HALLANDALE, Fla. -- Skip Away wasn't in a lively mood after his victory yesterday. He was so hot and exhausted that his handlers didn't wait for the horse to return to the barn for a post-race shower. Assistant trainer Pete Johnson grabbed a hose in the winner's circle and sprayed him with a refreshing blast of cold water.
That's what having to carry 127 pounds for 1 1/4 miles will do. That's the price for contesting a viciously hot pace, as Skip Away was asked to do by his jockey in the $500,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap.
So it was only natural that the 1-9 favorite looked like a steelworker having come home after a long day in the mills.
"He looked tired," said winning trainer Sonny Hine, whose wife, Carolyn, of Highlandtown, owns the horse. "I think the weight and the race kind of got to him."
But no horse was able to get to the nation's Eclipse champion older male of 1997 yesterday. Skip Away, tired as he was in the stretch, still crossed the wire 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Unruled for his fourth victory in a row.
"He had to work plenty hard today," jockey Jerry Bailey said. "The package 127 pounds was kind of getting to him. It was a lot to carry."
No horse with that much weight on his back had won the stakes since Forego did in 1974.
"He could have carried 148 pounds and won today," said jockey Robbie Davis, who was aboard fifth-place finisher Wagon Limit.
Well, maybe not.
Skip Away was laboring in the stretch after pressing Behrens through sprint-speed fractions the first mile of the Grade I stakes. Bailey had to go to his whip nine times in the final two furlongs.
Skip Away passed leader Behrens with three furlongs left and circled into the stretch with a batch of closers all trying to make their upset bids.
Skip Away completed the final quarter mile in a dawdling 28 seconds for a final time of 2: 03 1/5, slowest for the stakes since Mi Silecto went 2: 03 3/5 in 1990.
Skip Away's win was worth $300,000, boosting his earnings to $7.3 million in the Hines' quest for the horse to become the first to surpass $10 million. The victory was Bailey's fourth straight in Florida's richest handicap.
"I want him to prove to the world what a great horse he is," Carolyn Hine said.
Pub Date: 3/01/98