When Hollywood Park recently announced its $5-million stakes schedule for the 67-day season that starts on April 23, $1 million was missing.
That was the $1-million bonus Hollywood has offered the last two years for any horse sweeping three races--the Californian Stakes, the Hollywood Gold Cup and the Sunset Handicap.
Marje Everett, Hollywood's chief executive officer, said the decision on the bonus was made by Tommy Trotter, the track's new director of racing.
"We asked Tommy what he thought about the bonus and he didn't feel that it should be continued," Everett said.
Even before he joined Hollywood Park, Trotter felt that racing bonuses were passing fads. "Tracks that don't offer bonuses won't have to worry about using them to keep up with other tracks," Trotter said last year. "It's the insurance companies, with their increasing rates, that are going to take most tracks out of the bonus business."
Everett said Hollywood Park paid a premium of almost $90,000 last year to insure the $1-million bonus. The insurers had uneasy moments both years, but no horse earned the bonus. In 1984, Desert Wine won the Californian and the Gold Cup, then skipped the Sunset and the possible $1-million bonus to run in the $1-million Budweiser-Arlington Million, in which he finished last. Last year, Greinton won the first two races in the Hollywood series, then at 2-5 odds lost by a head to Kings Island in the Sunset.
The biggest winners in the bonus craze have been All Along, who earned $1 million for sweeping three grass races at Woodbine, Aqueduct and Laurel in 1983; Slew o' Gold, who won $1 million for winning three races at Belmont Park in '84; and Spend a Buck, who made $2 million for his owners last year by winning a four-race series that included the Kentucky Derby and the Jersey Derby. Garden State Park, which offered the bonus won by Spend a Buck, has another $2-million bonus connected to the same four races this year.
Before the insurance companies got stung, the three tracks that insured the bonus won by All Along paid a rock-bottom premium of approximately $16,000.
"Horses like Spend a Buck, All Along and Slew o' Gold have not made it attractive for insurance companies to continue in the bonus business," Everett said. "For us to insure a $1-million bonus this year, it probably would have cost several hundred thousand dollars."
Hilco Scamper, one of the fastest 2-year-olds in the country last year, dropped out of sight after a seventh-place finish as the favorite in the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga last August.
Before the Hopeful, Hilco Scamper had won stakes at Hollywood Park and Monmouth Park and he was ranked behind only seven horses on the Experimental Free Handicap, a theoretical rating of the nation's 2-year-olds.
This year, Hilco Scamper wasn't nominated for the Triple Crown races and has yet to make a start for his trainer, Mike Chambers, who is based at Longacres in suburban Seattle.
The other day, Chambers discounted the suggestion that there's anything physically wrong with the gelding and said he would eventually be shipped to California, probably to run at Hollywood Park.
Hilco Scamper's win in the Sapling at Monmouth was protested because the record of a required blood test wasn't in his file when he was shipped from California to New Jersey.
New Jersey racing authorities disallowed the protest and Hilco Scamper's owners have received the $114,000 purse, but Chambers said he understands that owners of other horses in the race are continuing their appeal through the courts.
It was uncorrectly written here that Patti Mancini is the only Californian who's ever been an officer in the National Assn. of State Racing Commissioners. Both Neil Curry and John Newman are past presidents of the organization. . . . Hollywood Park, citing prohibitive costs, is not likely to renew its nightly telecasts on Channel 56 this season. "It's a great service to the horsemen and regular fans, but considering what it costs, it doesn't help much in broadening your fan base," Marje Everett said. . . . ABC is showing greater interest in racing, having agreed to carry the Santa Anita Derby after a two-year absence and picking up the Belmont Stakes on June 7 after CBS dropped the telecast. The addition of the Belmont gives ABC the entire Triple Crown this year, since it was already scheduled to do the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.