Although a large number of trainers stayed away from the entry box Wednesday morning, Hollywood Park was able to fill its Friday night card, the first of 13 and the subject of controversy.
Sixty-five horses representing 42 trainers were entered for Friday night, only nine fewer than were entered to run today. Four of the races had six or fewer entrants and quality is sorely lacking--there are two $10,000 claimers and three maiden claiming races--but there will be a nine-race program. The track was able to use seven of the nine races listed in the condition book.
"We felt all along we'd be able to fill (the races)," said R.D. Hubbard, Hollywood Park's chairman of the board and chief operating officer. "I'm pleased with the way it turned out and appreciate the support of the trainers and owners who did enter. There were far more horses than we anticipated.
"There was strong support there today, and I think it will get stronger. I don't know what the problems are. We wanted to run Friday nights, and we made (horsemen) what we feel is a very fair offer."
David Hofmans, a member of the board of directors of the California Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Assn. and the president of the Southern California Trainers Assn., says Friday night racing and the cross-simulcasting of quarter horses and harness racing isn't the issue.
"The issue is the way we're being treated," he said. "We don't like the fact these issues (Friday night racing and cross-simulcasting) came to us at the last minute. We just want to have some say in our own industry.
"If anything, I think what happened today is going to strengthen our group. Most of the calls I've gotten this morning are from people saying that we have to stick together. I'm not surprised that they filled the card, but I am a little surprised at the number of horses."
Two of trainer Ian Jory's owners wanted to enter four horses for Friday night, but he refused and the owners said they would be moving the thoroughbreds to another barn. He also said those owners were planning to send him other horses in the future.
"I'm not against Friday nights and I'm not against cross-simulcasting, but you have to stand by the CHBPA," Jory said. "They said we shouldn't run, and I think we should stick together."
Trainer Mike Machowsky also says there has to be unity, but he wishes things could have been worked out between the CHBPA and Hollywood Park.
"There could have been a compromise between both sides," he said. "There's going to be permanent scars for whoever loses. That's not what we need. We need trust."
"I'm not against anybody that wants to run. Everybody has their own position on the issues."
Bob Hess, the fifth-leading trainer at the Santa Anita meeting that concluded Monday, also didn't enter horses for Friday, but, in the future, he said he will follow the wishes of his owners.
"The bottom line is you are working for your clients, and you have to do what they want," he said. "I think we're (horsemen) going to be in trouble. It's difficult unless you have 100% unity. It's a tough deal."
Trainers Wayne Lukas and Jack Van Berg each entered a horse for Friday night. Lukas' barn will be represented by Terre Haute, a 3-year-old filly fresh from her maiden victory. Lukas is at Churchill Downs preparing Dance Floor and Al Sabin for the Kentucky Derby and was unavailable for comment. Van Berg will send out Phantom Signal, a $10,000 claimer he owns.
Roger Stein will have six starters, Caesar Dominguez and Neil French four and Sandy Shulman three.
"I don't think these are issues worth fighting about," Shulman said. "People are trying to make me out to be a dissident, but I'm just doing what I think is right."
Dominguez, who also trains quarter horses, agrees. "I don't think there's anything wrong with it," he said. "Everyone knows the quarter horses are the ones who are going to lose in this. They don't get . . . ."
In a four-horse photo finish, Forest Fealty, a 14-1 shot, won the $109,800 A Gleam Handicap, the opening-day feature Wednesday at Hollywood Park.
Second while on the outside under Martin Pedroza most of the way, the 5-year-old Baederwood mare took over from Mi Lucia into the stretch, then held on to beat Brought To Mind by a nose. Devil's Orchid was a nose behind in third, a neck in front of Sacramentada, the 9-5 second choice. Favored Laramie Moon was sixth at 8-5.
This was the second consecutive victory at an overlaid price for Forest Fealty, who is trained by Brian Mayberry and owned by Jan, Mace and Samantha Siegel. She paid $30 Wednesday after returning $43.40 for her 5 1/2-length victory in the Las Flores Breeders' Cup Handicap March 7 at Santa Anita.