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Notable Absentees at Hollywood Park


Although Best Pal and Yappy will be missing, there will be additional opportunities to bet on what's there for the opening week of the Hollywood Park meeting.

Any 3-year-old not heading for the Triple Crown has trouble getting attention at this time of year, but until Tuesday, Yappy offered the lure of a distinguished sophomore for today's $75,000 Harry Henson Stakes, the opening-day feature.

Yappy had won the San Vicente Breeders' Cup Stakes at Santa Anita and was considered one of owner-breeder Allen Paulson's Kentucky Derby prospects until, running beyond a mile for the first time, he finished second to last by 14 lengths in the Sausalito at Golden Gate Fields on March 7.

He was the probable favorite when scheduled to drop back to a sprint, the seven-furlong Henson, but was scratched Tuesday after suffering an injured right hind leg during a morning workout.

Trainer Gary Jones said he did not know the severity of the injury and that X-rays would be taken later in the week.

That leaves the Henson with a field of five: Cimply A Winner, trained by Jack Van Berg and winner of his last two at Santa Anita; Crafty, who tired badly on a sloppy Fairgrounds track in the Louisiana Derby; Fire Two, who returns to dirt after a turf try in the Baldwin; Western Scout, who broke his maiden in his last race at Santa Anita, and I Like To Win, a shipper from Gulfstream.

Best Pal, a possible favorite in Saturday's $400,000 Californian, was scratched after suffering an injured right front hoof.

"It's just a bruise, but he's missed a workout," Jones said of John and Betty Mabee's gelding. "It'd just be too much to ask to try to get him ready."

Best Pal, a 12-time winner with more than $3.9 million in earnings, ran only two weeks ago, finishing third in the Oaklawn Handicap, a race he won last year as part of a string of three consecutive victories. The 1 1/8-mile Californian, part of the American Championship Racing Series, would have been his third tough race in seven weeks.

There are two favorites in a Best Pal-less Californian: Sir Beaufort, winner of the Santa Anita Handicap last month, and his trainer, Charlie Whittingham, who has saddled 11 winners of the stake, starting with Porterhouse's upset of Swaps in 1956. Whittingham's most recent Californian winner was Sunday Silence in 1990.

A year ago, when the Whittingham barn won only six races--three of them stakes--during the Hollywood meeting, Sir Beaufort ran fourth in the Californian.

A 6-year-old son of Pleasant Colony, Sir Beaufort has finished either first or second in seven consecutive starts. He won the Native Diver the last time he started at Hollywood Park, in 1992. The biggest victory of his career came in the Big 'Cap on March 6 when he beat 10 rivals, including possible Californian foe Reign Road and Best Pal.

"This horse runs hard every time and he's gotten better as he's gotten older," Whittingham said. "He worked good today. He's ready."

The Tuesday workout involved a five-furlong sprint, covered by Sir Beaufort in 59 1/5 seconds under an exercise rider. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:12 1/5.

Sir Beaufort might face only four rivals in the Californian: Reign Road, Bobby Frankel's front-running Missionary Ridge, Have Fun, and Stud Panter's Memo, who won the San Bernardino Handicap in his last start.

"He's doing very good, he's sharp now," Frankel said of Missionary Ridge. "(Have Fun) is a pretty quick horse, too. He won't be too far behind. He won very easily (in a March 19 allowance race). He ran awfully well on the dirt, and I expect him to be close to the pace."

Another Californian possibility is Portoferraio, Mel Stute's 5-year-old Argentine-bred, a turf specialist who is also nominated to Sunday's $100,000-added Shoemaker Handicap at one mile on the grass.

The Californian will be a local affair. Irish Swap, unable to beat Pistols And Roses and Devil His Due, who won the series openers at Gulfstream Park, was scheduled to make the trip to Hollywood, but he suffered a broken leg during a workout at Keeneland two weeks ago and had to be destroyed.

Those lured by the Henson, Californian or any of the other events during the 73-day Hollywood Park meeting could find wagering a bookkeeping project with the introduction of the $1 Superfecta on the last race each day. The new bet involves picking the first four horses in order.

It joins trifectas on the fifth and sixth races, two daily doubles, exactas on every race, the Pick Six, $1 Win-Place Pick Nine and three triples among available exotics, and the track is offering an extra fillip on Saturdays: a $500,000 on-track bonus if there if only one Pick Six winner. There are two bonuses available for the meeting.

The highlight of the meeting is the Hollywood Gold Cup, scheduled for July 3 and reduced in value from $1 million to $750,000. It is another stop for the nine-race ACRS. Last year, the Gold Cup was won by an Eastern horse, Sultry Song.

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