Using everything but hypnosis, trainer Charlie Whittingham overlooked nary a precaution Sunday as he tried to get the rambunctious Temperate Sil into the starting gate for the $214,000 Swaps Stakes.
Rodney Rash, one of Whittingham's assistants, was at Del Mar, preparing for the start of the season there on Wednesday, but he flew back for the Swaps and ponied Temperate Sil to the gate.
The stall doors were left open prior to Temperate Sil's getting in, because that's the way the 3-year-old colt had been schooled in the mornings.
And Temperate Sil, who had drawn the No. 4 post in the six-horse field, was the last horse to be loaded, reducing the amount of time he would have to stand in the gate.
All of the combinations worked. A horse with a will of steel was converted into a mild-mannered colt. And Temperate Sil, getting off to one of the best starts in his troublesome career, went on to beat Candi's Gold, the colt who beat him the last time, by a diminishing length before 50,087, Hollywood Park's best crowd of the season.
Temperate Sil ran so fast in the beginning that it's a wonder he had enough left through the stretch to carry Bill Shoemaker to the wire.
With On the Line running right with him, Temperate Sil ran the first six furlongs in 1:08 3/5, just a fifth of a second slower than the track record. He ran a mile in 1:34 2/5 and then his tank was empty. But Candi's Gold, winner of the Silver Screen Handicap three weeks ago, couldn't catch him, coming from next-to-last and then settling for second, two lengths better than Pledge Card. On the Line was fourth, followed by Earn Your Stripes and Something Lucky, who was hopelessly beaten after coming into the Swaps with two straight wins on grass.
Temperate Sil's time for the 1 miles on dirt was 2:02 1/5, the second-slowest in the 14-year history of the stake, and it meant that he ran the final quarter of a mile in a very slow :27 4/5.
"I was trying to jump off (at the sixteenth pole)," Shoemaker joked. "He was barely hanging on. He didn't have that much left. But it was his first race at a mile and a quarter, and he had only had one race to get ready for it, and he really didn't get much out of that race."
Temperate Sil ran fifth, 16 lengths behind Candi's Gold, in the Silver Screen, but he nicked himself in the leg leaving the gate and he was also giving the winner eight pounds. On Sunday, the weights were even--123 pounds apiece--and the public sent off Temperate Sil as the 13-10 favorite, making Candi's Gold the 5-2 second choice.
Temperate Sil paid $4.60, $3 and $2.80, Candi's Gold was good for $3.20 and $2.80 and Pledge Card's show price was $3.60. Temperate Sil went into the race with earnings of $857,375, which was more than the rest of the field combined, and he added $124,400 for his owners, who are Whittingham and Lew Figone and Richard Granzella from the San Francisco area.
After the race, Whittingham hedged about whether he would send Temperate Sil to the $1-million Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 22.
"I'll nominate him to the race," Whittingham said. "We'll see how he looks and make the decision later."
Temperate Sil won the Santa Anita Derby, then got sick at Churchill Downs a week before the Kentucky Derby and didn't run again until the Silver Screen. Sunday's victory came at the scene of his win in the $1-million Hollywood Futurity last December.
The Swaps gave Shoemaker his first win since July 6. He had missed with 23 straight mounts.
"I wanted to break good, and he did," Shoemaker said. "But then he was rank (fighting the jockey) for the first three-quarters of a mile. He was good enough to win. I figured something would be running at us in the stretch."
At the quarter pole, with Temperate Sil leading by 2 1/2 lengths, Gary Stevens thought that his mount, Candi's Gold, had too much ground to make up.
"But then at the three-sixteenths pole, Temperate Sil wasn't striding out," Stevens said. "Then I thought we might catch him, because my horse was digging in.
"But that was just too much ground to make up on this track. You haven't seen too many horses make up that much ground here this season."
Through the stretch, Temperate Sil came perilously close to hitting the rail, despite Shoemaker's left-handed whip.
Temperate Sil hit the wire before he hit the rail, and now he's less than $20,000 away from hitting the $1-million mark in career purses.
Horse Racing Notes
Hollywood Park's handle of $11.3 million was the second-highest in track history, the 10 races just missing the $11.4 million that was bet on 9 races on Breeders' Cup day in 1984. . . . The early-bird betting and pre-race traffic in the parking lots contributed to Sunday's card starting about a half-hour late. . . . The season ends today with a program that includes the $250,000 Sunset Handicap. Charlie Whittingham, who has won seven stakes at the meet, is starting three horses--Rivlia, Forlitano and Swink--any of whom could win.