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Horse Racing : Get Out of Dodge: Hubbard Selling Interests in Kansas Tracks

June 29, 1989|Bill Christine

Dee Hubbard, who spends a lot of his time trying to acquire race tracks, unexpectedly sold his interests in three pari-mutuel plants in Kansas last week.

Reportedly disenchanted with his partner, and concerned about cost over-runs on the two-track Woodlands thoroughbred/dog racing facility in Kansas City, Kan., Hubbard made a tentative deal to sell those properties as well as a new dog track in Pittsburg, Kan.

The buyer is Paul Bryant Jr., the son of Bear Bryant, the late football coach at Alabama. The price is said to be about $68 million; approval by Kansas state racing authorities is expected.

Bailing out in Kansas is a departure for Hubbard, who has bought Ruidoso Downs, the quarter horse track in New Mexico, and who has actively sought to buy both Hollywood Park and its sister track, Los Alamitos, in recent years. Hubbard is a major force in a group that currently has a $68-million offer on the table to buy struggling Los Alamitos.

Hubbard's partner in Kansas City was Dick Boushka, a basketball star at St. Louis University who played with Bill Russell on the U.S. team that won the gold medal in the 1956 Olympics.

Bryant operates two successful greyhound tracks in Alabama and one each in Iowa and Idaho, and is seeking a license to operate a dog track in Galveston, Tex.

He has no experience in horse racing, but in assuming Hubbard's contract will be obligated--or pay a penalty of $5 million--to complete construction of the horse racing phase of the dual Woodlands complex. The greyhound season is scheduled to open in mid-September and horses are expected to begin running at the Woodlands next May.

After announcing last year that the Woodlands facility would cost about $56 million, Hubbard learned recently that the total would be closer to $70 million. The cost of the dog track in Pittsburg is estimated at $12 million.

It's fortunate for Blushing John that this year's Breeders' Cup will be run at Gulfstream Park in Florida rather than at Belmont Park, which is where the seven-race, $10-million card will be run next year.

Blushing John needs to run on Lasix, the anti-bleeder medication, which is permitted in Florida but not in New York. Blushing John's victories--with Lasix--in the Pimlico Special and the Hollywood Gold Cup make him one of the favorites for the $3-million Breeders' Cup Classic at Gulfstream on Nov. 4.

Trainer Dick Lundy knew that Blushing John had a bleeding problem when the colt arrived here from Europe last fall. Arkansas also permits horses to run while being treated with Lasix, which was one of the reasons that Lundy started Blushing John's American career at Oaklawn Park there.

It's one of the nagging inconsistencies about the Breeders' Cup that the races are run under different medication rules, depending on the host track's location.

Tom Meeker, president of Churchill Downs, is confident that his track will get the Breeders' Cup in 1991, which would be the second time in four years for Louisville.

Santa Anita should be favored to get the Breeders' Cup in 1992, although the newly rebuilt Arlington International, which opened Wednesday, can be expected to make a big pitch. Three of the first four Breeders' Cups--two at Hollywood Park and one at Santa Anita--were held in California, but the races haven't been run on the West Coast since 1987.

Hilco Scamper is a maiden again.

That's because the thoroughbred sprinter has been running against quarter horses at Los Alamitos.

Despite having won seven races--five of them stakes--in his own league in 1985 and 1987, the 6-year-old gelding is considered to be a maiden at Los Alamitos, where he has finished second and sixth in two starts at 870 yards.

In 1985, as a 2-year-old, Hilco Scamper was one of the fastest horses in the country. He won his first five races by a total margin of 36 lengths.

After that, though, the Washington-bred developed the same injury--a severe tendon problem--as his dam, Lucky Sport, whose career consisted of two races.

Hilco Scamper's problems probably began when he ran in the Hopeful at Saratoga--his first major race--and finished seventh on a sloppy track as the 9-10 favorite. He was never the same after that.

He didn't run again as a 2-year-old, almost dying after an infection caused an abscess that had to be drained through surgery. He ran only once in 1986, made a mild comeback with two wins in 1987 and then ran in just one race last year.

Part of Hilco Scamper's therapy this year consisted of swimming, and his second-place finish at Los Alamitos was his first race in 10 months.

"We hope to get him back into competition against thoroughbreds again," said John Roche, one of Hilco Scamper's owners. "I know he's lost a step or two. A lot of things have happened to him, but it looks like he's going to do some running again and we're encouraged."

The horse that ran third in the English Derby was a California-bred.

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