Attempt to brake Skip Away earns rider seat on track Bumps, bruises testimony to Hines' horse's desire, readiness for Classic

Breeders' Cup notebook

November 06, 1998|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Skip Away threw a scare into Carolyn and Sonny Hine, his owner and trainer, when he unseated his exercise rider yesterday on the Churchill Downs' track during the height of training hours.

Jose Clemente Sanchez was trying to pull up Skip Away at the end of a 1 5/8 -mile gallop when the horse ducked slightly to one side and dumped Sanchez. Sanchez said his arms and legs were numb because Skip Away had been pulling so hard the entire gallop.

The horse could have taken off as he did after dumping Sanchez this summer at Belmont Park and possibly hurt himself and missed tomorrow's Breeders' Cup Classic, his final race. But Skip Away stopped after a few strides to survey his busy surroundings. Sanchez picked himself up and caught the horse himself.

Skip Away returned to the barn in perfect shape, Sonny Hine said. But Sanchez, 31, was nursing a sore rear end and bruised ego.

"I feel horrible, like I want to hide in my room." he said. "But Skip Away was pulling so hard. He really wanted to go. If I'm not wrong, he's the best he's ever been."

Europe likes Churchill

Three of the 14 runnings of the Breeders' Cup have taken place at Churchill Downs. European-based horses have thrived.

They took to the cool weather, which reminded them of home. They adapted to the tighter turns of the American track. And they relished the bouncy turf course, which is not completely different from what they're used to in Europe.

Of the 16 wins by European horses in Breeders' Cup races, six have occurred at Churchill Downs, including their only two on dirt (Sheikh Albadou in the Sprint and Arazi in the Juvenile, both in 1991).

They won four of the six turf races (Barathea the Mile and Tikkanen the Turf in 1994, Miss Alleged the Turf in 1991 and Miesque the Mile in 1988). In the 1994 Turf, five European horses finished in the top six.

Tomorrow, they seem poised to make another mighty splash, even though the expected dry, firm turf might compromise several who prefer the typical softer grass back home.

Mile may be 'Desert' terrain

In the Mile, the 3-year-old Desert Prince will likely be favored, even though he is the 9-2 second choice in the morning line behind the California-based Labeeb.

At 4-1, Labeeb faces a monumental task overcoming his No. 11 post position. Churchill Downs' seven-furlong turf course ensures a short run to the first turn. In the three Breeders' Cup Miles run upon it, only one horse in post 9 or higher (1994 runner-up Johann Quatz) finished in the top three.

Trained by the Englishman David Loder, Desert Prince has won five of 10 races and earned distinction as Europe's top miler. He has won two straight Group I mile races, including Ascot's

Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, considered Europe's mile championship.

But despite his lofty reputation, Desert Prince carries four marks against him. One, his trainer has never saddled a horse in the Breeders' Cup.

Two, his accomplishment at Ascot might be questioned because

Dr. Fong, the horse he edged by a half-length, finished second in his American debut last weekend despite being heavily favored in the Oak Tree Derby at Santa Anita Park. In June, Dr. Fong defeated Desert Prince.

Three, Desert Prince has raced only on European right-handed courses. And four, no winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in September has bounced back to win a Breeders' Cup race.

"Maybe the effort it takes to win that race bottoms them out a little a bit," said Alastar Donald, director of the International Racing Bureau.

Tricky Turf for 'Anthem'

In the 1 1/2 -mile Turf, another likely favorite could be vulnerable -- the English-based Royal Anthem.

Trained by Henry Cecil, the 3-year-old has raced only four times in England, winning three, and once in North America, winning the 1 1/2 -mile Canadian International Stakes on Oct. 18 at Woodbine.

But five days ago, Royal Anthem became lame in his left foreleg because of a separation of the frog from the hoof. His front shoes were replaced with glue-on shoes, and the strikingly large colt is apparently sound.

"He seems to be improving race-by-race," Donald said. "But you just might wonder if the problem with his hoof might compromise him a little bit."

Pub Date: 11/06/98

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