Rich Classic gets richer Top colt Gentlemen added for $800,000

purse a record $5.12M

November 05, 1998|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- With the last-minute entry yesterday of Gentlemen, the Breeders' Cup Classic on Saturday at Churchill Downs will be the richest horse race in history.

Its purse of $5.12 million (assuming all horses start) will surpass the $4.4 million paid out in the Classic last year at Hollywood Park. The base purse of the race is $4 million. The additional $1.12 million will come from fees paid to supplement Silver Charm and Gentlemen into the race. (See box on Page 8E.)

The decision to race Gentlemen in the Classic instead of the $1 million Breeders' Cup Mile was made yesterday by the horse's owner, R. D. Hubbard, and trainer Richard Mandella. They made up their minds after Gentlemen breezed a half-mile on dirt in 46 4/5 seconds. The 6-year-old Gentlemen will be retired to stud after the race.

"The horse deserves it," said Hubbard, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Hollywood Park. "If he didn't go in the Classic, we'd have always questioned whether he would have won it."

Although Mandella had seemed to be leaning toward the Mile for Gentlemen, he said: "It'd be a shame to deprive him of the chance to be part of this great field. I don't know if there's been in history a group of horses as great as this. There may never be again."

On the day when post positions were drawn for the seven Breeders' Cup races, Gentlemen swelled to 10 the entrants in the Classic. He drew post No. 10, the dreaded far outside in many races, but probably not a hindrance in the 1 1/4 -mile Classic, with its long run to the first turn.

Skip Away drew post No. 6 and Silver Charm No. 8. Mike Battaglia, the Churchill Downs oddsmaker, made Silver Charm the slight favorite at 8-5. He rated Skip Away 9-5.

"I wanted to make them co-favorites," Battaglia said. "But you have to give one of them the slight edge."

He said he favored Silver Charm because the 4-year-old has twice run well over the Churchill Downs track, which some horses seem to relish and others despise. The only time Skip Away raced here, in the 1996 Kentucky Derby, he finished 12th. That was only one of three times in 37 races 5-year-old Skip Away has not finished first, second or third.

"And Bob Baffert came into play," Battaglia said, referring to Silver Charm's trainer. "They love Bob Baffert in Kentucky. They bet on everything he saddles. But I think if the race were in New York, if it was at Belmont, I would have gone the other way."

Battaglia marveled over the depth in the Classic. Where else would you find the three-horse entry of Touch Gold, Awesome Again and Coronado's Quest at 9-2? They were joined because of common ownership.

"This race is the strongest race that I've seen," Battaglia said. "Bar none."

Baffert said he was pleased with Silver Charm's draw, as was trainer Sonny Hine with Skip Away's. After trading barbs all summer, the two horsemen talked for about 15 minutes yesterday on Churchill Downs' backstretch.

"He was cool," Baffert said. "I told him what a great horse Skip Away is and stuff like that.

"I'm just excited the two horses finally get the chance to meet. And we're healthy. We're ready. It's going to happen. All those fans, they finally get to see it happen."

Hine, 67, didn't seem impressed with his audience with the younger trainer. Baffert is 45.

"He's OK," Hine said. "He's a little different trainer than I am. He lives it up. He doesn't really care about going to the barn.

"I did an interview with some station in California, and they said they call him 'Sleepy Bob.' He says he doesn't come in until 8 or 9 o'clock. Me, I can't wait to get to the barn in the morning."

Hine gets there at 4: 30 a.m.

But Hine was impressed with Hubbard for paying $800,000 to enter Gentlemen in the Classic.

Last year, Hine's wife, Carolyn, owner of Skip Away, paid $480,000 to supplement their horse into the race. Skip Away won. That was a one-time payment. She didn't have to make it again this year.

"I just think the man's a great sportsman," Hine said of Hubbard. "He's doing something for racing."

Hine agreed with Baffert about one thing. He's looking forward to Saturday's clash between Skip Away and Silver Charm, the first between the two popular grays.

If Skip Away finishes third or better, he will break Cigar's earnings record of $9,999,815. Skip Away has bankrolled $9,616,360. And if Skip Away wins, he will become the first horse to win back-to-back Breeders' Cup Classics.

This will be Skip Away's last race. He is being retired to a second career as a stallion.

"If you're going to go out a champion, this is the place to do it," Sonny Hine said. "If he beats these horses, he'll be forever remembered."

Gentlemen's fee

The owner of Gentlemen had to pay $800,000 for the horse to run in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Nobody has ever paid that much to enter a horse in a race.

Gentlemen had to be supplemented for two reasons: His obscure Argentine sire, Robin des Bois, was not nominated to the Breeders' Cup program the year Gentlemen was conceived, and Gentlemen was not nominated as a foal. When neither stallion nor foal is nominated, the owner of a prospective Breeders' Cup horse must pay a fee equal to 20 percent of the purse ($720,000 in the case of the Classic), plus the usual $80,000 entry fee.

The owners of Silver Charm had to pay a lower supplemental fee because, even though Silver Charm's sire, Silver Buck, was not nominated, Silver Charm was. That requires a fee equal to 12 percent of the purse ($400,000), plus the $80,000 entry fee.

Because of a change last year in Breeders' Cup rules, most of the supplemental fees now go back into the purse. So this year, if both Gentlemen and Silver Charm start, the Breeders' Cup Classic will boast a record purse of $5.12 million.

Pub Date: 11/05/98

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