Lite Light-Meadow Star duel in Mother Goose was one for the books

June 16, 1991|By MARTY McGEE CO. HORSE RACING

Lite Light will return to New York for a rematch against Meadow Star in the Coaching Club American Oaks July 6, but it's going to be hard to match their awesome duel in the Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park a week ago.

Meadow Star won by about a half-inch, giving a fitting end to what the New York Racing Association rightfully called the year's best weekend of racing in the country.

Unwarranted criticism of jockey Corey Nakatani, who rode Lite Light, will long be forgotten when the 1991 Mother Goose is included in a list of memorable races. It was to Nakatani's credit that by the quarter-pole, his filly had never been asked to run and had pulled even with Meadow Star after a slow pace had been set.

What more can you ask for? If Nakatani had gunned Lite Light early, would she have shown as much determination in the stretch? Would she have easily drawn clear, meeting no further resistance from Meadow Star? Come on.

Second-guessing of jockeys is often not only unfair, but is done under incorrect assumptions. Let the race stand on its merits.

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More 20-20 hindsight:

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas was livid after Farma Way's defeat in the Nassau County Handicap on Belmont day. He blamed Gary Stevens -- who admitted he chirped to the colt early before trying to rate him -- for allowing Farma Way to be ruined in an early speed duel.

As a result, Lukas might replace Stevens on Farma Way for the $1 million Hollywood Gold Cup June 29.

But isn't it possible Lukas had Farma Way too sharp off his front-running Pimlico Special victory? Isn't there a chance that the way he was trained made him virtually impossible to rate? And wasn't Farma Way reacting to chirping noises by Chris Antley, on Jolie's Halo, rendering Stevens virtually helpless to stop his colt's hell-bent momentum?

Lukas is the one who says: "People have opinions. Horses have the answers." With his outburst at Stevens, Lukas apparently believed his opinion to be more appropriate than the answer Farma Way gave.

*

A proposed revision regarding scratches in Pick Three races is before the Maryland Racing Commission. Currently, if one part of a stable coupling is scratched in a Pick Three race, a bettor still has the remaining half in the Pick Three.

In non-Pick Three races with entries, if one part of the coupling is a late scratch, all wagers on the other half are canceled and refunded, and the remaining horse competes only for the purse. It's known as the Broad Brush rule, enforced after Broad Brush's lightly regarded entry mate was scratched in a stakes event several years ago. That prompted fear about what would have happened if it had been the other way around. In that case, patrons betting heavily on Broad Brush would have been stuck with a bum, with no recourse.

The new proposal asks that the remaining half of an entry compete for purse only and that any live Pick Three wagers be automatically transferred to the race favorite.

Jim Mango, Pimlico/Laurel vice president, told the commission that he prefers that management have the option, depending on circumstances, as to what to do. The current setup "is one of the assumed risks of betting entries in the Pick Three," he said. He also said that prohibition of entries in Daily Double races, as currently done in Maryland, is "way behind the times."

There are pros, cons and befuddling complexity to these things. One fellow's opinion: "Yes" to entries in Daily Double races. And it would be nice to give fans these three options in case of a Pick Three/entry scratch: Refund, switching to the favorite or "as is." But that's impossible for the computer, so the impending proposal looks like the safe way to go.

The first pari-mutuel program in Virginia history could happen Oct. 12. A hearing takes place in Richmond Wednesday at the Virginia Racing Commission on whether to grant Morven Park, in Leesburg, a license for a one-day steeplechase meeting.

Remember Big Al's Express, the colt who caused a furor when finishing last in his career debut in this year's Derby Trial?

He didn't do much better in his second start, finishing sixth in a field of eight maidens at Golden Gate Fields June 1.

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