Powerful Skip Away move is on the money in Classic He repays Hines' faith with $2,288,000 win

November 09, 1997|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Carolyn and Sonny Hine won the biggest bet in horse racing history yesterday.

They paid $480,000 to enter Skip Away in the Breeders' Cup Classic, contested yesterday on a brilliantly sunny day at Hollywood Park near Los Angeles. And then, in one of the most overpowering performances in the 14-year history of the Breeders' Cup, Skip Away devoured his Classic opposition and earned $2,288,000 for the Hines.

"I put my money where my mouth was," said Sonny Hine, trainer of Skip Away. "How many guys would have put up $480,000? I did it because I thought he was that good."

Actually, it was Carolyn, as owner, who put up the money. A native of Highlandtown whose red hair glistened in the Southern California sun, Carolyn calls her beloved horse "Skippy."

She paid $22,500 for the stocky gray horse when he was 2. In two years and 29 races, he has earned $6,876,360.

The Hines had to pay nearly half a million dollars to supplement to the Classic because Skip Away had not been nominated to the Breeders' Cup as a foal. The nomination fee, $500 per foal, helps finance Breeders' Cup races.

No one had ever paid that much money to enter a horse race. But no race in history has ever dangled such a rich purse:

$4.4 million.

This was not only racing's championship day, when many of the best horses in the world compete in seven Grade I races, but it was also racing's richest day. The purses for the Breeders' Cup races totaled $11.71 million.

The Hines weren't the only big winners.

Patrick Byrne, a little-known English trainer based in Kentucky, saddled the winners in both races for 2-year-olds, the horses fans will follow into next year's spring classics and top stakes for fillies.

Countess Diana, a filly with deep Maryland roots, won the $1 million Juvenile Fillies, and Favorite Trick, a flashy colt who concluded one of the most spectacular 2-year-old seasons in history, won the $1 million Juvenile. Their efforts were devastating. No horses had ever won the two juvenile races by greater margins.

But it was Skip Away's breathtaking, six-length victory, and his antelope-like acceleration on the backstretch that the 51,161 fans will remember.

From his starting position on the rail, the 4-year-old Skip Away burst from the starting gate. His first steps in the 1 1/4 -race were powerful. Fifty yards down the track, his jockey, Mike Smith, reigned him in.

As the gray steamroller barreled into the first turn, three horses kept pace to his right, so close they could have pulled the Budweiser wagon. They were the turf specialist Honor Glide, the late-developing 3-year-old Deputy Commander and the unbeaten (4-for-4) Whiskey Wisdom.

Down the backstretch, Honor Glide inched ahead. Skip Away fell slightly back. But then, about halfway down the stretch, in the instant when the race turned, Skip Away burst between Honor Glide and Deputy Commander.

And he kept running. It looked as if he might take flight, like the mighty Secretariat did in the 1973 Belmont.

"I couldn't keep Skip Away from the lead," said Smith, riding the horse for the first time. "I don't know if there was a horse in the world who could beat him today."

Skip Away's 1 minute 59 seconds was the fastest Classic, clipping two-fifths of a second off Cigar's mark in 1995 at Belmont Park. What that means is debatable, since Breeders' Cup records were set in six of yesterday's seven races at lightning-fast Hollywood Park.

As the 9-5 favorite, Skip Away paid $5.60 to win. Deputy Commander tagged along as best he could, finishing second, six lengths back. The exacta paid $12.50. Whiskey Wisdom crossed the wire third, but was disqualified to fourth for bumping Dowty. Dowty was elevated to third. The trifecta paid $220.90, the superfecta $1,359.80.

Touch Gold, the 5-to-2 second choice, finished a distant last. His trainer, David Hofmans, said the colt's injured foot probably bothered him.

The Hines, well-known in Maryland, where Sonny trained for nearly three decades, were ecstatic on their biggest payday. But both said it wasn't about money.

"Skippy deserved the chance to show the world he's the best," Carolyn said.

Should he now be voted Horse of the Year?

"If that wasn't a Horse of the Year performance," said Smith, the jockey, "I don't know what is."

Will the Hines race him again next year, or sell him for millions as a stallion?

"We enjoy him so much," Sonny said. "He's the reason we come to the barn every day. What fun would it be just looking at all that money laying in the stall?"

Cup winners

Race ............... Winner

Juv. Fillies ....... Countess Diana

Sprint ............. Elmhurst

Distaff ............ Ajina

Mile ............... Spinning World

Juvenile ........... Favorite Trick

Turf ............... Chief Bearhart

Classic ............ Skip Away

Pub Date: 11/09/97

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