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MIKE DOWNEY

This Lamp Is Rubbed Right Way

May 31, 1994|MIKE DOWNEY

Jumping all around, not yet calming down, Jenine Sahadi can't help but confess about herself: "I'm a maniac!" Never before has Jenine been such a cheerful maniac. She trains the longshot winner of Memorial Day's $500,000 Hollywood Turf Handicap and is feeling frisky as can be, celebrating near the winner's circle of Hollywood Park.

Luck be a lady today.

"Five hundred thousand dollars!" she exclaims.

A record purse for a female trainer at this famous 56-year-old track. As rich a purseas any female trainer has ever won--here, there or anywhere.

In her pantaloons and golden slippers, in her I Dream of Jenine costume, she makes a wish and it comes true. She blinks and her horse wins.

OK, so it isn't so simple.

All those early mornings. All that hard work. All the effort even to persuade Mike Sloan's stubborn old roan to get his rump into the van and go across town, all those bribes of "carrots, candy, you name it."

But, oh, what a payoff.

At the instant Grand Flotilla kicked up his 7-year-old heels down the stretch, Sahadi says, "I just started screaming."

Thirty-sixty to win. Nice price.

Not as nice as the $269.20 paid back to anyone who put two bucks on Arcangues in last November's Breeders' Cup Classic, but nice, nevertheless. Particularly with poor old Arcangues running a distant fifth in Monday's race, poking along far, far behind the 1 3/4-length winner.

Arcangues and Bien Bien were the favorites, but ended up flat and done as French toast.

No one was more amazed than the trainer of the winner, who willingly acknowledged, "I really thought I was running for second or third place."

Nope. Everyone else was.

For eight years before being licensed as a trainer, Sahadi worked in the Hollywood Park publicity department. Now the publicity is hers.

How to win a Hollywood holiday horse race, starring Jenine Sahadi.

First thing, you begin by having your lucky frozen yogurt. No day at the races can start without one. OK, so racing people have their superstitions.

Next, you pick out an outfit that has been lucky for you in the past. Jenine recalled certain garments that had been good for her at Del Mar. She got them out of her closet, although she forgot her lucky belt.

Next, you accessorize. Golden bracelets. Golden rings on each hand, including the one with the horse illustrations engraved on the band. Juanita Delahoussaye, jockey Eddie's wife, had gone to a jewelry shop with Sahadi to have the rings custom-made.

Then you slip on your golden, pointy-toed genie slippers and you're all set.

First wish is for a wet track.

Sahadi says, "I was doing a rain dance this morning."

It is definitely her day. Shortly before the day's fourth race, a light shower softens the Hollywood sod.

Not much else to do now. Instructions to jockey Gary Stevens?

"No, no instructions. Gary is Gary. He knows what to do."

Her hard part is over. The decision to enter the horse had been tricky enough. And the shipment of the horse from Santa Anita had been an exhausting one.

But worth it.

Sahadi says, "He's just such a neat old horse. We call him the Old Gray Ghost."

Time to watch him run. Dead last at the quarter pole. Still last after a half-mile. Oh, well. He's still a neat old horse.

But wait. Here comes Grand Flotilla. The race has a leisurely pace. The old gray goes charging along the rail. After a mile, he's fourth. Around the second turn, Stevens sees an opening. He slips his mount past Blues Traveller and sticks a nose in front. Bien Bien goes with him and races parallel in midstretch. But it is useless. Gary and the Ghost are flying.

So is their trainer.

Sahadi says, "You can ask the people sitting around me. I'm a maniac! Even in a $10,000 claiming race, I'm jumping up and down, my arms are flailing. But at the top of the stretch when Gary came through on the rail, it was like the parting of the sea. I just started screaming. I jumped all the way down to the box-seat section. I'm sure that I really embarrassed myself. But if you can't do it now . . ."

No, by all means, do it now. Diane Carpenter once trained the winner of the $500,000 Jim Beam Stakes in Kentucky. Otherwise, no woman in the business has ever done better.

So, go on. Celebrate.

It's Memorial Day. It's memorable.

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