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OAK TREE AT SANTA ANITA : Hollywood Wildcat Wins Lady's Secret


Even though the Breeders' Cup Distaff will be the toughest race of the day to win, trainer Neil Drysdale acts as though he can't wait to get to Churchill Downs with Hollywood Wildcat, the filly who won the stake a year ago.

Running out front, an unusual spot for the 4-year-old, Hollywood Wildcat beat Exchange by 2 1/4 lengths Monday in the $106,400 Lady's Secret Handicap at Santa Anita, and Drysdale plans to have her on a plane Wednesday for Kentucky, where the 11th Breeders' Cup will be run Nov. 5.

"Churchill Downs is a track that you should train (a horse) over before a race," Drysdale said. "That's according to Charlie (Whittingham). And Charlie does well there."

Before launching his own career 20 years ago, Drysdale worked as an assistant for Whittingham, who won the Kentucky Derby with Ferdinand and Sunday Silence in the 1980s.

The $1-million Distaff is expected to include Sky Beauty, Heavenly Prize and Lakeway, and Phone Chatter is also a possibility, depending on how she performs Sunday in the Spinster at Keeneland.

Hollywood Wildcat didn't get back to the races this year until mid-June. After finishing third in the La Canada at Santa Anita, Drysdale put her on grass, where she won the Gamely Handicap and finished second in the Beverly Hills Handicap, both at Hollywood Park. She then ran second again, behind Flawlessly, the champion turf mare, in the Ramona Handicap at Del Mar.

Hollywood Wildcat was back on dirt Monday, winning the same race that served as her Breeders' Cup prep last year and finishing 1 1/16 miles in a fast 1:40 3/5.

Ridden by Eddie Delahoussaye, Hollywood Wildcat paid $3.40 after carrying 124 pounds, three more than Exchange. She scored her 11th victory in 19 starts and the $61,400 purse boosted her total to almost $1.4 million.

Eliza was expected to be the pace-setter, but she broke slowly and was squeezed by Pub River and Hollywood Wildcat from both sides.

"Neil told me to make sure I don't get trapped," Delahoussaye said. "So I told Neil that we could let her break and see what happens. She broke kind of flat-footed, and I tapped her on the shoulder and got her running. All of a sudden, I'm on the lead. I thought, 'Where's Eliza? Where are the other ones?' She's on the lead easy, and I'm thinking, 'This is beautiful.' I knew that we were going slow, and that she was right. I didn't care who came to her, they weren't going to beat her. She showed it today."

Eliza was outside Hollywood Wildcat and Exchange leaving the turn, and seemed in a position to overhaul the leaders, but she flattened out and finished last in the five-horse field.

"Going around the turn, I thought I might have a chance to catch (Hollywood Wildcat)," said Laffit Pincay Jr., who rode Exchange. "(Eliza) was running with me, and I wish she would have stayed up there. When that horse dropped back, my mare stopped running again."

Bill Spawr, who trains Exchange, said the 6-year-old mare will probably run in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Exchange has 13 victories, seven seconds and three thirds in 26 races and has earned more than $900,000.

Horse Racing Notes

Pat Valenzuela, who has sat out the last four days of riding--three at Santa Anita and one at Belmont Park--asked to be given mounts for Thursday's card, but the stewards told him he must come in for an interview before they will allow him to return. Valenzuela, who has twice been suspended because of drug-related incidents, told the Belmont stewards Saturday that he was suffering from food poisoning and told the Santa Anita stewards that he couldn't ride Sunday because he had missed his plane out of New York. Chris Antley replaced him on Eliza in the Lady's Secret.

Corey Nakatani rode three winners Monday, giving him 14 in the first six days of the Oak Tree meeting. Alex Solis is in second place with seven. Nakatani won the Del Mar title with 51 victories, 12 more than runner-up Gary Stevens. . . . Apprentice Geoffrey Cooper, 16, won his first race at Santa Anita and was showered with tabasco sauce and raw eggs by his fellow riders when he returned to the jockeys' room.

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