Skip Away is No. 1 at post, in Classic odds Hine's horse draws rail, favorite's role

November 06, 1997|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- A horse who no one believed would even enter the Breeders' Cup received top billing yesterday when post positions were drawn and odds released for the richest day in racing history.

On Saturday at Hollywood Park, where flamingos wade in infield lakes, Skip Away will break from post No. 1 as the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the 1 1/4 -mile Breeders' Cup Classic.

Owned by Highlandtown native Carolyn Hine and trained by her husband, Sonny, Skip Away will run for the richest purse ever offered in horse racing. The Classic is worth $4.4 million. (That extra $400,000 comes from the $480,000 the Hines paid to supplement Skip Away to the race. Skip Away was not nominated as a foal to the Breeders' Cup.)

Including other supplemental payments, the checks dispersed Saturday in the seven Breeders' Cup races -- assuming none of the supplemental entrants scratch -- will total a record $11.71 million.

Asked whether he thought Skip Away, who has slugged through a tough 10-race campaign this year, had a chance in the Classic, Hine looked puzzled and said: "I put up $480,000. I think he's got a pretty good chance."

The Hines decided on entering Skip Away, last year's 3-year-old champion, after his overpowering victory Oct. 18 in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. They said that if he had any chance of becoming Horse of the Year, he would have to win the Classic.

According to the morning line, Skip Away's most stern challenges will come from 5-2 Touch Gold in post No. 5, 4-1 Deputy Commander in post No. 3 and 4-1 Behrens in post No. 8.

Asked about Skip Away's starting spot along the rail, Hine said: "I think it's great. If the horse runs his race, he'll be right up there with the pace."

One thing about Skip Away as a 4-year-old, he always runs his race. In 10 starts this year, he's finished first, second or third 10 times. The question is: Is he good enough? Of those 10 races, he won only three.

The horse most likely to be hammered at the windows is Singspiel, the Irish-bred superstar trained by the Englishman Michael Stoute. The 5-year-old Singspiel, making his final start before retirement to stud, is 6-5 in the morning line. In the 1 1/2 -mile, $2 million Turf, he will break from post No. 5 in a 12-horse field.

"We are very satisfied," the reserved Stoute said. "It's a good draw."

Stoute was also satisfied that the "pulse," as he had termed it the day before, had disappeared from Singspiel's left front foot. On Tuesday, Stoute described what apparently was minor throbbing -- but a major concern.

"That's not the first time he's had it," Stoute said. "He's a little bit flat on his feet. We soaked it, and it's gone. Don't make an issue of it, because he's fine."

The two Maryland-breds in the Turf, Awad and Ops Smile, drew posts Nos. 2 and 7, respectively. For the two late-running sons of Caveat, post position was not a factor. They break the same way every time: Slowly.

The trainer with the most to lose in yesterday's draw was Patrick Byrne, whose three entrants are likely favorites in races where early position is critical.

Byrne couldn't have been happier when 9-5 Countess Diana drew the No. 8 in the $1.03 million Juvenile Fillies, 3-1 Richter Scale the No. 10 in the $1.18 million Sprint, and 7-5 Favorite Trick the No. 3 spot in the $1 million Juvenile.

At 1 1/16 miles, the Juvenile races start a mere 352 feet from the first turn. And the six-furlong Sprint, with its 14-horse field, will be a cavalry charge to the bend.

"I keep pinching myself," said Byrne, a Kentucky trainer having by far his biggest year. "I'm lucky to be where I am. With the draw, I think I've gotten lucky again."

If Byrne's three horses all win, he would become the second trainer in 14 runnings of the Breeders' Cup to win three races in one day. In 1988 at Churchill Downs, D. Wayne Lukas won three after entering 11 horses.

This year, Lukas has entered eight in five races. His main contenders are 8-5 Sharp Cat in the $1 million Distaff (because of common ownership she'll be coupled in the betting with Jewel Princess) and 5-2 Grand Slam in the Juvenile.

The other early favorite is 5-2 Spinning World in the $1.1 million Mile on the turf. Based in England, Spinning World finished second in last year's Mile at Woodbine.

Black Cash, a 2-year-old colt trained by David Hofmans, was not entered in the Juvenile. On Monday, Hofmans said, "He was playing and bucking and pulled a big muscle high on his back end."

Breeders' Cup

What: 14th running of racing's championship day; seven races worth $11 million, including $4 million Classic

Where: Hollywood Park, Inglewood, Calif.

When: Saturday, 1: 30-6 p.m.

TV: Chs. 11, 4

Pub Date: 11/06/97

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