,000 Miles Valentine Novice Stakes is the feature.

First post time is 1 p.m., and gates open at 11 a.m.

The second Fairhill date is set for Sept 2. The $250,000 Breeders' Cup Steeplechase tops the final card on Oct. 12.

*

Hansel and Summer Squall, winners of the last two runnings of the Preakness, have something in common other than Stall 27, their temporary housing at Pimlico's Preakness barn before their victorious runs.

They both won the Jim Beam Stakes at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., in their respective campaigns before the Triple Crown. Before 1990, no horse had won a classic event after racing in the Jim Beam, which continues to grow in stature.

The Belmont Stakes tends to provide an anti-climax when there no threat of a Triple Crown winner. It was one reason the $1 million Triple Crown bonus offer began in 1987.

But a real anti-climax could occur this year under this scenario: An outsider wins; either Best Pal or Corporate Report is second; and both Strike the Gold and Hansel finish fifth or worse.

That way, there would be a three-way tie for first in the point standings.

*

Racing is in its second-longest drought as concerns Triple Crown winners. Affirmed (1978) was the last horse to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont.

The 25 years between Citation (1948) and Secretariat (1973) is the longest gap between winners. The third-longest is Sir Barton (1919) to Gallant Fox (1930).

*

Officials from the Breeders' Cup and the Thoroughbred Racing Association announced earlier this month that there will be a nationwide Pick Seven wagering pool on the Breeders' Cup races in November.

As in many other states, commingling of pools is legal (or will be, as of July 1) in Maryland. So when the Breeders' Cup is run Nov. 2 at Churchill Downs, Pick Seven wagering at Laurel Race Course is a likelihood.

A total pool of $10 million is expected. With enough winning longshots, there is the possibility of a Lotto-sized haul.

*

Two historic tracks given up for dead are apparently on the way back.

Recent legislation was passed that should pave the way for re-openings of Hialeah Race Course in Florida and Suffolk Downs in Massachusetts.

Hialeah, which has not had racing since December 1989, would open for a 50-day meet on Nov. 10, apparently without opposition from rivals Calder Race Course or Gulfstream Park.

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