The first time Hilco Scamper, the aptly named 2-year-old gelding, ever ran in a race was in mid-May at Longacres near Seattle. Gary Baze rode him to a 15-length win in :56 4/5 for the five furlongs.
Baze is the brother of Toni Stevens, the wife of jockey Gary Stevens. The night of Hilco Scamper's maiden win, however, it was jockey Scott Stevens who called his brother Gary in Arcadia with the bulletin about Hilco Scamper's quickness.
There can be honor among brothers-in-law, but a choice mount is a choice mount. Gary Stevens told his agent, Ray Kravagna, to call Mike Chambers right away. Chambers trains Hilco Scamper for three Yakima, Wash., men who own the gelding, and since the horse hadn't been nominated for some of Longacres' important stakes for Washington-breds, there was the feeling that he would almost certainly be leaving the state to run for purses elsewhere.
When Kravagna called, Chambers told him he was already thinking about Gary Stevens for the mount if the horse made it to Hollywood Park. Stevens is only 22, but in terms of wins, he and Chambers go way back--Stevens won the 200th race of his career on a Chambers horse a few years ago.
Hilco Scamper made his second start in the Tanforan Kindergarten at Golden Gate Fields on June 19. Ridden this time by Russell Baze--Gary Baze's first cousin--Hilco Scamper won by 6 lengths in a sparkling 1:03 for 5 1/2 furlongs.
Chambers brought Hilco Scamper to Hollywood Park for last Sunday's Desert Wine Stakes, and two mornings before the race, Gary Stevens got on the speedball for the first time for a three-furlong workout.
In the fog at Hollywood, Stevens was startled by Hilco Scamper's appearance.
"Nobody told me what he looked like," the jockey said. "But considering the speed he showed in his two races, I expected to see a short, blocky, quarter-horse type. But he wasn't built that way at all. He's a long-striding horse, and that's where a lot of his speed comes from."
In the Desert Wine, Hilco Scamper once led by 10 lengths and wound up winning by 4 1/2, going 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02 4/5 under a hand ride. He'll remain in town to run in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship July 20.
"I've never ridden a horse as powerful as this one," Gary Stevens said. What his brother Scott said about Hilco Scamper was no exaggeration.
Lord at War, carrying high weight of 126 pounds, six more than Carr de Naskra, will have Bill Shoemaker aboard today in the Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park.
Trainer Charlie Whittingham scratched Lord at War out of the Hollywood Gold Cup so he could run in the Suburban. Whittingham won the Gold Cup, anyway, with Greinton
The 11-horse Suburban field includes Life's Magic, last year's 3-year-old filly champion. Winner of only one out of six starts this year, Life's Magic has run against males before, finishing fifth in the Santa Anita Derby, eighth in the Kentucky Derby and fourth in this year's Santa Anita Handicap.
Shoemaker, by the way, was at Woodbine to ride last weekend and told a Toronto writer that if the right training offer came along, he might consider retiring as a rider. Almost 54, Shoemaker said he felt Johnny Longden did the right thing in quitting while he was on top, adding that Longden has made a happy transition from jockey to trainer. Don Pierce, a Shoemaker contemporary, retired from riding this year and is now training horses.
A small field is likely to oppose Mom's Command, who'll try to sweep New York's triple for 3-year-old fillies when she runs Saturday in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont Park. Probable opponents include Bessarabian and Rose Cream, a filly shipping in from Hollywood Park.
Outstandingly, a disappointment this year after winning the 2-year-old filly title in '84, is at Hollywood Park to run against Fran's Valentine and not much else in Sunday's Hollywood Oaks. Shoemaker has the mount on Outstandingly.
Mom's Command is owned by Peter Fuller, who won the 1968 Kentucky Derby with Dancer's Image, only to lose the purse because the colt was disqualified for running with an illegal medication. Fuller has been criticized in some quarters because he uses his 25-year-old daughter, Abbie, to ride Mom's Command, instead of a more established jockey. Abbie didn't ride her first winner until last July.
One trainer who likes Abbie Fuller, however, is Laz Barrera.
"She sits perfect on a horse," Barrera said. "She reminds me of Bill Shoemaker in that respect."
Chinook Pass, the champion sprinter in 1983, is back in training at Longacres after two leg operations and may return to the races later this year.
Chinook Pass, a 6-year-old gelding, hasn't run since he injured himself leaving the starting gate en route to a win in the Longacres Mile in August of '83.