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OAK TREE AT SANTA ANITA : Savinio the Star on Closing Day


Savinio is more relaxed these days and his connections are enjoying it more.

Purchased by owner Gary Biszantz for about $100,000 in 1992, the 4-year-old gelded son of The Minstrel is starting to get his act together and he came up with the best performance of his career Monday at Santa Anita.

The 4-1 second choice in Oak Tree's closing-day feature, the $163,200 Carleton F. Burke Handicap, Savinio had a dream trip behind the pacesetters Square Cut and Newton's Law, then had the right response when called on by Chris McCarron.

Making his first start at 1 1/4 miles, Savinio rolled home by 4 1/2 lengths in 2:02 3/5. Square Cut, a 21-1 shot, saved second by a neck over 5-2 favorite Sir Mark Sykes.

"He's been training great and the big thing is he's starting to relax now," trainer Walter Greenman said of Savinio. "That makes a big difference. This is a beautiful, well bred horse that is an absolute pleasure to train. It really makes me feel good to see him put it all together and run like he did today.

"I really have no idea what his next race will be. I suppose we'll just see how he comes out of this one and take it from there."

Even though Savinio hadn't won either of his two previous starts, he had run well. He was second, a length behind Earl Of Barking at Del Mar, then chased Romarin, one of two Brazilian monsters in trainer Richard Mandella's barn--along with Sandpit--in an allowance race on Oct. 19.

"The other day, I got overly aggressive with him in the first part of the race and I strangled him," said McCarron after his second stakes win of the 27-day meeting. "He's a horse that pulls hard and I wanted to get the jump on him. . . . not let him pull me out of the saddle like he had done with Eddie (Delahoussaye) a few times. I got him too far back and I forced him to make up too much ground.

"Today I found a compromise . . . a happy medium with him. I let him break a little bit, then I took a hold of him. He rated well. He gave me a nice easy ride. I didn't have to let him run until the three-sixteenths pole."

Square Cut, who began with two victories in five starts on the Santa Anita turf course, put away Newton's Law, who wound up last, after some fast fractions, and had enough left to hold off Sir Mark Sykes.

This was the third straight race Sir Mark Sykes was beaten as the favorite and he had no real excuse.

"He was just a little flat in his finish," jockey Corey Black said. "I had a good trip following Savinio and I thought I was going to be no worse than second at the quarter pole. I couldn't believe I couldn't get by Square Cut, the way he went early. But my horse just went even down the lane."


Following up his title at Del Mar, Corey Nakatani led the Oak Tree jockey standings, finishing with 30 victories, three more than Alex Solis. Eddie Delahoussaye was third with 25 and Kent Desormeaux with 22, and Laffit Pincay with 20 completed the top five.

Gary Jones finished on top with 10 victories in the trainer standings, two more than Craig Lewis. Sandy Shulman, Mel Stute, Charlie Whittingham, Mike Mitchell and Dave Hofmans each had seven.

The title was the fifth for Jones in the Oak Tree meeting, putting him one behind all-time leader Bobby Frankel.


The year after hosting the Breeders' Cup, the Oak Tree meeting's daily averages were down both from last year and 1992.

Excluding Breeders' Cup Day both in 1993 and 1994, the track was down 8% in daily average on track attendance and 5.2% in total attendance. Daily average handle on track declined 6.6%, but total handle was up 17.7%.

Total daily average attendance declined 7.4% this year compared to 1992 and daily average attendance on track was down 11.5%.


Hollywood Park will open its 34-day meeting Wednesday with first post time at 12:30 p.m.

The opening-day feature is the $50,000 Jim Hill Stakes at one mile on the turf. Six 2-year-old fillies were entered, topped by Royal Vale, the 117-pound high weight.

Artica and Wilga both are fresh from maiden victories and are bred to move up on the grass. Favored One is a Yakima import who was a distant second to Cat's Cradle in her California debut, Regal Ruthie comes off a troubled trip in the Cal Cup Juvenile Fillies and Angelwith approval is a maiden.

Horse Racing Notes

Win The Case, at 10-1, didn't leave with his field in the day's second race, but he wasn't declared a non-starter by the stewards. They ruled that the gelding's gate opened simultaneously with the rest of the field. . . . Tricky Code won the $60,800 Bara Lass after 34-1 shot Velvet Tulip was disqualified for interference approaching the wire. Ridden by Corey Nakatani and trained by Gary Jones, Tricky Code paid $7.40 as the 5-2 second choice. Favored Desert Stormer was third.

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