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SANTA ANITA : San Luis Rey Is a Piece of Cake for Bien Bien


Santa Anita staged a brief but lucrative 39th birthday party for Chris McCarron on Sunday.

The bash was called the $262,000 San Luis Rey Stakes.

All McCarron had to do to pick up his 10% of the winner's share of $149,500 was guide Bien Bien in the right direction against four outclassed opponents.

Never far off the slow pace being set by Navire, Bien Bien, the 3-10 favorite, took charge with about a quarter of a mile to run and coasted home by 5 1/2 lengths in 2:26 3/5 for the 1 1/2 miles on turf.

This was the eighth victory in 24 starts for the 5-year-old Manila horse and pushed his earnings past $2 million for owners Trudy McCaffery and John Toffan.

Another Grade I race, the San Juan Capistrano on April 24, would seem to be his for the taking before Santa Anita concludes its winter meeting, but trainer Paco Gonzalez said he might rest Bien Bien until the Hollywood Turf Handicap on May 30, a race he won last year.

"We're leaning to that race (as) opposed to the San Juan Capistrano, but we don't know," Gonzalez said. "We'll see.

"He trained beautifully for this race and it was fortunate that we got a firm turf course. It was like a workout, really, I guess this is one of the easiest races he's won."

McCarron was happy to be back aboard after skipping the horse's last three races because of suspensions and a commitment to Hill Pass in the Santa Anita Handicap.

"That sucker is an iron horse," McCarron said. "This was testimony to how well Paco keeps this horse conditioned. He's run hard and often this winter (four times), and he's still fresh.

"This horse doesn't cheat at any time anymore. He's out there giving 110% every time he runs and to (have) him over fresh every time he runs is a difficult job."

Navire, the reluctant pacesetter in a race devoid of front-runners after the scratch of Fanmore, held second, a neck in front of Grand Flotilla.


Four Santa Anita Derby candidates worked Sunday morning at Santa Anita.

Second in the San Felipe Stakes in his 1994 debut eight days ago, Brocco went five furlongs in 1:02 3/5 under Gary Stevens. Strodes Creek worked a mile in 1:38 3/5.

Numerous, who, like Strodes Creek, is trained by Charlie Whittingham, worked a mile in 1:38 2/5. Robannier, well-beaten in the Florida Derby in his last start, went the same distance in 1:41 3/5 for trainer Mel Stute.

Horse Racing Notes

King's Blade, an easy winner of the Bolsa Chica in his California debut for trainer Richard Mandella, was among eight 3-year-olds entered for Wednesday's $82,125 Baldwin Stakes at about 6 1/2 furlongs on the turf. . . . There were a total of 21 claims in Sunday's seventh race, a $16,000 claimer. Fourteen of the claims were for Color Me Speed, who finished third. Ron Ellis won the shake.

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