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Panel's Sprint Decision KOs D'hallevant : Horse racing: Ron McAnally's 4-year-old colt doesn't make the cut for oversubscribed Breeders' Cup Sprint on Saturday.

November 01, 1994|BILL CHRISTINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Less than two weeks after he arrived, the 4-year-old colt D'hallevant was put on another plane today and sent back to California. D'hallevant will be running Saturday, as scheduled, only the race will be the $75,000 Morvich Handicap at Santa Anita instead of the $1-million Breeders' Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs.

This development has not made a happy man out of Ron McAnally, the trainer of D'hallevant. McAnally, who has won two Breeders' Cup races with Bayakoa and one with Paseana, has four other starters Saturday--Johann Quatz in the Turf and the better regarded On Target and Mr Purple in the Juvenile and Call Now in the Juvenile Fillies--but he's not pleased with the exclusion of his sprinter by the seven-member panel that completes the fields when races are oversubscribed.

"They didn't do their homework," McAnally said at his Churchill Downs barn Monday. "They should make sure that the horses they pick are better than any of those they leave out."

The six-furlong Sprint is a source of discontent as well for other horsemen who won't be able to run. Saratoga Gambler, winner of the Ancient Title Handicap at Santa Anita on Oct. 15, is out, as is Concept Win, whose five starts this year have all been solid. When Looie Cenicola saw that his 3-year-old gelding, Uncaged Fury, was further down on the also-eligible list than those horses, he ran him last Saturday at Santa Anita and he won the California Cup Sprint Stakes.

The furor over the Breeders' Cup Sprint started when 25 horses were pre-entered. Only 14 are permitted to run, with the first eight spots going to horses that have accumulated the most points for first-, second- and third-place finishes in graded stakes throughout the year. The six other horses are picked by committee.

D'hallevant, who won the Pat O'Brien Handicap at Del Mar in August and was second, beaten by a neck, to Lykatill Hill in the Del Mar Budweiser Breeders' Cup Stakes in September, was tied with Chimes Band for eighth place on points. The panel, whose chairman is Eual Wyatt Jr. of Hollywood Park, followed a Breeders' Cup option by allowing Chimes Band to run because of points, and then tossed D'hallevant's name into the hopper with the 17 horses that would be considered after their records were evaluated.

The last three horses eliminated from that group were Saratoga Gambler, D'hallevant and Concept Win. None of the 14 horses ahead of them have dropped out, which would have been the only way the three might run.

"I'm disappointed," said Leonard Lavin, who owns Concept Win. "The rules leave a lot to be desired. The horses that were picked by the panel are not as good as all these sprinters from the West Coast."

California-based horses have won half of the previous 10 runnings of the Sprint, among them Thirty Slews and Cardmania the last two years. But Cardmania is one of the horses that McAnally and Lavin object to this year. The 8-year-old gelding has run only twice in 1994, breaking a cannon bone while winning the San Carlos Handicap at Santa Anita in January, then making a comeback with a fourth-place finish in the Ancient Title, on a day when Saratoga Gambler, Uncaged Fury and Concept Win were the first three finishers.

Last year the selection committee chose Gilded Time and Thirty Slews to run in the Sprint even though neither horse had won a race in 1993. Gilded Time hadn't started since he won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in 1992, the same year that Thirty Slews won the Sprint. They finished third and fourth, respectively, last year.

Last year's Sprint favorite, Birdonthewire, was sick before the race and finished 11th, and the 5-year-old will try again Saturday, even though he's winless, with one second and two thirds, in six starts this year.

"We spent more time judging the Sprint than any other race," Wyatt said. "Birdonthewire made it in because of the competition he'd been running against, more than anything else."

On Oct. 9, Birdonthewire lost by a length to Meritocrat, who goes into the Sprint with a five-race winning streak.

"When it got down to the end, we had two holes to fill and five horses to consider," said Howard Battle, the Keeneland racing secretary who is a member of the selection panel. "We got the films out and looked at some of the races, the first time we've ever done that."

To serve on the panel, members need thick skin. A decision more incendiary than those in this year's Sprint excluded Quiet American from the $3-million Classic at Belmont Park in 1990. Quiet American was second in the Strub Stakes, won the San Diego Handicap and ran second to Dispersal in the Woodward, which was run six weeks before the Breeders' Cup. The Belmont linemaker said that he would have made Quiet American the third or fourth choice had he been allowed to run.

Trainer Gary Jones screamed about the alleged injustice, then saddled his horse for a victory in the New York Racing Assn. Mile the week after the Breeders' Cup.

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