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River Flyer Recovers From Slow Start : Horse racing: Antley rides him to 1 3/4-length victory over Dare and Go in Hollywood Derby.

November 21, 1994|BILL CHRISTINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Heading into the first turn of Sunday's $400,000 Hollywood Derby, River Flyer was caught five horses wide.

Owner John Mabee and trainer David Hofmans were ready to give up.

"I was scared to death," Mabee said.

Hofmans looked at River Flyer's terrible position and muttered a few salty phrases.

"All I could see was (Chris) Antley's head, and he was back in the saddle," Hofmans said. "I thought the race was over."

Hardly.

By the time the 13-horse field approached the backstretch, Antley had guided River Flyer to the lead and angled him toward the rail.

And River Flyer still had enough left for a 1 3/4-length victory over Dare and Go, with Fadeyev finishing third, another half-length back at Hollywood Park. Tabasco Cat, the Preakness-Belmont winner who went off as a 2-1 favorite in his first run on grass, contended early, but finished eighth.

River Flyer, who ran the 1 1/8-mile race in 1:47 2/5 and paid $10 to win, was supposed to take the lead from the start.

"One of the (assistant) starters eared him down (grabbed him by the ear) in the gate," Mabee said. "I was upset, but then it turned out all right."

River Flyer, winner of four of nine starts before Sunday, including three of four on grass, had run in only one stake. He defeated one horse in a $50,000 ungraded grass race at Bay Meadows at the end of his 2-year-old season.

But his camp was confident Sunday, having paid a $15,000 supplement to enter him in the race. After three months of rest at John and Betty Mabee's Golden Eagle Farm in Ramona this year, River Flyer returned last July at Del Mar. He ran four solid allowance races, including three consecutive victories and a wire-to-wire, 8 1/2-length victory in a 1 1/8-mile grass race at Santa Anita on Nov. 5.

The Mabees and Hofmans thought so much of River Flyer's improvement that they wished he ran in the $1-million Breeders' Cup Mile at Churchill Downs that day. River Flyer was pre-entered for the Mile, but he had no stakes credentials. He was ranked last of the 23 pre-entered horses, and only the first 14 were allowed to run.

"The winner had been telling us how good he was, but we didn't believe it," said trainer Richard Mandella, who turned down the chance to continue training River Flyer this year.

Mandella trained River Flyer as a 2-year-old, when he won one of five starts. But he didn't have room in his barn when the horse arrived at Del Mar this summer. Hofmans and Mandella both train horses for the Mabees.

Dare and Go, a French horse who was saddled for the first time by Mandella, also broke poorly Sunday and was next to last after a half-mile.

"He was flat-footed leaving the gate," Mandella said. "Our plan was to stalk the pace, but that option was taken away after the first eighth of a mile."

Bred by the Mabees, River Flyer is a son of Riverman and Young Flyer, a Flying Paster mare who earned more than $200,000 in Golden Eagle's colors. River Flyer earned $200,000 on Sunday.

Antley rode River Flyer for the first time on Nov. 5.

"He got off to a slow start and still overcame it," Antley said Sunday. "My horse was running comfortably all the way."

At the top of the stretch, Antley looked over his left shoulder and liked what he saw.

"I could see that there were no contenders," he said. "I peeked one more time at the 16th pole, because big mistakes have been made and I didn't want to use the horse any more than I had to."

Antley shook the whip in River Flyer's face, but never used it.

"Believe me, this one is genuine," Antley said.

*

Southern Wish, claimed for $75,000 by trainer Wally Dollase from Craig Lewis in February, won his second stake this fall by registering a three-length victory over Square Cut in the $250,000 Citation Handicap.

Southern Wish, who needed two pins in his leg to repair a fracture, didn't race for six months after Dollase's claim. Since then, the 5-year-old roan gelding has won three of four starts, including the $150,000 Pomona Handicap at Fairplex Park. Ridden Sunday by Corey Nakatani and carrying 115 pounds, three less than the high-weighted Beneficial, Southern Wish paid $7, running 1 1/4 miles in 2:00 1/5. Southern Wish's owner, Richard Stephen, paid a $10,000 supplemental fee to the Citation.

*

Rotsaluck, another gelding from the claiming ranks--he ran for $32,000 last year in his first start--held off Marina Park by a half-length to win the $150,000 Hollywood Turf Express. Rotsaluck, ridden by Fernando Valenzuela and trained by Vladimir Cerin, paid $6.60, running 5 1/2 furlongs on grass for his fourth consecutive victory. D'Hallevant finished third and Cool Air, the 8-5 favorite, was fourth.

Horse Racing Notes

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